1776 Restaurant in Crystal Lake hires new executive chef

Crystal Lake-based 1776 Restaurant named Chris Blackburn its new executive chef, where he will oversee and execute all culinary operations at the farm-to-table, fine-dining establishment.

Before joining 1776, Blackburn, of Cary, launched a private chef service called Great Full Plate, where he was known for “his uniquely playful cooking style and technique of elevating traditional comfort foods,” according to a news release from 1776 Restaurant issued earlier this month. He brings more than 20 years of culinary experience.

“Chef Chris is brilliant. We are thrilled to welcome him to the ‘76er family,” Rhienna McClain, owner of 1776, said in the release. “His passion and dedication are unmatched. We are looking forward to elevating our kitchen with his presence, and excited to have finally found the perfect match for our wine and spirits program. We have already dreamcasted a lot of big plans for the restaurant and can’t wait to roll them out to you, McHenry County.”

Blackburn graduated top of his class at Johnson and Wales culinary school and earned a bachelor’s degree in culinary arts from Keiser University, according to the release. After college, he spent eight years as a seasonal chef, alternating summers and winters at high-end beach and ski resorts, from the Sagamore Resort in Lake George to Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo.

He worked several seasons on Nantucket at top-rated establishments including Great Harbor Yacht Club, White Elephant Resort and Proprietors Bar & Table, as well as in Park City at Chateaux Deer Valley and Stein Eriksen Lodge, according to the release. He eventually made his way to southern Vermont on the opening chef team at Cask and Kiln Kitchen and as the executive chef at the Hermitage Inn.