ACADIA | Creative Team

Creative Team

 

 

 

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Ryan McCaskey – Chef/Proprietor

A native of Saigon, Vietnam and raised in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, McCaskey discovered his passion for cooking at an early age. As a youngster, he would watch his grandmother recreate handed-down recipes, helping her out as he could, and his interest was piqued. He began experimenting and by age 14, McCaskey was the family cook. Lucky to have traveled extensively throughout his childhood, McCaskey was exposed to many different cultures and flavors, and to this day employs a multi-cultural approach in the kitchen.

Realizing at a young age he wanted to work professionally as a cook, as a high school junior he was one of nine pilot students to attend the Harper College Culinary Arts program. He next attended the School of the Culinary Arts at Kendall College (Evanston, IL), and while at school, worked at the three-star Greenery (Barrington, IL) and subsequently, at the acclaimed Tuttaposto under Tony Mantuano, working various stations in the kitchen. McCaskey had the foresight to learn all stations, both savory and sweet , as he knew these skills would serve him one day when he ran his own kitchen. He then accepted a position as sous chef and pastry chef – at age 19 – at Goose Cove Lodge in Maine, lauded by The New York Times as one of the best restaurants in the state. Still a student, he spent his summers cooking seasonal, regional cuisine and finished his schooling in the off-season. After graduating (1996), McCaskey moved to Wisconsin, accepting a position as Chef de Cuisine and Pastry Chef at the Black Locust (Fish Creek). While at the helm, the restaurant was named one of the top three restaurants in the state by the Milwaukee Journal. Ryan then opted to return to Chicago, working as chef de cuisine at Vivere and then at the acclaimed Rushmore, where he returned to his contemporary American roots. When Rushmore closed unexpectedly (due to a fire), McCaskey took some time off, then broadened his kitchen skills staging at the four-star Trio under Grant Achatz and TRU under Rick Tramonto, as well as working at Les Deux Gras, Rhapsody, and Allen’s. He next worked as Executive Chef at the Moroccan Tizi Melloul, where he garnered national media exposure. When Rushmore reopened, McCaskey returned – this time as Executive Chef – where he continued to hone his craft. In 2007, McCaskey was offered the position as Executive Chef at the four-star Courtright’s (Willow Springs, IL). In 2010, McCaskey began plans for Acadia, fulfilling a lifelong dream of opening his own restaurant.

McCaskey has a diverse skill set and broad experience, and cites some of the greats – Trotter, Tramonto, Portale, Achatz and Keller – as influencers, as well as Henry Adaniya, owner of Trio and a consummate host. Seeing a guest have a great experience, providing them a culinary memory, is what drives McCaskey to strive to provide the best he possibly can. McCaskey describes his style as “Simultaneously contemporary and classic. The first half of my career was rooted in classical cuisine, technique-driven, the fundamentals. Recently, my focus shifted to sublety, layering flavors and using contemporary techniques. But one doesn’t overshadow the other – they work in harmony, balancing out one another.” McCaskey lives in the South Loop neighborhood, just up the street from Acadia.
 

   

Christopher Gerber – Creative Consultant

A long-time Chicago restaurant veteran, Christopher Gerber has compiled a storied resume. He began his career in the industry as a food runner and server, working at many spots around town; what began as a job has turned into a lifelong passion.

In 2003, Gerber accepted an offer owner Henry Adaniya to work as Manager at the highly-praised Trio with Chef Grant Achatz; from Trio, Gerber then managed front-of-house operations at TRU, a position he accepted on a short-term basis as he would be leaving within the year to open up Alinea with Achatz. At Alinea, Gerber worked as Maitre d’ and developed the service standards for the restaurant, which has gone on to be named one of the top restaurants in the world. In 2006, Gerber left Alinea to work at NoMi and The Publican; in 2010, he began discussing plans with Ryan McCaskey to develop Acadia, where he acts as creative consultant, focusing on the front of the house operations. From his early days as a food-runner to working at some of the best restaurants in town, a love affair for Gerber with food, wine and hospitality was borne.

   

Jason Prah – Sommelier

Sommelier and Wine Director Jason Prah has worked in the Chicago restaurant scene for more than a decade, having started as Assistant Wine Director at The Italian Village, a Wine Spectator “Grand Award” recipient. Over the years, he has held the title of Wine Director as well as General Manager at several acclaimed restaurants, including La Vita, Tizi Melloul and Allen’s. Prior to joining the Acadia team, Prah was Wine Director at Eno Wine Room at the Intercontinental Hotel, where he also consulted for their sister property at the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel.
 
Prah is a Level Two Sommelier in the Guild of the Court of Master Sommeliers and plans to continue to pursue the challenge of obtaining the title of Master Sommelier. His style takes the pretense out of the wine experience, making it both accessible and fun, while at the same time educating his customers. He believes that wine – from making it to enjoying it – resonates on cultural, historical and personal levels, making it an important element to our existence.

   

Thomas Raquel – Pastry Chef

Thomas Raquel began cooking like many other future chefs – in the home kitchen, alongside his grandmother. He had planned on going to medical school, but after graduating from high school (at 16), Raquel took a weekend cooking class and decided to enroll in culinary school “for fun” before committing his life to medicine. The youngest student enrolled in the California School of Culinary Arts (2003), Raquel excelled in the classroom, graduating at the top of the class; while in school, he worked at area restaurants including Lucques, AOC and The Water Grill. Upon graduation the following year, Raquel spent some time staging in Paris, including at Pierre Herme, and traveled extensively.

In 2008, Raquel accepted a pastry position working at the highly acclaimed L2O in Chicago. Laurent Gras had a tremendous influence on Raquel, and honed the young cook’s focus, discipline and passion, driving his style of bridging classic flavors with modern technique. While at L2O, the restaurant garnered three Michelin stars – one of only two restaurants in Chicago at the time to obtain that honor. In early 2012, Raquel met Ryan McCaskey, who had recently opened Acadia, and accepted the Pastry Chef position at the celebrated restaurant. At Acadia, Raquel continues to focus on seasonal, modern desserts grounded in classic technique – and infused with a touch of humor. A cancer survivor, Raquel finds balance in his life with a committed yoga practice; he hopes to one day open a patisserie, offering the perfect macaron in addition to pastries and chocolates. In addition to English, he speaks Tagalog and Spanish, and lives in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago.