Patrick Quakenbush
Executive Chef, ZED451
Operation Stats:

Zed 451

1 in Chicago (flagship restaurant of the Tavistock Group)

1 day part served + brunch on Saturdays and Sundays + private dining

$5.1 million (U.S.) volume sales

Kraft on Craft—
Patrick Quakenbush
Takes the Kraft Challenge

A chef at a modern grill finds inspiration with Kraft.

Patrick Quakenbush understands hospitality. Armed with years of experience at high-volume casual restaurants, spinning through 6,000 covers a day, this chef now runs Tavistock Group's upscale Zed 451 in Chicago. "The pace here is so different," he says. "We may do 400 covers on a Sunday brunch, but the focus is on the experience—not turn-and-burn burgers and beer." And hospitality at Zed 451 morphs the all-you-can-eat concept into a high-end experience, boasting premium ingredients prepared with refined culinary skill. A re-imagined prix fixe sees diners pay $48 and receive tableside entrée service, where servers offer an endless amount of small-plate portions. Diners are encouraged to sample all 12 dishes, such as Maryland Crab Cakes and Curry Lime Red Snapper. Diners are also invited to the Harvest Table, a re-imagined salad bar with a selection of charcuterie, artisan cheeses, composed salads and small plates, such as Fennel and Artichoke Salad and Tuna and Shrimp Poke. Desserts wow diners with deliciousness like S'More Pie with Loaded Cheesecake Ice Cream and Butterscotch Bread Pudding with Marshmallow.

But the dessert that caught our attention was Chef Quakenbush's Chocolate Covered Mini Cheesecake Lollipops. We love the whimsy behind them. We also love that he'll use no other cream cheese except Philadelphia Cream Cheese in the dessert. "You're essentially making a custard with cream-cheese flavoring," he says. "Philly is the standard. If you use any other cream cheese, your customer will notice. If you're going to feature cream cheese, you need to use the best."

Mini dessert packs a mighty punch

Run on both Zed's private-dining menu and as a holiday promotion, this dessert falls in the top-three best sellers. Chef Quakenbush blends Philadelphia Cream Cheese with sugar, salt and vanilla paste, then folds in mascarpone and heavy cream that have been whipped together. He mounds the custard onto a sheet tray, then freezes until firm. After inserting lollipop sticks, he rolls the cheesecake balls in melted bittersweet chocolate and refrigerates until service. "The inside is soft and luscious with a nice cheesecake finish," he says.

Chef Quakenbush serves them as a passed dessert at private-dining events, where the small size and lollipop presentation make them both a fun and hassle-free eating experience for standing guests. The restaurants charges $18 for a dozen, and he runs a food cost of five cents per lollipop. "We make the custard in big batches, and we buy Philly in bulk, so it's inexpensive for us," he says. Chef Quakenbush also hands the lollipops to exiting guests during the holidays. "We wrap them in cellophane with a festive bow," he says. "We attach a little note of gratitude. We also deliver them to hotel concierge as a promotional tactic."

Mini Cheesecake LollipopsMini Cheesecake Lollipops

Chef Quakenbush enrobes cheesecake batter with chocolate for these one-bite lollipops. Made with the sophisticated flavors of Philadelphia Cream Cheese, mascarpone and bittersweet chocolate, the Mini Cheesecake Lollipops are one of Chef Quakenbush's signature desserts.

Even more inspiration with Kraft

Chef Quakenbush relies on Kraft for these other winning dishes:

  1. Herb-Crusted Lamb Chops sees lamb rubbed with Grey Poupon Classic Dijon Mustard, then rolled in herbed panko breadcrumbs. "The mustard adds a savory zip to the chops," says Chef Quakenbush.
  2. Loaded Cheesecake Ice Cream is a big hit, starring cheesecake batter made with Philadelphia Cream Cheese that's run through an ice-cream machine, then cherries, coconut, candied pecans and semi-sweet chocolate chunks are added.
  3. Homemade Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting are decadent, huge cinnamon rolls topped with a Philadelphia Cream Cheese Frosting. "We serve these during brunch service on the weekends, and they're really popular," he says.

Behind the Chef

His kitchen staff calls him Quack, a nickname he embraces. "I'm a humble guy," he says. "I ask for help when I need it. We're all in here for a common goal—to make the experience over the top." With no formal culinary training, Chef Quakenbush says, "I am a product of hard knocks. I was cooking way before I was getting paid to. I was at a latch-key kid, cooking for myself at six, and my culinary skills evolved from there."

Chef Quakenbush Unplugged

Born in Sycamore, Illinois, Chef Quakenbush grew up in a military family, so he lived abroad for a good chunk of his childhood and was exposed to many different cultures. "I was eating snails when I was five," he says. "I saw so many different approaches to food. My palate is really wide because of that exposure." As evidence, asked what his favorite dish is, he responds, "Lobster—just pulled from the ocean. Rip them in half. They're warm and salty. Squeeze lime juice over the raw meat. Delicious."

Here are a few highlights from our interview with Chef Quakenbush:


If you were sent to a desert island, what 3 ingredients would you take with you?


Avocados, garlic and Dijon mustard.


What is your favorite kitchen tool?


My immersion blender—it's the boat motor of the kitchen. I use it to emulsify dressing, make soup, among other things.


Whom would you most like to cook for?


Guy Fieri. I love that guy! I think we have similar personalities. I would show him how to make my duck pastrami-Reuben slider.


Where was the last place you dined?


Bandera, on Chicago's Michigan Avenue. I'm a huge fan. The service is impeccable and the food is simple with great ingredients. It's been around forever, and is always good.


What is your favorite Kraft product?


Kraft Mayo with Olive Oil. You can get your mayonnaise fix without the calories.

Here are a few more fun mini desserts developed by the chefs at the Kraft Culinary Centre.

Patrick Quakenbush is no longer at Zed 451.
Chef Quakenbush – Zed451