Chef Peter Coenen’s Day Off

See what Cherry Circle Room chef Peter Coenen does on his day off

Peter Coenen, the executive chef of, well pretty much the whole lobby level of The Chicago Athletic Association, is a pretty busy guy. The former chef of the Gage, which is just up the street from the hotel, teamed up with the Land & Sea Dept. to oversee the food at the iconic Cherry Circle Room, the Game Room, The Drawing Room and the forthcoming Milk Room. That means Coenen, who makes a mean griddled burger and lobster roll, spends a lot of time at The Chicago Athletic Association. But what does he do when he gets a day off? Read on to find out.

Chicago Athletic Association: What’s your typical day off like — what does it consist of? 
Peter Coenen: I try and sleep in, just a little. I relax in the morning on my deck in Wicker Park with a cup of coffee, and just take in the nice morning weather while I read the news. Then I’ll usually go somewhere for a late lunch around 2 or 3 p.m. — something light, like a sandwich, or maybe some cheese and charcuterie with a cocktail or a beer. Weather permitting, I like sitting outside on a patio or at least near open windows.

I also try to do any errands I haven’t been able to get to during the week, including a stop at the grocery store. I cook out at least once a week at home, maybe grilled clams with some drawn butter, grilled vegetables or a marinated skirt steak. If I don’t end up grilling out on my deck, I’ll go out to eat somewhere. In the evening, I always try to catch up with friends over some drinks.

Chicago Athletic Association: Where do you like to eat when you’re not at the hotel and why? 
PC: I try to eat out at new places and see what’s going on in the Chicago food scene. Of course, I do have my go-to spots that I always know will be a great meal. The restaurants I tend to go to over and over again are Gilt Bar (I always order the ribeye and a gin and tonic with splash of chartreuse and extra lime), Bistro Campange and Wasabi. With these spots, I know the food and service are consistently good. I can relax and have a good time there.

Chicago Athletic Association: What about going out for drinks — where and why?
PC: Late night, I tend to go to Big Star. It’s great and right in my neighborhood. I also enjoy Bom Bolla for a few beers and tapas. Drinks are always great at Sable Kitchen and Bar (sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name!).

Chicago Athletic Association: How do you spend time off with friends or family?
PC: I like to get out of the city every once in awhile and be around nature. I also love having friends over for cook outs and good old fashioned fun.

Chicago Athletic Association: Any favorite museums or parks — what about them?
PC: I enjoy going to the Planetarium. There’s so much we don’t know — always keeps you wondering.

Chicago Athletic Association: Do you have any favorite day-trip spots you like to hit to get out of town for a quick mental refresher?
PC: If I’m stuck in the city, I like walking the lakefront. I usually start around North Avenue Beach and finish up just past the museums. I put some headphones on, bring a notebook and take in the sights by the lake. I use it as a break from the city and a time to think, conceptualize, etc… it helps clear my head and I always find I jot down some new ideas.

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