Interview with Eddie Hartmann, New Chef at Hopscotch

Local boy makes chef

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By David Hammond

Eddie Hartmann, an OPRF graduate and Oak Park resident, is now the Executive Chef at a recently opened the kitchen at Hopscotch (9743 Franklin, Franklin Park).  

What's your background? Where did you learn to cook?

 I started washing dishes at the Marion Street Cheese Market in Oak Park, July of 2008, just after I turned 18. After around 9 months to 1 year working as a dishwasher, I had fully moved from the dish station to prep and line work. I worked primarily on the garde manger line for about 2 1/2 more years. A lot changed at MSCM during that time, so it was an awesome learning experience to be a part of the change in Executive Chef, several different sous chefs, many line cooks, front of house managers, etc.

I learned pretty much everything I know about technique, ingredients, preparation, plating, working in a restaurant, and simply how things run working here under Chef Leonard Hollander. He and the sous chefs are remarkable teachers, and a couple other good friends of mine have grown from the dishwashing position to line cook under their guidance.

In 2010 I had already left UIC and started going to Robert Morris for Culinary Arts to formalize the training. In November of 2011, I left the kitchen to try my hand at serving as well as round out my skills in the restaurant environment.

Do you have any models, any chefs you look up to and admire?

First and foremost, I look up to the three people who taught me 90% of what I needed to know to accomplish what I have so far; Chef Leonard and his two chefs Nick Stewart and Corey Pastor. Amazingly talented and hardworking people, they were willing to teach, listen, and correct with patience and a commitment to high-quality food.

Marco Pierre White is the chef I admire the most. Everything about his story is passion and utter commitment to what he wanted to do. He achieved the highest level of culinary grandeur attainable, several times, only to hand it all back when he was no longer the active chef. He treated his staff with respect, and expected the same of his customers, and would not tolerate a customer disrespecting his staff. But mostly what I respect about him is his utterly unwavering adherence to quality at all costs. Yeah, he was a pretty intense and sometimes mean guy too, the "devil in the kitchen," but what he accomplished as a chef requires amazing intelligence, work ethic, creativity, and grace.

On the HopScotch menu, what items are you particularly proud to serve (I'm sure you're pleased to serve all the menu items, but are there any standouts)?

Our flag ship item is the HopWings. As a bar, chicken wings seem like a must-have item, but we're not doing them like anyone else in the area. We brine our wings overnight in an India Pale Ale from our taps, with some added brown sugar and spices, and we rub the wings with a house-made triple chili seasoning. We par-bake them before finishing them in our broiler. They are served tossed in BBQ or Buffalo in any of our 8 house made sauces. We make everything we can from scratch at HopScotch, including all of our sauces.

I'm also particularly proud to serve the HopBurger. We source a natural angus patty from Black Earth Meats in Wisconsin, 157.7 miles from the front door of HopScotch. It's served on a pretzel bun, and you can get it straight up with pickles, red onion shavings, spinach, sharp cheddar, and tomato, or try one of the special burgers I rotate through. The favorite lately is the pesto burger, with balsamic syrup, fresh mozzarella, tomato, red onion, and pesto aioli.

You're serving like 100 craft beers and some premium whiskeys. I want a beer and a shot. What should I order and why?

I am 23, so by age I fall in the hipster crowd, but because of my experience I drink a little differently than an average 23 year old, so I would like to take that two ways.

If you came in to the bar, I would recommend trying Glenmorangie La Santa, and pair that with the Firestone Walker Sucaba, which is fantastic beer that you don't see around too often. To eat, I would get the skirt steak sliders and an order of the HopWings, mixed, so that as many different flavor combinations can be achieved as possible. If you're feeling like exploring a bit more, throw the bar nuts in for a sweet, smoky, and slightly spicy bite in between.

If a person came in that was new to craft beer and liquor, I would suggest the Revolution Anti-Hero and a shot of Larceny. Pair that with the Beer Cheese and Pretzel and some Mac Bites or the HopBurger and you will be in for a great meal that is easy on a new person's palate, but throws in some fun twists and flavors and allows you to experience what quality of preparation and ingredient can do for a dish.

Would you recommend that we stop by on karaoke night?

It's a blast. Franklin Park has a ton of people with really good voices. I always find myself lingering by the door on multiple occasions on karaoke night. It tends to get busy, and tables fill up fast, but people do not start coming in until later on, making it perfect for an early drink or meal leading in to the night's events. The crowd is super friendly and cheers every person on stage.

 

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