Robert Falls has a knack for cooking.
Noted for his creative director's touch, Falls, artistic director of Chicago's Goodman Theatre, also has a love of food and the art of cooking.
"I enjoy it and have been doing it for some time," he says.
"In the summer, I enjoy grilling and like to get out there in the garden," he says. Moving into winter, he opts for heartier dishes and simple comfort food.
Braising, roasting, slow cooking, and grilling are among his favorite cooking styles.
Falls recently directed "Measure for Measure" at Chicago's Goodman Theatre. The next production he'll direct for Goodman is "Luna Gale," by Rebecca Gilman, scheduled to be performed Jan. 18 through Feb. 23, 2014.
When it comes to watching the skills of noted foodies, Falls says he's a big fan of "certain" chefs.
"I've always loved Rick Bayless," the director says, adding he enjoys his books, recipes and eating at Bayless' various restaurants. Among Falls' favorites in Mexican cuisine (especially as done by Bayless) are enchiladas, moles, green and red sauces, and guacamole.
"I love just about everything," he says. "One of the great things about living in Chicago are all the ethnic restaurants."
In the mid 1990s, Falls received a noteworthy present from family that had quite the culinary impact.
"My parents gave me a Christmas present which was three cooking lessons which turned out to be taught by Emeril Lagasse," he says.
Falls explains it was in 1994 and he traveled to Sarasota, Florida for the lessons.
"I got into Cajun and Creole cooking," Falls says, adding he's a friend of Chicago Cajun king Jimmy Bannos and often dined at the chef's Heaven on Seven restaurant in the Windy City.
Falls' culinary interests even stretch into the literary world. In 2000, he and his wife Kat Falls wrote a screenplay about competitive cooking which was sold to Disney. To date, the screenplay hasn't been developed by the company, he says.
In the kitchen, Falls says he likes to experiment with spices and tends to have a heavy hand with them.
"I overuse spice...I make (recipes) too hot for everyone else," he says laughing. Whether it's salsa or curries, the greater the sizzle, the better for Falls.
The director, who is the father of three children, says he enjoys cooking for family and friends.
In addition to Mexican food, among his other favored cuisines are Japanese and Thai.
Falls says he's always been interested in food but up until the age of 40, he didn't do much cooking. "(Then) I found cooking to be a hobby," he says.
If Falls could choose a perfect dinner companion, he says he would have loved to share a meal with William Shakespeare.
"He could tell me all the things I don't understand about his plays. There's nobody who uses words better in the English language."
And what if he was actually cooking the meal for the Bard? The menu would definitely be Mexican.
"I think it would have been something that it was unlikely he would have tasted. I'd haul out my Mexican recipes."
Meat fans will enjoy the following recipe from Falls.
ROASTED VEAL SHORT RIBS
4 veal short ribs
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/2 bouillon cube
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 spring flat-leaf parsley, chopped
DIRECTIONS: Coat each rib with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. In a small saucepan, bring wine and vinegar to a boil. Whisk in bouillon. Remove from heat and set aside. Arrange onions in bottom of a roasting pan and pour in wine/vinegar mixture. Add garlic. Place ribs in roasting pan, skin-side up. Place pan in a cold oven, then turn heat to 325 degrees and let ribs cook for 1 hour. Baste ribs with pan juices and cook for another hour, turning and basting every 15 minutes. Increase heat to 400 degrees and cook for another 30 minutes, until ribs are dark black. Remove ribs from the oven and arrange on a platter. Spoon pan sauce and onions over ribs, garnish with parsley, and serve.