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Dec 9, 2003 05:19 PM

Carolyn Buster, The Cottage, Calumet City

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Every year while flipping through my newspaper clippings and cookbooks for Christmas ideas. I bump into articles about The Cottage, a destination fine dining location which closed in the last 15 years because Carolyn Buster and her husband divorced. Does anyone know what she has done since?

For fun, I tried googling but found nothing conclusive about her activities now. Unless she went in a completely different lifestyle direction, I find it hard to believe she gave up her craft.

Any news?


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  1. No, I don't know what Carolyn Buster is up to, but my wife and I just the other day were on 80 near Torrance and for the first time in years mentioned The Cottage, site of our first fine dining experiences--and what an unlikely site for a fine French restaurant, Cal City. My recollection is that Carolyn continued to operate The Cottage after the divorce from...Gerald? Earlier, was The Cottage closed for a year due to a fire?

    Around that time there was another French restaurant, a humbler one, in another unlikely location, 63rd St., perhaps near Kedzie. Was it called the French Country Kitchen?

    11 Replies
    1. re: Mugs

      The French Kitchen (formerly at 3437 W 63rd St) was a great little place. Not sure when it closed (‘80s?) but I have fond memories of it.

      1. re: Rene G

        And another gem in Calumet Park (around 124th and Ashland) was the Gulfport Cafe. The chef had been an Air Force cook, as I recall, and later sous chef under ???at the original l'Escargot (on Halsted) where I never ate.

        Gulfport Cafe had great food, a mix of incredible food sensibility with great roots, plus always great jazz, in a former motel coffee shop.

        1. re: annieb

          Gulfport Café was indeed at 124th and Ashland, 12401 S Ashland to be precise. Charlie Taylor opened it in 1983 in a former hamburger stand; I’m not sure when it closed. Lucien Verge was chef at the original l’Escargot where Taylor worked from 1971 to 1983. Alan Tutzer, a partner in l’Escargot, then became Taylor’s partner in Gulfport. Incidentally the original l’Escargot was at the site now occupied by erwin (2925 N Halsted).

          Back to The French Kitchen. Apparently, after the 63rd Street restaurant closed it moved to 3031 W 111th Street. I never visited this location except later when it housed Vegetarian Express Gourmet (I always though the décor was a bit odd for a vegan soul food restaurant). I think, but am not certain, that VEG has now closed.

          1. re: Rene G

            vegetarian express gourmet did close, sometime in the last year or so.

            too bad, but that location has seen lots of restaurants come & go; i believe it was also home to the omelette house before it moved on to a bigger location.... ??

          2. re: annieb

            Charlie worked under French Chef Lucien Verge at L'Escargot in Chicago (at the Allerton Hotel on Michigan Avenue when I met and worked with him) Both GREAT cooks!

          3. re: Rene G

            Nice to read your note. My mother, Lorraine Hooker, owned and ran The French Kitchen on 63rd. She closed the restaurant about 8 years ago. It's nice to see that many people have such fond memories of the restaurant.

          4. re: Mugs

            The funny thing is, when you grow up in Cal City, you absolutely refuse to believe that a fine French restaurant could possibly be in your town. I remember being shocked and amazed when I was in high school and finally realized that it was so highly regarded in the entire Chicagoland area. And I never ate there, which kinda bums me out even though I'm not huge on French food.

            My brother actually worked there right before it closed--but just for a few days. I think his second day the manager punched an employee or vice versa (somebody got punched), the police came and it was a big mess. My brother quit right after finding out that the dishwasher happened to be the guy who burnt our garage down (he had just gotten out of jail for arson). What all this means I'm not sure except that things seemed to get a little out of hand towards the end. Maybe the divorced half that left the restaurant was the better organizer.

            1. re: CMC


              I was never there either.

              Her husband ran the front, so perhaps you're right about organization.

              I have this article where they had Christmas dinner at home. The place is spectacularly decked out with greens and babbles, but there is no Christmas tree.


            2. re: Mugs

              I am from a neighboring suburb and, as a child, ate at The Cottage with my family. One of my most vivid memories is of the Creme of Dill soup. I've not had it before or since, but the deliciousness of it is something I've (obviously, lol) carried with me into adulthood. I've considered making my own and wondered if I could do my memory justice. Is there anyone else who remembers this dish?

                1. re: Marinauser

                  Ms Buster moved to CA and did pass away.

            3. I stumbled on to this post today when I was looking for a recipe I remember from a Great Chefs episode years ago. Apparently it was a dessert from The Cottage. I too did a Google search to find out more about her and came on this thread... A little more Googleing and I came across some very sad news... after her divorce in 1993 she brought in another chef but closed the restaurant in 1996 and never worked in food again...She remarried and lived with her husband (Welbon) in Rhode Island and then moved to New Mexico.... she did some menu consulting with an ALF in NM but that was the extent of her food contact after 1996! Apparently she moved into a new home in 2008 and tripped on stairs...spent 4 days in a coma and then passed away at 66. Such a sad end! I merely remember the perfection of the simple pantry ingredients that she elevated into an amazing dessert on a PBS show from many years ago... how blessed must have been diners at The Cottage... may she rest in peace.

              1 Reply
              1. She worked at Wynstone Golf Course in Barrington, IL as the Head Chef for a while cooking for Weddings and the members right before she left Chicago. Truly one of the best chefs of all time.