Love for kitchen proves strong

Growing up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Ignacio "Laco" Seeber spent hours in the kitchen with his mother. He studied her as she did all the cooking and baking for the family.

Seeber arrived in Chicago in 1992 with a plan to attend college and enter the business world, but those pleasant memories of his childhood kitchen proved too strong and in 1997 he enrolled in the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago.

During his culinary career, Seeber, 37, has worked in such high-profile Chicago restaurants as Coco Pazzo Café and Don Juan with acclaimed chefs Tony Priolo and Patrick Concannon, respectively.

In 2002 he joined the Francesca Restaurant Group where he honed his Italian cooking skills and spent four years at Francesca's Forno in Chicago's Bucktown neighborhood.

In 2009 he joined the opening crew at T-Bones Steakhouse in St. Charles. The restaurant is a collaboration between Francesca's Scott Harris, Jimmy Bannos of Heaven on Seven fame and Concannon.

Do you have a favorite dish from your childhood? My mom use to make a lemon sole baked with Roquefort cheese that was to die for.

What was your first kitchen job? It was on the beach making hamburgers, sandwiches and smoothies.

You credit Tony Priolo and Patrick Concannon as mentors. What did you glean from them? Professionalism and dedication.

What is your culinary philosophy? Simplicity. I don't care what it is, but it has to be cooked the right way.

What is your favorite ingredient and how do you like to use it? I love using fresh vegetables. I love every kind and I love using them raw in recipes.

What is your favorite piece of kitchen equipment? A wood burning grill. I love the flavor and texture you get in the foods when you cook on one.

When you're not cooking, where do you like to eat? Do you have a guilty pleasure? I eat food that is good and fresh, I like all kinds of food. I die for good creamy ice cream.

What do you do in your spare time? I read a lot of cooking books; it keeps me in the game. In addition to that, I really enjoy scuba diving and surfing.

Can you recall a memorable meal? It was in Argentina - wood grilled sweetbreads covered in chimichurri cooked by a gaucho.

Tell us about this dish. The Cedar Planked Whitefish is absolutely one of my favorites. By cooking the whitefish on a cedar plank - the absolute best way to cook fish - we can have complete control of the end result. Pair it with a glass of Riesling or a Sauvignon Blanc from Chile or Argentina.

Try it at home or at T-Bones Streakhouse, 1890 W. Main St., St. Charles. (630) 762-0200.

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  Chef Ignacio "Laco" Seeber spoons butter sauce over whitefish. He serves the dish, ABOVE, with a salad of roasted corn and peppers at T-Bone's Steakhouse in St. Charles. Laura Stoecker/

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