Friedman is now best known as a local, sustainable chef, whose mission is to connect our community with food. With his widespread charitable work, you could rightfully expect a crunchy granola guy. But the once self-described “writer, performer, Jew” is more hardcore than hippie, or God forbid, hipster. Instead of Dan Barber or Michael Pollan, think Samuel L. Jackson.
Friedman does however make a ridiculously rich honey granola, too, with honey he harvests himself from hives at Heritage Prairie Farm.
Before he opened his Ravenswood deli in 2010, while still working on stage, Friedman pioneered the local brewery and farm dinner movement around Chicago. He now expresses his multi-disciplinary talents through the deli — featuring his many collaborations with artisan food-makers — as well as catering, off-site supper clubs, and a continuation of the farm dinners.
While the deli is hardcore local, sustainable, and artisanal — with their own in-house butcher/sausage-/charcuterie-maker, Andrea Deibler — Friedman understands the impossibility of eating this way all the time. As he told Mark Bazer on The Interview Show, he’s the father of twins, whose wife works too, and it’s not feasible for them to eat only locally and sustainably at home. But his goal was to create a place where everything was locally sourced. He also tells Bazer the importance of a well-educated staff, like at Abt, where he loves to look around, and eat a cookie.
I like those little warm, gooey, chocolate chip cookies, fresh out of the showroom ovens too, if I’m there. But I’ll go out of my way for Friedman’s Sunday-only cinnamon sugar old fashioned cake doughnuts. That’s substance, in more ways than one.