For the past year some of Chicago's best chefs have been quietly cooking exclusive dishes and serving them up for free, by themselves, on their own time and on their own dimes, because of a friend in the White House. They're Pilot Light, a brand new band of chefs trying to help teach Chicago Public School kids through food, with classroom demos and school lunch.
I attended a planning meeting at the Publican this week where I was told there'd be beer and pizza. Instead of the usual do-gooder cheap eats, one of the dishes we had was what you see above: La Quercia Americano Prosciutto, cured in Norwalk, Iowa from the "threatened" Tamworth breed. The ham's on the menu, served with goat butter and peasant bread.
It's clear things are different when successful chefs get involved.
A few years ago I walked into avec to trail for the day - that is, try out for a cook's job. Chef de Cuisine Koren Grieveson had just been named one of the year's Best New Chefs by Food & Wine magazine and was looking for a new line cook to replace Brian Huston. He was leaving to open The Publican.
When I walked in that morning, no chefs were in sight. A guy sitting at their bar told me they were downstairs and should be back up soon.