Deal-icious: Chef Alana Shock

  • Chef Alana Shock
    Jodi Miller photo
From the 11/18/2009 edition

Knowing that Alana Shock comes from Defiance, Ohio, makes me think that gamey-naming novelist Thomas Pynchon might be more of a realist than I'd thought possible. Alana does shock her patrons with her wonderfully creative food, and she has defiantly been cooking her way from a daily-changing menu promoting locally sourced products long before all that became cool. Prior to opening her own self-named great world-beat restaurant (with unbeatable wine deals) a decade ago, she worked at the Gourmet Market (now Spagio) and for celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse as well as for the famed Lettuce Entertain You restaurant group in Chicago.

A Shocking Buffet

The assignment was dinner for four, but Alana's spectacular family-style smorgasbord spread of 11 dishes could probably have fed 14 - or 40! I glimpsed at an illustration of her restless brain and energy when I saw her lengthy and detailed prep list, which (after #1: make coffee) began with methodically separating the mixed frozen veggies into their constituent bits.

She meticulously continued in this rigorous tear-down and recombine mode to eventually wring every ounce of flavor and every scrap of nourishment from the goodie bag. (I loved her description of the "pack attack" she experienced when nervously running low on ramen flavoring agent.)

And her humor, French technique and Asian interests shone brightly in her wild panoply as she: made a mayo with bacon fat for a macaroni salad; topped homemade banana and peanut butter crepes with an apple baton salad; paired a lovely squash tempura with a knockout "ramen ponzu sauce"; and riffed on egg drop soup (delicate), cassoulet (hearty) and Salad Nicoise (totally fun). My head is still spinning in wonderment.

Item not used: the frozen pizza, which she was considering eating because she woke up late, hung over and hungry