Second part of three parts, please start here with Part 1
Since this article was written, things have changed. Bruce is now chef and partner at Union Pasadena in Pasadena, California
Cooking, school and rock ‘n’ roll isn’t quite the rock star mantra, but this was Bruce’s path for the next few years working in kitchens, going to culinary school and playing in his band. Those kitchens that he cooked in included pubs, chains, and Marriot Hotel group locations. At nineteen, on his way to “chef-dom”, Bruce Kalman worked at a small French bistro where he was introduced to classic French Alsatian cooking, plus got to really use the French cooking techniques he previously learned at school. This gig lasted a year before took the show on the road to Chicago.
That move to Chicago was to another Marriot Hotel, the one at O’Hare where he became the assistant banquet chef for a year and an half. Here Kalman learned anything and everything he could from the other chefs working in the hotel’s five restaurants.
Next he was offered a sous chef position at Spiaggia where, at that time, Paul Bartolotta was the chef. At Spiaggia this was his first real exposure to fine dining. He immediately fell in love with the simplicity of Tuscan food plus started the process of learning about fresh pastas, a la minute cooking, and working with wood fired ovens. This opened his eyes to many great things. While working in this restaurant, which was part of the Levy Group, he also helped open other locations in the different venues where Levy provided food service like Arlington Park, Arrowhead Stadium, and Blackhawk Lodge.
While working a few months at Blackhawk Lodge (now called Jake Melnicks Corner Tap) alongside Chef Charles Weber, Chef David Burke hired Weber to open Park Ave Café at the Double Tree Hotel. So this, in turn, also led to an opportunity for Kalman to work at Burke’s new restaurant in New York City. So Bruce moved back East to become the chef tournant in Park Ave Café’s kitchen. This move may have been a step back title wise, but this move was a huge opportunity to learn more about cooking working all the stations for a year.
A year later, a cook he had worked with gave him a call about a restaurant Il Piatto this cook was help opening in Sante Fe, NM, so after being flown out there, and falling in love with this city, Kalman packed up his guitar and knives, hit the road and took his show cross country. His next gig was at the La Casa Sena. As the Executive Sous Chef here running the fine dining kitchen, Kalman got to play to his strengths implementing what he had learned at Park Ave Café. Plus he learned a lot about Southwestern ingredients especially chiles. After a year here though in Sante Fe, he missed big cities.
So Kalman packed his bags and returned to Chicago to work at Terry Alexander’s Okno as this new restaurant’s Executive Chef. This was the first time Kalman was in total control of a menu. Here at this well publicized location Kalman received a James Beard “Rising Star Chefs” nomination from the Midwest region. Though after a year, Kalman was off to Green Dolphin Street another Chicago operation. Here he explored other styles of cuisine with a great sous chef who helped him shape this restaurant’s menu. His next stop as Executive Chef at Coco Pazzo Café lasted two years, though when Kalman got the opportunity to do his own thing, he did…opening a New York style deli in Chicago with a catering service in the art gallery district.
With 9/11, the Bush recession, and corporate business down, Kalman’s business wasn’t going well despite having eighteen different wholesale accounts (mainly coffee shops) to which he provided food. At the very first account he set up, a Seattle’s Best Coffee shop just down the block, he met his future wife who was from Ohio. When she moved back to Ohio, Bruce followed closing his business to go work for an Ohio based operation, the Bravo/Brio Restaurant Group. Here he learned a lot about operations as the Executive Chef. After six months, he became a managing partner.
For this restaurant group, he opened the first Bravo in Cleveland running a 400 seat restaurant that did 1200 covers a day. He was also in the kitchen cooking to set a good example and teach. After 4 ½ years here, he also helped open other locations for this multi-unit concept. But after seven years of having to reproduce the same menu consistently, he felt like he lost some of his creative mojo. Thus after being sent to Arizona to open a couple Brio units, Bruce left this group to join another one, LGO Hospitality at Chelsea’s Kitchen. This, in turn, led to an opportunity at another LGO location, The Misfit in Santa Monica where Kalman was transferred to help open in 2010. This job established Kalman in the Los Angeles area.
After a year there, Kalman joined Acme Bar Management as a consultant overseeing operations for a number of bar/food locations including the Urbano Pizza Bar. Kalman implemented much of what he learned operationally at his prior gigs. This consulting job provided Kalman the opportunity to combine his food knowledge with his more recent operations expertise.
Urbano Pizza Bar put Kalman on the radar of the owners of The Churchill who approached Bruce at the end of last summer to transform The Churchill into a leading dining destination. Here ownership has given Kalman complete control of the kitchen.
End of Part 2; please click here for Part 3 to continue