In the heart of downtown Crystal Lake is a chef who isn’t just passionate about whipping up culinary delights but also positive change for his community. Zak Dolezal, chef-owner of local favorite Duke’s Alehouse and Kitchen, is a man of many passions. Some he stumbled into unexpectedly and others have inspired him for as long as he can remember.
The most obvious passion of Chef Zak’s is food. But he explains that it wasn’t always that way. Although he worked through high school at his parent’s restaurant, his passion for cooking wasn’t ignited until he pursued a formal education at Kendall College of Culinary Arts. After his education, he worked alongside Michelin Star chefs and saw how good food often came from within the community and was inspired by how food could bring communities together.
Chef Zak's commitment to environmental sustainability is a deeply rooted passion, as Zak says he “had a connection with the planet, even at an early age” and was moved by the plight of endangered species, an injustice that left an indelible mark on his conscience. Today, Duke's stands as a shining example of eco-conscious dining, proudly holding certification from The Green Restaurant Association.
Achieving this distinction is no small feat, requiring a year's worth of meticulous metrics and data collection, not to mention the associated costs. Yet, for Zak, it's a labor of love, a testament to his unwavering dedication to the environment and his community. Many restaurants fall short of even basic recycling practices, let alone venturing into greener initiatives like composting, water conservation, and the elimination of Styrofoam.
Zak doesn't lay blame at the feet of other restaurant owners, acknowledging the high hurdles and ever-advancing standards. What truly sets him apart is his desire to be an educator, both to his community and fellow restaurateurs. He views Duke's as a powerful instrument of change, a living testament that restaurants can embrace green practices and still thrive.
Another, possibly surprising, passion of Zak’s is HipHop. Although you may not assume it by his calm and quiet demeanor, Chef Zak is inspired by the fact that HipHop doesn’t shy away from hard truths. Chef Zak says, “Duke’s is doing the same, HipHop is rebellious and speaks out, and we do that by challenging the food industry.” Chef Zak also goes on to talk about the shared rhythm in music and cooking, the movement and depth of feeling he gets from both, as well as the way music, like food, can bring unexpected people together.
You can get a taste of Chef Zak’s passion for music in his new venture, Duke’s Inferno in Woodstock. Duke’s Inferno boasts a wood-fired kitchen and is, of course, eco-conscious. Zak’s love of HipHop is highlighted in the many dishes named after artists or songs with meaning to him, and on weekends you can find a DJ creating a harmonious fusion of flavors and beats.
Chef Zak’s passion for food, the environment, and HipHop has created a one-of-a-kind culinary haven right here in our community. So, whether you're looking to tantalize your taste buds, minimize your carbon footprint, or simply enjoy a comfortable and cozy social setting while sipping on a unique brew, Duke’s is the place to be. And with Chef Zak at the helm, you can be sure you're in for a delicious, sustainable, and hip experience.
Chef Zak’s passion for food, the environment, and HipHop has created a one-of-a-kind culinary haven right here in our community.