The Drake Hotel: A Journey of Sensory Perception

with Executive Chef Hervé Cuyeu

Monday, February 16, 2015 –

The Drake Hotel, Chicago
140 East Walton Place
Chicago, IL 60610

Reception: 6:30 PM Champagne Only
Seating/Dinner: 6:50/7:00 pm promptly
Event Price: $265.00 per Person, All Inclusive
Dress Code: Black Tie; Decorations for Members
Parking Valet Parking Available, $26 Discounted Rate


Sensory Exploration at The Drake


On February 16, 2015, Chaîne Chicago held a black-tie induction and elevation ceremony at the fabled Drake Hotel, followed by Executive Chef Hervé Cuyeu’s unique fine-dining concept, billed as “a journey of sensory perception.”

After a brief Champagne and caviar reception, attendees entered the stunning Gold Coast Ballroom. Bailli Mon Roldan opened the ceremony and introduced our honored guest Bailli Provincial Midwest Renee Wilmeth, who served as our charismatic induction officer. After providing an insightful Chaîne history and leading new members through the recitation of the Chaîne oath, she formally inducted five Dames de la Chaîne: Ardi Kazarian, Shari Massey, Jennifer Philbrook, Destiny Thompson and Sandra Warner and five Chevaliers: Robert Fliegelman, Kevin Massey, Kelly Millsaps, Carson Sprow and Steven Vinezeano. In conclusion, two members were elevated to new officer status: Vice-Chargée de Missions Beth Lang, who will oversee Chaîne Chicago’s membership and other special tasks, and Vice-Echanson Manfred Raiser, who will lead the Mondiale and occasionally provide food and wine commentary at Chaîne events.

Following the induction and elevation ceremony, guests moved to four 12-tops. Chevalier Matthew Fox gave a lovely toast, and dinner commenced.  At each table, one of four chefs explained and prepared a dish dedicated to a different gustatory perception: salt, sour, bitter or umami. After dining on one course, attendees moved to the next table to stimulate a different sense of taste. Everyone enjoyed dessert simultaneously after completing the savory offerings.

Executive Chef Hervé Cuyeu highlighted “salt” in his stunning vanilla butter-poached Maine lobster. The accompanying Osetra caviar lent a briny pop to the dish. The chef also incorporated celery mousseline, apple matchsticks, leeks and fennel to create arguably the most beautiful presentation of the night. 2009 Ken Forrester The FMC Chenin Blanc from Stellenbosch, South Africa, proved to be an exquisite match. Its notes of stone, tropical fruits, honey and oak both complemented and cut through the rich, salty shellfish.

The challenge facing Chef Gee Cuyugan was to make Hudson Valley foie gras taste “sour,” which he accomplished by adding pickled turnips and verjus gastrique in addition to caraway bread crumb “soil” and brown butter-braised pear. Sauternes was an obvious pairing and for good reason: 1989 Château Suduiraut had notes of apricot, orange peel and caramel together with fine acidity that acted as a perfect counterpoint to the foie’s smooth texture and richness.

Chef Mark Lagges prepared “bitter” braised veal cheeks by incorporating bitter chocolate and espresso beans into a rub, using bitter chocolate and peppers in the mole sauce, and adding a salad of bitter greens, smoked rhubarb gel, a foam of parsnip and raw parsley, and bitter orange “soil” for texture. An incredible wine overshadowed this course: Château Gruaud-Larose from the great 1990 vintage was full-bodied yet elegant, with succulent acidity and notes of violets and dark cherry.

Chef Rene Luna used New Zealand venison loin to express the “umami” gustation, which he elicited with an earl gray tea rub on the meat, truffles in sunchoke crema and hickory-smoked maitake and enoki mushrooms. Juniper-pickled yellow beets and huckleberry gastrique lent balance and beauty to the dish. 1988 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron was fully mature, with a complex bouquet and a palate of cassis, sweet spices, smoke, and coffee that enhanced the course superbly.

Chef Christina Schubert prepared a “sweet” dessert, but further challenged herself by incorporating all of the other tastes into her chocolate petit gateau: “salt” in the caramel crunch, “bitter” in the chocolate and cocoa powder, “umami” in the bacon maple ice cream and dots of reduced port wine and “sour” in the grapefruit pâte de fruit. 1991 Graham’s Vintage Port provided notes of blackberries, plum and coffee, with a long finish that was a satisfying conclusion to an impressive showing from the Chicago Chaîne wine cellar.

Throughout the evening, each table formally discussed which dish was its favorite representation of the five basic tastes, most tempting visual presentation, best food-wine pairing and whether the dish evoked any gastronomic memories. When service ended, the four table captains announced the results to a captivated audience. Not surprisingly, Executive Chef Hervé Cuyeu was judged to have created the most successful course, but his colleagues were worthy challengers and attendees the lucky beneficiaries.

Finally, Bailli Mon Roldan presented awards and gave thanks to our special guests, the chefs and Maître de Table Hôtelier Ann O’Riordan, the Drake’s Director of Catering & Events, for an evening of convivial celebration and fascinating culinary adventure.


Please join us on a “Journey of Sensory Perception” with Executive Chef Hervé Cuyeu and his team at the legendary The Drake Hotel. Chef Hervé specializes in combining classical recipes with contemporary trends. In Chef’s own words: “People eat with their eyes first, presentation becomes part of the first impression, an elegant presentation enhances the overall feel. Food is a fashion; we adapt to current inclinations and embellish or contrast flavor and style accordingly.”

Eating is a multi-sensory activity. It engages all our five senses of sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch. How each of these senses is affected by or involved in the entire dining activity, not just the food, but including a whole host of other factors such us our physical and emotional states, dining companions, the surrounding, etc., contribute to our perception of flavor and memories of a dining experience. Food speaks to us directly through taste. Our tongue is sensitive to the five primary taste sensations of sour, salt, bitter, sweet and umami (savory).

Chef Hervé has conceived an evening he hopes will provoke thought, camaraderie and lively discussion. He wishes to engage our sensory skills to evaluate the five courses that his team will prepare with each course highlighting one of the primary taste sensations. He wants us to consider, among other things, the following:

  • How can “sour” accompany a rich foie gras and elevate the course?
  • What makes a course “salty” but also delicious?
  • Can a dish be “bitter” yet still balanced?
  • How many ways can “umami” be expressed in a course?
  • Can all five “tastes” be present in a course and still make that course taste good?

Chef Hervé is no stranger to the Chicago Chaîne and our sense of adventure with regard to fine food, wine and overall dining experiences. We have been in his capable hands before and welcome the opportunity to once again be the benefactors of his culinary expertise and imagination. This time he wishes us to participate in a unique dining experience designed to provoke thought, camaraderie and lively interaction among guests and between guests and chefs. He wishes us to grade his team of chefs on their ability to craft food that highlight one of the five taste sensations: sour, salt, bitter, sweet and umami (savory). Grading sheets will be tallied and shared at the end of the evening.

Following a champagne reception (without passed canapés to keep our taste sensations fresh and alive), guests will be escorted into the glorious Gold Coast Room to their assigned team. Each team, composed of twelve guests, will be seated at one of the four tables in the middle of the room, which are flanked by four “taste stations,” each manned by a chef. Chefs will explain the course at their station while preparing it as the team observes. Once seated, guests will enjoy the course, discuss their impressions of it, and then rotate to the next station.

Come with your Zen! Your opinions are valued, and participation is highly encouraged.

Mon Y. Roldan
Bailli de Chicago & Chambellan Provincial, Midwest Region
Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rotisseurs