Chef’s Choice: New concept lets customers cook steaks on a lava rock — and sample myriad sauces and sides

In Chef’s Choice, the Naperville Sun asks local chefs to share their culinary background and experiences and talk about a featured dish found on their menu.
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This week, we speak with Ryan Tapia, 27, executive chef at Black Rock Bar & Grill in Naperville. Tapia has been in the food business for nine years, beginning with an eight-year run with a barbecue restaurant headed up by Chuck Pine, a disciple of Chicago’s famous chef Rick Bayless. From there, he worked at a beer bar and burger place before joining Black Rock.
Tapia: Yes. I started cooking and liked it, and spent a long time with Chuck Pine before I felt I had learned all that I could and it was time to move on.

Tapia: Honestly walking into it, I didn’t know what to expect. At first I thought it was another job, but having the steaks cooked on a stone is an interesting concept. We put a volcanic rock in a 750-degree oven. The beauty is that it holds in all the juices and the meat doesn’t stay there under a heat lamp.

Tapia: It comes in with all the sauces we have for our dishes that are made to order, and the side dishes. The lava rock allows us to pump out things really fast.

Tapia: My wife is also in the industry and is a pastry chef at the Ritz Carlton in Chicago. We both get made fun of by other people in the business because during late nights, we always get Taco Bell. It’s not good, but we always eat it.

If you were auditioning for someone for a big job, what would you make that would really show your chops?
Tapia: That’s a really good question. I’d probably make enchiladas because a mole sauce shows your chops right there. My mom’s recipe has like maybe 30 ingredients and is a very long process. Mexican food is very labor intensive even though it all seems like the same thing.

Tapia: That’s another good question – probably from my wife, the pastry chef who is always looking for new recipes. She used leftover banana bread as a crust for a cheesecake instead of maybe graham crackers. It was like a Banana’s Foster cheesecake that was out of this world. In this business, you’re always looking for something to do with the leftover product.

Tapia: I did make a legit carbonara (sauce) the other day, and made pasta from scratch, which I’ve never done. I don’t have a (pasta) extruder, so I had to do it all by hand. It’s a totally different flavor.

None of those seems to fit Black Rock. Do you feel you’ll eventually want to work in a place that does one of those?

Tapia: My wife and I always talk about opening our own thing. She wants to do a bakery café thing and the problem is you’re married to your business and we’re already married to each other. Chefs move around a lot in this business.

Tapia: The worst is the hours – about 60 hours a week. The best, it sounds weird, is the stress. I like when things are hopping and I like being busy. I feel my mind works better when I’m slammed.

Tapia: You have to get your butt kicked so you can understand what happened. My first time on the line, I got kicked out and sent to do the dishes. I vowed I was never going to let that happen again.

Tapia: This is our Steak Wars. It has a five-ounce Manhattan-cut strip steak and a five-ounce center-cut ribeye filet. Both are my favorites and they’re amazing on the same plate.

Tapia: They come with a variety of accompaniments, like casino butter, a garlic rub, creamy horseradish, a teriyaki sauce and a Louisiana cream sauce that is spicy, and then our secret weapon bleu cheese/black pepper sauce that goes great with steaks.

Tapia: People get a choice of two sides and there is also a signature steak sauce that is called ‘Black Rock sauce’ that is a proprietary secret. It is almost like a creamy au jus. Our menu just changed and this is one of our newer dishes.

Post time: Sep-25-2019
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