Michelin Guide recognizes Oak Park’s Marion Street Cheese Market
Executive Chef Leonard Hollander preps cauliflower at Marion Street Cheese Market in November. The accompanying store allows residents to bring the market's fine tastes home. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 14, 2013 6:06AM
OAK PARK — The folks at Marion Street Cheese Market have both a lot to celebrate, and no doubt the perfect place to do it.
The eight-year old bistro and food emporium at Marion Street and South Boulevard scored some major laurels with its inclusion on The Michelin Guide’s 2013 Bib Gourmand list.
“Surprise. Joy. Just jubilation,” Marion Street Cheese Market executive director Michelle Dirks said of the award. She and her staff didn’t know they were under consideration until the news broke in the Chicago media recently.
“The whole process is very confidential,” she said.
According to a Michelin news release, 64 Chicago-area restaurants were picked this year, 19 of them new honorees.
The Bib Gourmands are picked by Michelin’s anonymous inspectors who dine across Chicago regularly. It represents restaurants that serve two courses and a glass of wine or desert for $40 or less (tax and gratuity not included).
“Most importantly, these are places that Michelin’s esteemed inspectors would frequent themselves,” according Michelin.
These local inspectors “are trained to scrupulously apply the same time-tested methods used by Michelin inspectors for many decades throughout the world.”
Carla Gini, publicist for the Cheese Market, called the Bib Gourmand “a high-five heard around the world.”
Also in Oak Park, Sen Sushi received its second Bob Gourmand listing.
The Cheese Market already was well known for its unique array of wines, artisan cheeses and other gourmet food items when, in April 2009, Schuler took a major step forward, hiring executive chef Leonard Hollander.
He’d worked at some of the most prestigious fine dining establishments in the city, including Ambria in Lincoln Park and Avenues at the Peninsula Hotel.
Dirks and Gini lauded Hollander for being “relentless in his attention to detail and to food.”
Hollander said he appreciates his wide latitude to create what he wants, and is gratified it is paying off.
“The work itself is everything to me,” he said. “I eat, drink, breathe and sleep food.”
Gini points to one current menu offering - Squash Farrato. Hollander’s mix of heirloom squash, verjus pickled apples, smoked chestnuts and crunchy Gouda cheese offers “quintessential fall flavors” she said.
This isn’t the first time Hollander and Marion Street have been recognized.
Last September Hollander won the 2011 Chicago Chef Battle hosted by radio station WBEZ. The restaurant also won a 2010 OpenTable.com Diner’s Choice award.
But the Michelin recognition is the gold standard.
“Now we know where we stand,” Hollander said. “And now the really hard work begins.”
“We’re not going to take it easy,” she said. “You never know when the reviewer will be in here next.”