Todd Stein
868 N Franklin Street
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 482-9179

Biography »

Antoinette Bruno: Why did you start cooking?
Todd Stein: I went to college in Texas and studied business. I wasn’t much of a student and dropped out. I went to Chicago to work on the Mercantile Exchange. I’d finish work at 3 pm and wanted to fill in the time, so I went to work for a gourmet foods store after work. I started preparing food there and decided that I loved it.

AB: Did you attend culinary school?
TS: I went to Kendall College. I would recommend it to aspiring chefs today. School as well as working at a really great establishment that has a great chef and a great business. You need both.

AB: Who are your mentors?
TS: Michael Kornick. I’ve learned how to run a business and make guests happy. Keith Korn – he’s the first chef I worked for, and he opened my eyes to food. He introduced me to Michael.

AB: What is your philosophy on food and dining?
TS: Use great ingredients and treat them well. Respect is key. Dining isn’t just eating. It starts from the moment you walk in. It includes the service, the flatware, everything.

AB: Are there any secret ingredients that you especially like?
TS: Grains – wheat berries, faro, etc. People tend to forget about them, but I think they’re interesting and healthy, definitely more interesting than potatoes.

AB: What is your most indispensable kitchen tool?
TS: My cooks – I wouldn’t be anywhere without them. Also my knives – I have a Glestain 11-inch Japanese knife. It holds an edge better than anything.

AB: Is there a culinary technique that you have either created or adapted in an unusual way?
TS: I prepare vegetable purees in the Vitamix and use them in place of sauces for healthier eating.

AB: What tips would you offer young chefs just getting started?
TS: You shouldn’t have to guess what you’re eating. Everything that you cook should be cooked properly!

AB: What are your favorite cookbooks?
TS: The French Laundry Cookbook – it should be a culinary school requirement. Also David Bouley’s East of Paris for techniques. White Heat from Marco Pierre White is very entertaining, my all-time favorite cookbook.

AB: What places do you like for culinary travel?
TS: Spain – what’s going on in Spain right now is really amazing, even beyond Ferran. Also the Middle East – it’s something interesting and completely different to see.

AB: What are your favorite restaurants – off the beaten path – in Chicago?
TS: The Korean Grocery on Kimble St. – Chicago Food Corp – in the middle of it is a tiny restaurant that has fresh, really good and cheap food. Hot Doug’s has the best Polish sausage. It’s freshly cooked in duck fat.

AB: What trends do you see emerging in the restaurant industry right now?
TS: Molecular cuisine will become even more prevalent. You will see the simple things return again.

AB: Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
TS: Still in this company, overseeing a few more restaurants, and building more restaurants with Michael.

Todd Stein
MK | Chicago

Todd Stein sealed his fate in fifth grade (circa 1979), after a day-long internship at a restaurant kitchen. Right then, he knew he was hungry for more. Years later and three weeks into his culinary studies at Kendall College, he accepted an apprenticeship under chef Keith Korn at Chicago’s Gordon Restaurant. Chef Korn introduced him to Chef Michael Kornick, who in turn, became his primary mentor. Stein worked with Kornick on the opening of mk. He then relocated to Cleveland and opened three successful restaurants there - Piccolo Mondo, Sans Souci and Vivo. Stein’s shared philosophy with Kornick brought him back to Chicago and the kitchen of mk, where he was recently named Executive Chef. Stein’s cooking at mk is marked by a mix of sophistication and approachability, and respect for his ingredients and his customers is at the core of his philosophy on food and dining.


Grilled Baby Octopus with Grilled Frisee and Saffron Aioli
Chef Todd Stein of mk - Chicago, IL
Adapted by

Yield: 4 Servings


  • 4 whole baby octopus
  • 2 (750-milliliter) bottles red wine
  • 2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 2 wine corks
    Octopus Marinade (after cooking):
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh chopped thyme
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 14 ounces canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron, bloomed in warm water
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • 2 heads of frisee, cleaned with dark top removed
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste


For Octopus:
To clean octopus, split each one in half length wise, remove the beak in the center and the eyes just above.

In a medium to large sauce pot, bring wine, vegetables and herbs to a boil, and then turn down to a simmer. Add the corks and then the octopus. Cook for 45 minutes or until tender

Remove from liquid and cool. Once cooled, marinate the octopus and then cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

For Aioli:
Whisk eggs in a large mixing bowl. Slowly whisk in oil to begin creating the emulsion. Whisk in lemon juice and then saffron and a touch of water. Continue adding oil until completely emulsified

To Assemble:
Prepare and heat grill. Place marinated octopus on grill and cook on all sides for 4 minutes.

Lightly oil and season frisee. Grill frisee for 2 minutes, until slightly wilted.

On a 10-inch plate, place frisee in the middle and drizzle aioli around the perimeter.

Place grilled octopus on top of frisee and serve.

Wine Pairing:
Nora Albariño, Rais Baixas, Spain 2004

   Published: November 2005