This year, the Ambassador Hotel celebrates its 95th anniversary. This timeless place to stay, dine, and drink in the Near West Side is a long-standing gem known for its commitment to culinary excellence and outstanding hospitality. It is the perfect spot to stop before catching a show at The Rave or grabbing lunch with office colleagues.
Leading the Ambassador Hotel’s kitchen is Juan Pablo Vallejo-Martinez, who began working at the hotel in 2011 as a line cook. Vallejo-Martinez was mentored by other chefs at the hotel and promoted to sous chef in 2016. In 2017, after proving his culinary expertise and leadership skills, he was promoted to executive chef. He decided to explore a new opportunity from 2017 to February 2023, but after his brief hiatus, he returned to the Ambassador Hotel.
In this Q&A, dive into the executive chef’s journey to the kitchen, favorite dishes and fond memories of working at one of the mainstays of the Near West Side neighborhood.
How long have you been cooking? What led you to start cooking as a profession?
I grew up in Leon, Mexico. My grandma was an excellent cook, and I spent a lot of time in the kitchen with her. She inspired my love of cooking and to this day I often think about her and ask myself, “What would Grandma do?” when I am in the kitchen. I came to the US in 2003 and knew I wanted to make a career in the kitchen. I started as a prep cook and quickly moved to working on the line. From there, the rest is history!
What is your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of the job is working with my team. I have an excellent team that works incredibly hard. They are dedicated and they make coming to work fun.
What is your favorite drink and dish to order from the menu?
Our New York strip filet is my favorite dish. It’s an 8-ounce filet cut of the New York strip. The combination of the demi cream sauce and garlicy truffle mashed potatoes is a classic favorite combo…you can’t go wrong! Honestly, I don’t drink but I love to make pineapple water…hmmm…maybe we need to add it to the menu!
What is your favorite dish to make on the menu?
I really love to make our chicken marsala. The wild mushroom Marsala sauce along with the fresh haricot verts and garlic potatoes pair together perfectly. Once it is plated it is beautiful and it is another classic dish. Everyone loves it!
Want to sample the executive chef’s work while appreciating the hotel’s 1920s charm? Stop in during happy hour from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. The Ambassador Hotel hosts a Sunday through Thursday Happy Hour from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. They have half-off appetizers and buy one, get one Gin Rickeys. The Gin Rickey is a classic cocktail that was popular in the 1920s. This drink pays homage to the era that the hotel first opened its doors. It was also on the hotel’s original cocktail menu that is on display in the hotel lobby.
If you have more of a sweet tooth, they are offering a “Gold Shimmer Birthday Cake.” This dessert is a piece of triple chocolate cake made with chocolate mousse, chocolate chip crust and chocolate ganache. It is topped with shimmering gold and finished with a 95th birthday cake topper. Visit the hotel today to be a part of the Ambassador’s historic and culinary legacy.