Chef Spotlight: Russell Kook, Executive Chef at Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House

For this week’s Chef spotlight, Food News Today had the opportunity to interview Russell Kook, Executive Chef at Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House in Chicago.

© 2016 Galdones Photography

What or who inspired you to become a chef?

Chef Thomas Keller, The French Laundry is the pinnacle of the restaurant world and growing up I would follow his work and just be so inspired, I knew being a chef was what I had to do.


What has been your biggest challenge as a chef?

Delegating and not just doing something myself.


Where did you go to culinary school or how did you learn to cook?

I went to Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, Minneapolis, MN.


What is your specialty?

I would say cooking in the style of Italian. But not necessarily Italian food, Italian cooking techniques follow a less is more approach that I’ve implemented in my own style over the years.


What trend do you see for 2017?

More small plates, I see sharable style dining taking off even more in 2017. Dining is already a communal experience, and shared small plates are a step further in making a connection at the dining table.


What’s your favorite dish?

Anything with sea urchin.


What’s the strangest thing that we would find in your refrigerator?

Black garlic or pickled ramps.


What’s your favorite city to eat at in the world?

New York, it’s one of the greatest cities in the whole world and their food reflects that perfectly.


What advice do you have for culinary students or aspiring chefs?

Work hard and everything will fall in place.

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If you could cook for anyone, who would that be?

Lin Manuel Miranda, creator and star of Hamilton. The guy is so talented it would be an honor!

More About Russell Kook

A native of Madison, Wisconsin, Russell Kook started out in finance before turning to the kitchen, attending Le Cordon Bleu in Minneapolis. It was there where he was instrumental in opening, Cafe Maude in 2008. But shortly thereafter, he was approached to work under rising star and Top Chef contestant, chef Todd Stein (MK, Cibo Matto, The Florentine, Piccolo Sogno), which kicked off an eight-year partnership that saw the duo running kitchens from David Burke in Vegas to Cibo Matto, The Roof at the Wit and The Florentine in Chicago. Kook then headed south to work for Concentrics Restaurants in Atlanta at TWO Urban Licks and Louisville’s Eight Up before serving as Executive Chef at modern, power-dining mecca, Chicago Cut Steakhouse. He’s also appeared on Iron Chef America and Hell’s Kitchen, where he was named season eight “Runner Up”. Kook is currently the Executive Chef at Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House, where he applies a less-is-more philosophy, locally sourced ingredients, and a blend of classic and modern flavors that allow the seafood to shine.