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Meet the chef Q&A: Johnny Anderes

Having a chef with the chops for killer pairings is a big asset for an eatery with wine bar DNA.

That describes Johnny Anderes, executive chef of Telegraph in Chicago, sister restaurant of local tasting hotspots like Webster’s Wine Bar, a magnet for wine lovers for nearly two decades and the Bluebird, a concept that blends aspects of a wine bar and ale house.

Tasting glass-for-glass with Jeremy Quinn, sommelier of the group, Anderes revels in matching his inventive Italian- and French-accented American fare with the latter’s pours, which are typically European wines made with natural techniques. The results excite the imagination as well as the palate, ranging from Espelette-marinated quail with vintage-dated Basque cider to Cajun-style boudin noir dolma with fino sherry to artisanal cheeses with traditional French aperitifs like Floc de Gascogne and Pineau des Charentes, to name a few examples.

A dish that typifies the simplicity, vivid flavors and wine friendliness that Anderes seeks is Octopus Salad with butterball potatoes, roasted garlic and lemon.

“A lot of technique goes into even the simplest dish,” remarks Anderes. “In this one, you’re braising then searing the octopus, baking the potatoes and roasting the garlic.”

Tasting the octopus and spuds with a Viennese white or Cotes du Rhone rosé wine selected by Quinn results in a palate impression that is more than the sum of its parts.

Anderes also rises to the pairing challenge of Telegraph’s monthly three-course Wine Dinner menus, like the current Reds of Tuscany, priced at $50 per person with matching wines. Prospective pairings were previewed at a $40-per-ticket, walk-around tasting of a dozen of Quinn’s favorite Tuscan wines and family-style dishes of the region interpreted by Anderes. Feedback from guests of the tasting helped the duo refine the three-course menu, which matches a trio of Tuscan reds with Ribollita of Berkshire Pork Shoulder, Chestnut Gnocchi with sage and brown butter and Wood-Oven Roasted Beets with Tuscan cow’s milk cheese.

“Johnny is extremely open to having me present him with the wine,” says Quinn.  “He starts to think about the food to pair with it from there. It has been the opposite with most other chefs I’ve worked with. They present the food first and the pairings come from there. We do that once in a while with Johnny, but generally the pairing starts with the wine.”

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