In the Kitchen with Jake Bickelhaupt of 42 Grams

42 grams is a chef-driven restaurant, located in the heart of Uptown Chicago, offering a multi-course tasting menu. An evening at 42 grams is much like attending a private dinner party at a friends home (if your friend happened to be a fine dining chef!). Like most dinner parties, the action centers around the kitchen. The kitchen at 42 grams is completely open to the dining room and we encourage interaction with Jake and the chefs. You’ll be welcomed into 42 grams by the chefs wife, who is also your hostess/server for the evening. 42 grams hosts two seatings per evening: the chefs counter for 8, and a 10 seat communal table. The name of the restaurant is a riff on the premise that the soul weighs 21 grams. 42 grams represents what Chef Jake and his wife Alexa collectively bring to your dining experience.

Jake Bickelhaupt is not only the owner of 42 grams, but he’s the chef that brings personality and delicious food to the unique dining experience of 42 grams. Being recently awarded two Michelin stars after only 10 months in business, we wanted to get down to what makes Chef Jake Bickelhaupt tick, and what makes 42 grams the next big thing in dining.
Chef Bickelhaupt
{photo credit: Jack C. Newell}

“Jake Bickelhaupt is the chef/owner of 42 grams. He has worked in the kitchens of some of Chicago’s most highly-regarded restaurants — including Alinea, Charlie Trotter’s and Schwa. An evening at 42 grams features Chef Bickelhaupt’s approachable interpretation of new American cuisine.”

How does it feel to have been awarded 2 Michelin Stars after only being open for 10 months?

In one word: Humbling. The Michelin stars we were awarded are an affirmation of all the hard work and sacrifice my wife and I have made over the last two and a half years to make 42 grams a reality.

How does that motivate you for the next 10 months?

I’ve always put a great deal of pressure on myself to create absolutely delicious food and to give our guests the best food and experience I can possibly deliver. The stars bestowed by Michelin don’t change the motivation, drive, or passion for what I do. Michelin is a fantastic recognition and affirmation of what I’m doing, but it’s not what drives me.

How is the pressure to keep up the momentum?

Believe it or not, the Michelin announcement has given me a sense of calm. Achieving 2-stars in our first year was my personal goal. I set an incredibly high bar for myself with the restaurant and I attained it.

Being so unique, do you feel like there is a certain need/want for dining atmospheres like 42 grams?

I can’t speak to the needs or wants of others, but I can tell you that since our days ‘underground’, what my wife and I created and delivered resonated with people on a personal level. That is not to say that the experience at 42 grams is for everyone, it’s not. There are many people who are not interested in (or comfortable with) such a personal and intimate dining experience. Which is ok, because we didn’t build 42 grams to serve the masses; we only host 18 guests per evening. We built 42 grams for the well-traveled, savvy diners out there that marvel, enjoy and can appreciate the food and experience we give.

What do you think is the biggest highlight for people when they dine at 42 grams?

Based on what guests tell us, I don’t think there is just one highlight. I think it’s a combination of things: the intimacy, the quality/taste/uniqueness of the food, the hospitality (Alexa), the access to the chef (me), getting to watch the ‘show’ so up close and personal, etc. It’s the whole package.

A place like 42 grams, an 18 seat fine-dining restaurant, this has to be an intimate experience for the employees & diners alike. In a crazy hustle & bustle city like Chicago, do you think this is what people crave?

I think many people crave unique and individualized experiences. When eating out, they want to connect with the chef and with the food that they’re consuming, often questioning what inspired a dish, or where its ingredients were sourced from. Diners are incredibly knowledgeable now, and with that, comes a curiosity and a desire to really know a restaurant, and a chef, on a personal level. Again, I don’t necessarily think this applies to everyone, and I think sometimes, guests realize it’s something they crave after they dine with us and experience the level of intimacy we provide.

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