Jeorge Ruiz from Avec

What is your role at avec?

Butcher, prep, receiver, cook…everything.

Favorite part of your job?

Everything, I love working at avec. I’m very happy here, everybody is great to me.

How did you learn how to break down animals and make the dates? Where did you learn how to do all that?

I started washing dishes and cleaning floors at the Pump Room. Then began learning to do prep work and butchery, before moving on to cooking. I learned everything there.

How long have you been with us at avec?

11 years. They were open a week when I came in, and they hired me on the spot. I was referred by Jennifer Newbury who had called [former chef de cuisine] Koren and told them they should hire me. 

Where did you work before avec?

I worked in Italian, French and Spanish restaurants. I worked at Club Lucky with Ricky and Eddie, I did all the sauce over there. I opened Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba too.

Where are you from originally?

Jalisco, Mexico. I moved from here when I was 18, I’m 54 right now. 

Tell us about the dates. When we think of the dates, we think of you.

This is our top seller. I make them everyday, 300 pieces. It’s more than before. When I started working here, we’d make half a sheet tray a day, but then the dates were smaller. People would come in and say, “Jorge, make them bigger.” So I did. I used to see a lot of scraps in the garbage too, which was just waste. So I told the cooks to save them. I use all the meat scraps to make my Chorizo, it gives it more flavor. I’ll use scraps for sauce and in other dishes too.

Do you still eat them?

Oh yeah. I have to make sure they taste fine. The spices that come in vary, so I have to make sure from day to day that they aren’t more spicy or less spicy. I use a lot of spice. 

When you go on vacation, who makes the dates?

I do. I’ll make 35 trays of dates before I go. It’s very hard for me to go on vacation. I come into work on my days off to make enough for while I’m gone. When I first went on vacation someone else made the dates and the customers would complain and say “this is different.” I’m happy to do it, keep people happy.

What’s the best memory or story you have at avec?

When I came in on the first day to interview, I couldn’t find the front door. I came back the next day looking for Koren [past chef de cuisine]. I saw Paul and told him I was looking for the boss Koren, and he said “I’m the big boss.” I thought “oh my god.”

What neighborhood do you live in now?

I live in six corners. Portage Park, near Milwaukee Ave.

Tell us about your family. Do you have kids?

Yeah, I have five kids. The youngest is 21. Almost everyone has moved out, it’s almost just me and my wife. I have 4 grand kids too.

Where’s you favorite place to eat in the city?

I eat a lot of pasta. This place on Grand and Michigan, they make the beer and everything over there. It’s good, their chicken Marsala. And then Green Garden, there’s one close to Evanston.

What do you do on your day off?

Stay home and cook. I cook for the kids, for my wife. I make chicken with yellow peppers, green peppers, onions and mushrooms. It’s hard, sometimes they don’t like it because they don’t like the onions and I’ll say “Hey, eat it!” because they’re supposed to eat vegetables, they need vegetables.