Corporate Essentials is thrilled to introduce James Beard Award-winning chef, Abe Conlon, and his partner, Adrienne Lo, as October’s Featured Chefs through our premium office catering division, Martin + Fitch. The dynamic duo has been delighting the taste buds of Chicagoans for a decade with their joint ventures, and now their unique, delectable cuisine can be found catered directly to New Jersey and New York City offices.
Abe’s approach to food is mainly a result of his Portuguese roots and growing up in a largely Southeast Asian community in Lowell, Massachusetts. He began cooking professionally at the age of fifteen and trained under renowned chefs Frédy Girardet and Gray Kunz where he learned the technique behind French cuisine and refinement. He went on to receive formal training at the Culinary Institute of America and graduated in 2001.
Abe also studied fusion techniques under Norman Van Aken, a chef known internationally for introducing the concept of “fusion” to the culinary world. It was here that he sharpened his skills when it comes to blending the cuisines of different cultures. He then took his talents down to the Caribbean and began running Chez Asian Bistro in the Dominican Republic, which combined traditional Southeast Asian cooking with local Spanish ingredients. After returning to America to run the fine dining restaurant Augustine’s at Fredericksburg Square in Virginia, Abe set his sights on Chicago for a new adventure.
Adrienne Lo is a first generation Chinese-American and Chicago native who shares in Abe’s passion for food and wanderlust. She attended Trinity College in Connecticut where she had the opportunity to study abroad in India her junior year. Post graduation Adrienne headed to Italy where she worked on a farm before returning home to Chicago and meeting Abe.
The Abe Colon & Adrienne Lo Partnership
The duo began making headlines with the start of their members only underground dining experience, X-Marx. What started as an event for friends grew into a supper club for adventurous eaters with a focus on food being the main event. Changing venues, times and menus based off of creativity and what was available completed the air of mystery that helped launch Abe and Adrienne’s successful careers.
After a few years, the pair closed X-Marx and focused their attention on opening their own brick-and-mortar restaurant. After traveling to Macau, a previously Portuguese territory sitting on the south coast of China, Adrienne and Abe recognized the unique cuisine of the region, it’s diminishing presence, and developed a desire to preserve it. Macanese fare is a blend of Portuguese and Chinese influences, matching both Abe and Adrienne’s heritages.
The result of this visit was Fat Rice, the Logan Square restaurant that combines techniques and ingredients from Portugal, Brazil, Africa, Malaysia, India, and China – the way the Portuguese traveled during the Age of Discovery. Since opening in 2012, Fat Rice has been an instant success, attracting both local regulars and travelers from far and wide. It’s small, casual atmosphere with an open kitchen concept and rustic charm is a reflection the owners, who simply want to spread awareness of Macau’s forgotten cuisine.
The Bakery at Fat Rice & The Ladies’ Room
Fat Rice became such a huge success that in July of 2016, Adrienne and Abe expanded their portfolio with two new ventures, The Bakery at Fat Rice and The Ladies’ Room. The Bakery features a casual café setting with baked goods inspired by Portugal, Macau, and more. The Bakery also features Petisco, a small, Portuguese-style snack bar that offers seafood focused appetizers, wines, and beers. Many Fat Rice-goers crowd into the Bakery when waiting for a table at the restaurant, allowing foodies to satisfy their hunger and mingle before the main event.
The Ladies’ Room is an upscale, craft cocktail lounge featuring an intimate atmosphere. The space is inspired by Chinese gambling halls and Macau’s red light district circa the mid-19th and 20th centuries with many of the decorations sourced from Adrienne’s grandparents’ house. Both the Bakery and The Ladies’ Room are perfect extensions to Fat Rice and mirror Abe and Adrienne’s desire to keep the culture alive.
The Adventures of Fat Rice
In the fall of 2016, Adrienne and Abe partnered with former Fat Rice sous chef Hugh Amano to publish their first cookbook, “The Adventures of Fat Rice”. With eighty-six recipes and Pop Art illustrations demonstrating technique, the goal of the cookbook was to get these recipes down in writing as a way of preserving the quickly diminishing Macanese cuisine.
Awards & Recognition
With all of these accomplishments, it’s no wonder that Abe, Adrienne, and Fat Rice have received numerous accolades. Fat Rice was named a “Best New Restaurant” by Bon Appetit, Jean Banchet, and Diners Club International, and has been recognized by Food & Wine Magazine, Eater National, and Cooking Light Magazine. Most recently, Abe has been honored as the 2018 James Beard Award winner for Best Chef: Great Lakes.
About Martin + Fitch
Whether an office is looking to supply food for an occasional workplace party, a regular Friday happy hour or everyday lunches, Martin + Fitch can service your needs. With menus changing daily and inspired by the seasons, Martin + Fitch can provide delicious, better-for-you meal options for your employees. In addition, from photo shoots and drop off catering, to large full-service events, Martin + Fitch can help you choose your venue, hire staff and design the space.