Bob Zrenner has been delivering innovative, creative dishes for the past three years at Hubbard Inn in Chicago.
The restaurant, which features a variety of food options, specializes in European-style small plates. But diners will also find assorted burgers, salads, flatbreads and more on the menu.
About his style of cooking, Zrenner said he "lets the ingredients stand on their own." Spices, heavy sauces and other items should never "overwhelm" a dish, he stressed.
At the restaurant, Zrenner updates the menu every month, changing four to five items.
"We like to keep it seasonal and keep it new," he said.
Among dishes diners will find starring on Zrenner's menu are Braised Short Ribs, Mussels, Lamb Meatballs, Grilled Steak Salad, Tuscan Kale Salad, Bison Burgers, Lobster Rolls and Skirt Steak.
During the winter, plenty of comfort food stars at Hubbard Inn including one of Zrenner's specialties, Hard Cider Braised Pork Cheeks.
Zrenner said his philosophy of cooking centers around his guests.
"I cook for the guests. I don't cook (to satisfy) my own ego. And when you cook for the guests, it's all comfort." And he said he always cooks in respect for the seasons.
The chef, who was born in Chicago, was raised in New Buffalo, Mich. Zrenner said he was greatly inspired by Julia Child's strong culinary style and philosophy.
I was fortunate enough to cook for her and her husband a number of times in Rhode Island and Chicago," he said.
Zrenner is a graduate of Johnson and Wales University in Providence, R.I.
Enjoy Zrenner's comfort food recipe for pork cheeks, which is ideal for a cold day.
Hard Cider Braised Pork Cheeks
5 pounds Pork cheeks, cleaned (ask your butcher to remove extra fat and silverskin)
1 yellow onion
2 celery ribs
1/2 gallon hard cider
1 cup demi glace
6 thyme sprigs
10 parsley stems
4 bay leaves fresh
2 cinnamon sticks
4 star anise
1 tablespoon fennel seed
1 tablespoon coriander
1 tablespoon white pepper corn
1 tablespoon chili flakes
DIRECTIONS: Season the pork cheeks with salt, pepper and sugar. Let them rest for one hour. Place heavy bottom braising pan on stove and get hot. Sear the cheeks in olive oil until all sides have a heavy sear. Remove the cheeks and let rest on plate. Add all vegetables (cleaned and cut into 1/2-inch pieces) and spices into pan. Stir until onions begin to brown. Add cheeks, beer, demi-glace and herbs. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer. Let the cheeks cook until tender. Remove cheeks and strain the cooking liquid and reserve. Reduce the cooking liquid by half and add butter and adjust seasoning. Return cheeks to the liquid to reheat and to get an even coat of the sauce. Serve on top of white beans.