Meet the Chef
CHEF LUKE KIRWAN
GRAND CRU FOOD & WINE
After being given the nickname “Chef” in the Air Force, Luke Kirwan used the GI bill to go to Culinary School in Silicon Valley, CA, where he graduated top of his class at Art Institutes. He worked at the prestigious French Laundry under Michelin Star Chef Thomas Keller before being told by Keller to “get out of under the dragon’s wing and go fly for yourself.” From there, he moved on to Hotel Valencia, on Santana Row, San Jose, where he was nominated for a James Beard Award and offered the opportunity to appear on the Food Networks “Chopped,” only to lose in the final round to a sorbet soup. He moved on to a stint in Vegas at the MGM Grand & after one too many 28-hour shifts, eyes closed, he put a finger down on a map, right on North Carolina. The next day he got a flight to Wilmington, NC. He became Executive Chef at Grand Cru, where after less than 2 years was offered the opportunity to become the owner. He now runs a chef-driven restaurant with a menu to rival the best in Wilmington.
What makes Grand Cru unique?
A 5-time Wine Spectator awarded wine list, including live music 4 nights a week, and a food menu so unique and melding with the boutique atmosphere… There is no place like it in Wilmington.
How would you describe the type of food you like to cook?
French and Asian fusion with nods to a traditional southern BBQ.
What motivates and inspires you as a chef?
Seeing the transformation on peoples faces as they take the first bite of food I’ve made. When I witness the pure joy and extasy on a persons face truly engulfed in just that moment of pleasure…It becomes intoxicating, and I strive to achieve it with every meal.
What might diners not know about you?
I am a Renaissance Festival Junkie! Complete with swords and armor. I take my wife, willing or not, to enjoy a day of frivolity and many Huzzahs!
Current favorite dish the manna menu?
Without a seconds thought I would choose the Espresso Rubbed Wild Elk Tenderloin with Wild Mushroom & Truffle Risotto. The creaminess of the risotto and the espresso rub are a prefect pairing. Plus, the 7 different wild mushrooms and the white summer truffles bring the dish to a new level of taste.
Favorite local produce and how do you use it?
I must admit local micro greens are a necessity for our restaurant. The growing season is so long we can grow everything from basil to red amaranth, perfect for that extra pizzazz when finishing our cuisine.
Best foodie city?
What’s your all-time best comfort food?
Grilled cheese and tomato soup with heavy cream in the soup! Yep, I’m one of those.
Describe the best meal you’ve ever eaten.
After a long shift in the kitchen, I stopped by a local street vendor for a hotdog wrapped in bacon served with sweet mayo and spicy brown mustard on a brioche bun. The guy who made it was so modest, yet the elevation of flavor produced on his little cast iron grill of love was life altering.
Three songs on your current playlist?
If there’s one important piece of advice you might have for cooks, what might that be?
Don’t Be discouraged when you graduate culinary school that you don’t immediately become an executive chef. You will start at the bottom but that is a good thing because there is only one way to go… Up! Learn from the chefs you work with as talent does tend to hide in the strangest places. Be humble. You will learn more about yourself through humility rather than thinking you are above the competition.
Grand Cru Food & Wine is a boutique restaurant and Wine Spectator Award winning wine bar focused on eclectic, seasonal, and fun food and wine selections from around the world.
Monday - Wednesday : 4:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Thursday - Saturday : 4:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Monday - Saturday: 4:00 pm - Until
1904 Eastwood Rd.Wilmington, NC