From French cuisine to comfort food – Chef John Hogan knows how to please, not yell

Michael Nagrant / 10.23.07

Chef John Hogan of Tavern at the Park started his career in the French major leagues, apprenticing at L’Escargot, Le Perroquet (both now closed) and Everest, vaunted kitchens where the chefs were always right, even over the customers.  He has seen Rod Stewart kicked out of Everest for bad behavior, and watched one of his mentors berate no-show customers on the phone.  “This was before cell phones,” Hogan said.  “You get a call at 2 in the morning, it’s usually because a family member died.  This guy was telling people they were no longer welcome in his restaurant.”

Q. What do you wish you could change or pickle and preserve about the Chicago restaurant or food scene?

A. I think this is best restaurant city in the country.  It’s impressive how much ethnic diversity there is.  I don’t go out to the four-star places to eat.  I go to Chinatown, little Vietnam and Lawrence Avenue.

Q. What would your last meal be?

A. Mr. Beef combo, sweet and hot.  Also, a perfectly roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and green beans.  Because I’m a chef, nobody ever invites me for dinner.  A friend of mine finally did, and that’s what she made, and I’ll never forget the look on her face when I cleaned the plate and asked for more.

Q. Where do you eat or drink before or after a shift?

A. Frontera Grill for lunch once a month for the appetizers or its cazuelas.  Phoenix in Chinatown for dim sum.  When I’m in the mood for a steak, I go to my friend David Burke’s spot (David Burke’s Primehouse) for a nice dry-aged steak.  Ichiro in Orland Park for sushi.

Q. What’s the can’t-miss dish at Tavern at the Park?

A. Our chicken pot pie and braised short ribs.  They’re great comfort food, and our pot pie is a little different because we use a brown sauce with wild mushrooms.

Q. What should we know about Tavern at the Park that we probably don’t?

A. A lot of people think because it’s near the park that the restaurant is tourist driven, but it’s a very Chicago restaurant.  We’re serious about catering to locals.

Tavern at the Park; 130 East Randolph Street, Chicago (312) 552-0070