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Flossmoor Station welcomes its new head chef

Chris Ball, new head chef at Flossmoor Station Restaurant & Brewery. (Nick Ulanowski/H-F Chronicle)

Chris Ball has been Flossmoor Station Restaurant & Brewery’s head chef since early January. He’s gone from working what he described as an unfulfilling job as a juvenile prosecuting attorney in New York City to making biweekly specials at Flossmoor Station and hoping to make changes to the menu.

The first set of Ball’s biweekly specials is available Monday through Thursday and the second is available Friday through Sunday. 

“I’m testing the waters with those specials,” Ball said. “There are some that I’d like to move onto the permanent menu. Otherwise, I’d just like to bring people along on my culinary journey.”

Ball said one of his favorite specials he’s made so far is a Moroccan chicken dish that was inspired by a trip he took.

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“I’m often inspired by travel when I cook,” Ball said.

Ball said he hopes to transform the menu at Flossmoor Station into something smaller and more “modernized.” He described the current menu as containing “a wall of food words,” and he thinks this is “imposing to some people.” 

“I think there are too many choices in the different categories on the menu. So, I’d like to streamline those a little bit,” Ball said. “There are some things on the Station’s menu that would never go away. Because that would cause an uproar.”

Jake LaDuke, who was hired as Flossmoor Station’s new brewmaster last fall, said he agreed with many of Ball’s viewpoints on the menu. Ball and LaDuke have collaborated in making some of the biweekly specials. 

“He’s been pulling some of the beers that I’ve been brewing and making some sauces out of it,” LaDuke said.

One of the specials that Ball and LaDuke made together was a poutine. It contained french fries, cheese curds and a gravy made with LaDuke’s Pullman brown ale.

“When you add heat to beer, it really changes it. You still get the essence of the beer. But it changes it somehow,” Ball said. “What I look for in a restaurant is cohesiveness. I like for it to all work as a unit – and not be these two separate things like the brewhouse versus the kitchen.”

Ball moved to Flossmoor about four years ago and worked as a chef at Red Bird Café in Homewood. 

“[Flossmoor Station] was the first meal I had when my partner and I were looking for a home here,” Ball said.

Ball attended culinary arts school after being a prosecuting attorney of juveniles in New York City family court for five years. 

“New York didn’t have the resources to rehabilitate these kids properly. So, they would go away to a detention facility then return to the neighborhood that caused the problem in the first place,” Ball said.

According to a report from the John Kay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, nearly seven out of 10 juvenile offenders are arrested again within two years of their first release.

Ball said he got to know many of the same kids’ faces and it was entirely depressing. He described this as “thankless and unrewarding work” that made him unhappy.

While working as an attorney during the week, Ball said he did food catering on the weekend. He said that was when he realized wanted to pursue his passion for cooking.

“Life is too short to do something you’re miserable doing,” 56-year-old Ball said.

“I was part of the interview process for Chris,” manager Sandi Nelson said. “I knew immediately that he’d be a great fit for Flossmoor Station. And it’s proven to be true.”

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