Art and Heart: A Culinary Showcase by Ron Aleman at Sophie’s
This is the first thought that came to mind when my dish was served – a beautiful combination of colors and textures that made me take notice. The impeccable service and a thoughtfully curated space overlooking Michigan Avenue added to the experience. Comfort meets class here, and you can´t help but feel charmed when you visit. I was hooked.
And beyond beauty, substance. Heart. You are after all at Saks Fifth Avenue… a model walking by each table with the latest designer jacket can be a reminder of your targeted budget or caloric intake. Chef Ron Aleman’s food is so good though, that somehow you feel welcome, not intimidated.
As I kept coming back I realized that something resonated within me. Just like shorthand, food is a secret language that transports you to a particular time and place. I knew the author of my meal was undoubtedly an artist. But, why did I think that this American fare spoke Spanish to my soul?
Chef Ron Aleman grew up dreaming of pursuing a career in the arts, perhaps painting or drawing (when I heard this, the artistic plating made perfect sense). Instead, he took a detour and graduated with a degree in business. As a successful salesman, at the age of 30, (when many professionals have consecrated themselves to their craft) Aleman was starting over. In his new position, tending to the chores assigned to the most junior staff, he took over washing dishes and mopping with pride. “I knew this was the path I needed to follow, and there was nothing to be ashamed of”, he said.
If you have tried Chef Aleman’s food, you have looked at a snapshot of his heart: “Family is at the center of food. Food is love… cooking for others is an honor.” It is precisely his family where Chef draws a lot of his inspiration. Aleman found his Mexican mother-in-law’s asada salsa so irresistible, that he recreated her recipe in his kitchen. Growing up with tortillas as a staple of his family’s meals, his point of view is down-to-earth yet uniquely cosmopolitan. If you visit, try his coconut bread pudding, a dessert that in Mexico, we call capirotada.
Like CliffsNotes on Chicago, Chef Ron Aleman’s dishes are a synopsis of the character of the city- elevated yet approachable; informally sophisticated; worldy American with just the perfect touch of heat.
Follow Chef Aleman on Instagram: @Ronaleman27