For the past three years, chef Tim Kuck has been turning out meals in his kitchen at XII (pronounced “Twelve”), a lavishly decorated private dining room hidden behind a nondescript facade at 9417 Ogden Ave. in Brookfield.
Now, he’s taken his culinary show public?”in Oak Park.
This week, Kuck and his business partner, Michael Jenkins, take over Vivaldi, an Italian restaurant at 144 S. Oak Park Ave. in Oak Park, which will eventually be transformed into Slaton’s Supper Club, a steak and chop house “with a Mediterranean flair.” The restaurant will continue to operate as Vivaldi for the next 60 days.
Kuck grew up around restaurants, spending summers with his grandparents in St. Mary’s, Ohio, where they ran a small restaurant. He has warm memories of early mornings spent watching his grandma prepare the day’s spread at her eight-burner range.
Kuck learned about using food as a window to help and care for others, he recalls, as much as he did about preparing homemade favorites.
Since earning his degree in food technology at Ohio University, he’s spent many years on both sides of the kitchen. His first job out of school brought him to the Lieberman Geriatric Health Center in Skokie.
When he moved on it was to work under the tutelage of Culinary Olympic winner Carolyn Claycomb back in Ohio. As head of her catering business at the Ohio State University’s Visual Arts Center, he organized meals served to the likes of Henry Kissinger, a sitting president of Costa Rica, and ballet legend Mikhail Baryshnikov.
Back in Chicago again, Kuck moved to the front of the house as service manager first at Marshall Field’s Walnut Room and then at the Oak Brook location of the Pan-Asian restaurant Stir Crazy.
With all of this experience under his belt, he knew it was time to start his own business and opened Every Day Gourmet.
“I’ve always wanted a restaurant, but it’s always been a matter of the right timing and location,” Kuck said. “We couldn’t ask for a better location [in Oak Park]. The logistics are perfect.”
While Kuck wouldn’t reveal the story behind the name of the new restaurant, he said that he’s hired former Zinfandel Restaurant chef Monica Riley to head the kitchen at Slaton’s Supper Club.
Kuck, a Countryside resident, has quietly built a successful catering and private dining operation out of the Ogden Avenue kitchen. XII is a lavishly decorated private dining room that serves catered six- to 12-course meals on weekends for private functions, including corporate events and small dinner parties. It can also be reconfigured to hold up to 50 for a cocktail reception.
The Brookfield restaurant is also open to the public via reservation at theme dinners and events such as wine tastings that are held regularly. Kuck said he knows that much of the public doesn’t realize XII is regularly open, and said it’s something he’s trying to address.
“We’ve been working hard this year to get past that,” Kuck said.
The kitchen at XII also prepared meals for Every Day Gourmet, a catering service for seniors that delivers meals for retirement communities in Oak Park Township, River Forest and Forest Park. Recently, Kuck moved the Every Day Gourmet operation to the kitchen at the Montclare senior residence in the Galewood neighborhood of Chicago. Every Day Gourmet provides 1,300 meals per week out of the facility.
As for Slaton’s, Kuck said he would like it to be the first in a line of restaurants. His goal is to build a national chain.
“I’d like to have a national brand,” Kuck said. “But it takes a long time to do that.”
n Becky Lomax contributed to this story.