Monday, November 21, 2011
If you haven’t visited TJ Maloney’s at Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza in Merrillville lately, there’s no better time than now.
And if you need an added incentive, besides the great food and service, it’s always fun to say you’ve sampled the culinary creativity of a celebrity chef working right on the premises.
As reported in this column in May, determined kitchen wiz Jillian Flathers, who came in fourth placed during season eight of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s Fox competition series “Hell’s Kitchen,” is now living in Griffith and doing wonders in her position at Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza.
She’s working closely with Brian Narug, of Highland, Radisson executive chef, to fine-tune the ever-expanding new menu for the property’s popular Irish pub TJ Maloney’s.
Narug, who’s originally from Calumet City, has been at the Radisson for nearly three years and previously worked at the White Lodging Marriott sister property near Midway International Airport in Chicago.
Flathers recently agreed to return to “Hell’s Kitchen” for an episode that aired this fall.
Definitely one of the most popular kitchen contestants in recent years, during the episode that aired Sept. 5, she was reunited with other popular previous season players to form a “returning chef team” to compete against this season’s contestants.
She joined Ben Walanka (season five), Tennille Middleton and Van Hurd (season six) and Trev McGrath (a competitor during season eight) to come up with an original menu in one hour.
Flathers grew up in Southfield, Mich., and worked at the Radisson at Star Plaza for nearly four years from 2006 to 2009 before moving to Pagosa Springs, Colo., for nine months. She was selected to be on season eight of the series while in Colorado.
As for what’s new on the TJ Maloney’s menu, for starters, there’s the addition of crab cakes or lightly dusted calamari fried with cherry peppers and served with roasted red pepper sauce and marinara. There’s also a version of “Irish nachos,” which consists of homemade potato chips with cheddar, Jack and nacho cheese sauces, jalapenos, tomatoes, olives, green onions and sour cream and the option of adding corned beef, chili or chicken.
The chefs also have a “bread and cheese board” with an impressive selection of cubed cheeses from Ireland, including a great “port wine” variety, served with delicious fresh baked brown bread and homemade marmalade.
Added to the salad course options are a smokey bacon and spinach salad and a “beef and blue salad” consisting of marinated tender skirt steak, bleu cheese crumbles, red pepper, roasted tomatoes, onion fritters, romaine and mixed greens tossed with red wine vinaigrette.
New for sandwiches are a grilled Reuben and a lamb burger, as well as a steak wrap and blackened salmon offering. My favorite new item is a barbecue pulled pork sandwich with caramelized onions and smoked Gouda cheese served on a pretzel bread bun.
And for dessert, Flathers has created one of the most delicious apple cakes imaginable — it’s served warm in individual round portions with ice cream.