Local Businesses Support the Food Shed: An Interview with Duke's Alehouse

An Interview with Zak Dolezal, Head Chef & General Manager at Duke's Alehouse & Kitchen

By Jen Ludwigsen

Zak Dolezal is Head Chef and General Manager at Duke's Alehouse and Kitchen, a downtown Crystal Lake gastropub offering delicious, locally-sourced, artisanal comfort foods and craft beers. Duke's recently received their third star from the Green Restaurant Association, a certification indicative of their steadfast dedication to protecting our community and environment through green, eco-positive business practices and sustainable food. We had the pleasure of sitting down with Zak to hear his thoughts about the Food Shed. Enjoy :)

1. Zak we are so grateful for your time and support. Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself and your business?
I began my culinary training at my parent's restaurant, Duke O'Brien's, in 1998. After graduating from Kendall College in Evanston I went on to receive my Bachelor's in Hospitality Management from Perdue. I worked at a number of restaurants in the Chicagoland area, including Ixcapuzalco (Fine Dining Mexican Cuisine), Durty Nellie’s, Marriott Lincolnshire, Le Titi de Paris, Spring, and Mon Ami Gabi. I returned to Duke O'Brien's in 2004 and brought with me a passion for sustainable ingredients and relationships with many farmers and producers. Duke O'Brien's closed and reopened as Duke's Alehouse and Kitchen in 2004 with a distinct focus on sustainable, local ingredients, comfort food, and craft brews. 
2. Why are you interested in seeing a food co-op in McHenry County?
Locally sourced food has always been important to me. It's amazing how little the public is concerned or is educated about what they are putting into their bodies. By working with local producers, we develop a trust and have accountability for the products we work with and feed our customers. I truly feel it is our responsibility to make sure the customer is educated on what we serve in our restaurant. A food co-op will educate more consumers and raise awareness about the importance of good, clean, and fair food, but most importantly, make such food accessible. I also think opening a local food co-op we will create incentive for farmers to produce more, which in turn will help my restaurant carry more items.
3. How will your business benefit from the Food Shed Co-op? 
When we provide farmers with additional outlets for their products, they have incentive to produce more. We might even create a market for more producers. Competition is important in any line of work. When I first started ordering local food I was only able to use a dozen or so different producers. Now that number has more than tripled. More producers means I have options and can order the best item from the farmer that does it the best. More availability makes it simpler for restaurants like mine to get what we need when we need it.
We are thrilled to hear Zak's sentiments and know his thoughts are echoed by many other businesses throughout our community. Would you like your local business to be featured on the Food Shed Co-op Blog and in our newsletter? Send us an email or Facebook message and we'll arrange an interview. Many thanks to Zak from Duke's Alehouse for supporting Food Shed Co-op and sharing his unique perspective on how our community-owned grocery store will benefit our community. Stay tuned for more interviews with your favorite local businesses!

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