A Familiar Face Returns to Plat 99
After one long year, Eli Laidlaw returns as sous chef of Plat 99, the mixology lounge at The Alexander Hotel. The young chef and his exciting new menu items will be available starting June 14. With his driven attitude and summer vibes, Chef Laidlaw patiently awaits for the start of his new adventure.
After growing up in Maine, Indianapolis has been home to Laidlaw since he moved to the city after high school. He attended The Chef’s Academy before working at the Hilton and Omni Hotel brands, as well as the South Broad Ripple restaurant, Recess. Chef Laidlaw first joined the staff at The Alexander Hotel in 2013 working mostly with large-scale banquets and events. His return as chef will be another impressive line on his culinary résumé.
Laidlaw has carefully chosen a few new menu items to bring a really simple, but delicious taste, to the table. One new item he is passionate about is the Cuban sandwich with a smoked sweet potato aioli on house-made bread.
“I’m really excited about this fresh summer menu. Some stuff is a little my style, which is cool and interesting, but still really approachable. A lot of the new menu items are things that I’ve tried before or had before. I just want really good food, done really well, really simply,” said Chef Laidlaw.
I recently sat down with the chef to learn more about his tasteful side and food preferences. Here’s a Q&A to help you get to know the rising chef.
EI: What is the craziest food you’ve ever tried?
Chef Laidlaw: I’ve had durian [a fruit known for it’s strong smell] before and that was pretty rugged, definitely not my favorite thing. I’ve also eaten a cow eye before. Yeah, that was pretty awkward, it’s like a very solid grape and then you bite into it and it pops. It really kind of shocks you a little bit, you don’t really expect it at all.
EI: If you could only eat one thing everyday for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Laidlaw: If I could just get a really simple good burger everyday, I’d be cool with it.
EI: What is your favorite thing to cook?
Laidlaw: I like Spanish food and Mexican food. But I really like making frittatas, it’s like a Spanish tortilla with poblanos, potatoes and a bunch of other stuff and then you roast it and layer it. It is like one big egg pie. It is so easy to make and you can do it so many different ways.
EI: What hooked you on becoming a chef?
Laidlaw: My parents always cooked. One thing that really always got me hooked was my mom used to make bread out of our house and sell it. I remember always helping her with that. She had this one giant bowl that was dented and I just really vividly remember the smell of fresh bread. Then my dad always cooked pancakes and they were so good, and he would never tell us what was in them. He would call them “gym-sock pancakes”. He probably could’ve put gym-socks in them and they would still be good.
EI: What is a place that you most often eat on your days off?
Laidlaw: I have actually eaten Cluster Truck a few times lately. It has been pretty cool; I just ordered the pork tenderloin not too long ago. They are pretty consistent and pretty good, so I’m a fan of them.
EI: What is your favorite ingredient to cook with?
Laidlaw: I love cooking with coffee, its one of my favorite things in the world. I could have coffee everyday and it would always be enjoyable. Coffee just has so many flavors. You can do it sweet and you can do it savory. There are just so many things you can do with it, and there are so many different varieties of beans. The way you can coax so many different flavors out of it makes it go into cuisine so well and cooking so well. A lot of the food I do and the way that I cook, coffee can influence that and can elevate that in so many different ways.
EI: Who is a person that you would most like to cook for?
Laidlaw: I’m always inspired to be a great chef and meet great chefs, but the people I really want to cook for are my friends and family. If I could go back to Maine and get a bunch of my good friends from high school and also bring my friends, girlfriend and family from here back to Maine and have one big giant awesome dinner. That’s what I want to do. I have cooked for famous people before and it’s great, but I would be so happy with just my mom, girlfriend and friends sitting at the table and enjoying the food that I’m making for them. I’m definitely a family and friend oriented person.
EI: What’s your favorite date meal?
Laidlaw: Oh, we have both really come to enjoy rice bowls. I’ve been really into making those lately. I made one with sweet potatoes, black beans, brown rice and pineapples and it was really, really good. That’s probably one of our favorite meals. We both [Laidlaw and his girlfriend] really seem to like Mexican food a lot so tacos and rice bowls are our favorites.
Guests can enjoy Chef Laidlaw and his new Plat 99 menu seven days a week. Su–M, 3pm–11pm; Tu–Th, 3pm–midnight; F–Sa, 3pm–1am. Plat 99 is located in The Alexander Hotel, 333 S. Delaware St., Indianapolis. Read more about Chef Laidlaw’s career at Plat99.com.