Jason Hammel

Nightwood (2119 S. Halsted St.), the second restaurant from Lula Cafe co-owner’s Amalea Tshilds and Jason Hammel and partners Kevin Heisner and Matt Eisler, is set to debut in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. I sat down with Hammel last December in anticipation of the opening to talk about Lula, his cooking philosophy, and the new restaurant. In the following podcast interview he talks about his old writing mentor, the late David Foster Wallace, the impromptu ping pong games in the basement during the early years at Lula, and the importance of the French Laundry cookbook. I apologize for the background noise on this one as we recorded it in the busy front room of Lula cafe. Enjoy. Advertisements


Curtis Duffy

Is getting four hours of sleep a night the secret to staying young? What does snail caviar taste like? Can you wear a punk rock t-shirt and jeans to dinner at the four star restaurant Avenues at the Peninsula hotel? All these answers and more can be found in our recent podcast interview with chef Curtis Duffy of Avenues. Duffy, formerly of Charlie Trotter’s, Trio, and Alinea, is putting out food on par with those giants and is one of Chicago’s most promising young chefs.  

Marcus Samuelsson

If, as restaurant lore suggests, many chefs come from the ranks of artists, bandits and miscellaneous misfits, then Marcus Samuelsson, executive chef of C-House (166 E. Superiorr) and Marc Burger at Macy’s on State is, by comparison, a prince. The youngest chef to receive three stars from the New York Times, he’s also an entrepreneur, a TV personality, a cookbook author and a tireless ambassador for Swedish and African culinary and cultural heritage. He’s as much an intellectual as he is a master culinary craftsman. More importantly, those of you who read my burger round-up a few weeks ago know he also makes a mean grilled patty. Samuelsson was in town last week to work on some new dishes at C-House and I caught up with him to see what’s on his mind. Enjoy.  

Randy Zweiban

Everyone knows drummers are different, and Randy Zweiban, former cymbal sockin’ chef of the upcoming Province, is no exception. He’s no Food Network driven flash-in-the-pan blowing through job after job. Zweiban’s a serial monogamist who spent 7 years working with Norman Van Aken in Miami and a decade at Nacional 27. Now he’s about to debut Province, a Spanish and Latin influenced American cuisine based restaurant. In this podcast interview, Zweiban talks about his days gigging at CBGB’s, noshing in New York City, and opening a restaurant at the “worst time in 150 years”. Enjoy.

Brian Huston

As they say in the stock market, past results are no guarantee of future success. That being said, the crew from Avec and Blackbird seems to do pretty well each time out. As a result, the expectations for their newest venture The Publican (845 W. Fulton Market) which opens on September 15, are pretty steep. The man who will be helming that ship is chef Brian Huston. I recently sat down with Huston for this podcast to talk about his early days working on the opening crew at Blackbird, how ruining a Thanksgiving turkey almost ruined him, his love of Chicago sports, and how menu testing for The Publican at executive chef Paul Kahan’s house went awry after a few two many beers. Enjoy the interview.

Bridget Albert

You wouldn’t throw a summer bbq and break out a can of Niblets for your guests during sweet corn season, would you? So why do you still drink that way? In this podcast I sit down with Bridget Albert, chief mixologist for Southern Wine and Spirits, and most recently author of the newly released cocktail book, Market Fresh Mixology, to answer that question. We also talk about the history of the Mojito, Albert’s bootlegging grandparents, and discuss the controversy over the terms mixologist and bar chef. Cheers!

Tory McPhail

Founded in 1880, Commander’s Palace in New Orleans is one of the most celebrated and revered restaurants in the United States. Paul Prudhomme, Emeril Legasse, and Jamie Shannon are just a few of the chefs to helm its storied kitchen. Chef Tory McPhail is the current captain of the ship. He was in Chicago last month for the National Restaurant Show and we caught up with him to talk about being a steward of such a culinary legacy, what it was like living on Bourbon Street as a 19 year old line cook with an endless supply of Abita beer, the impact of Hurricane Katrina and the untimely death of his mentor Shannon, and the house moonshine at Commander’s.  

Jose Garces

Chef Jose Garces trained under Nuevo Latino master Douglas Rodriguez (chef/owner of DeLaCosta in Chicago) and Buddakan and Morimoto owner Stephen Starr forging an incredible knowledge of both the business and culinary sides of the restaurant industry. Now he’s building a boutique empire of his own. After a few restaurant openings in Philly, he’s landed back in his hometown (born and raised on the Northwest side and a Kendall college grad) to open a mod tapas style joint Mercat a la Planxa (638 South Michigan Ave. , 312-765-0524) in the Blackstone Hotel. In this podcast, the Chicago born and raised Philly resident Garces answers one of the culinary life’s most savory questions: Which is superior, the Italian beef or the Philly cheesesteak?  

Tim Graham & Chad Ellegood

With sommelier Scott Tyree’s departure for Hart Davis Hart last year and Rick Tramonto splitting time on his Cenitare restaurant projects (though he’s still very much involved at TRU), we wondered how TRU restaurant was faring. Turns out it’s in the able hands of chef de cuisine Tim Graham and wine director and sommelier Chad Ellegood. In this podcast I get to know Ellegood and Graham a bit and we discuss their new paradigm shifting wine service and the future of cooking at TRU.