Louisa Chu and Monica Eng
Louisa Chu (Chicago Tribune) and Monica Eng (WBEZ) are co-hosts of the podcast with the mash-up title “Chewing,” recent episodes of which included “FEMA Junk Food, Foraging and Kids That Cook Better Than You” and “Acid Trip, Salad Club and Herbal Jelly.” “The main mission is to have a load of fun,” says Eng, “but I also wanted an outlet for my continuing interest in food after WBEZ killed food as a beat in our newsroom. After studying and writing about food and food policy for decades, it seemed like a shame to waste all that.” Both Chu and Eng know a lot about food, and “Chewing” allows them to present their information and insights in an easygoing conversational format. Also, sometimes, in a segment called “Will She Eat It,” the women try food that you will probably never eat, like balut (chicken or duck embryo), but that you can taste, mercifully, vicariously.
Editor, Edible Chicago
When her brother began to focus on local, seasonal eating for health reasons, Ann Flood took a hard look at her own eating habits. Her exploration led her to community farmers’ markets, where the stories of the producers enlightened and inspired her. “It was exciting.” she says, “to now have a name, a face and a story behind the carrot I was about to consume.” Eager to share these stories, Flood helped establish Edible Chicago, the local outpost of a national chain of food journals. The publication covers not only narratives from the restaurant community, but chef-written recipes that employ the kind of local ingredients that changed her perspective on the food she eats. “My hope,” says Flood, “has been that the content, both editorial and advertiser, will continue to evoke curiosity in the reader which will motivate action to attend a market, try a new restaurant or recipe, meet a farmer, and maybe drink a new local artisan cocktail.”
Founder-Executive Director, Sugar Beet Schoolhouse
After helping to establish Oak Park’s Sugar Beet Co-op, Cheryl Muñoz founded Sugar Beet Schoolhouse, with a mission of getting people, especially children, excited about the joys of growing, cooking and sharing food together. “Preparing food together is the perfect opportunity for introducing new concepts about everything from basic botany to cultural sensitivity,” Muñoz says. “I have built a preschool culinary program that builds on what they are learning in their regular school day.” In the past two years, Sugar Beet Schoolhouse classes have grown from a single class to over twelve per week. “Our classes and camps are all running at capacity,” Munoz says, “and our programs reached over 1,200 kids and their families last year.”
Greg O’Neill and Ken Miller
Owners, Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread and Wine
Greg O’Neill and Ken Miller hit on something special when they opened the first Pastoral fifteen years ago. “We tried to become part of the culinary fiber of the city,” says O’Neill, and they succeeded. The specialty food shop is known for getting new producers off the ground, providing the city’s best restaurants with incredible cheeses, and delivering quality catering. While full-service restaurants have always been part of their repertoire, O’Neill and Miller are getting back to the intimate, service and education-focused spaces where they excel. “We’re not trying to be everyone, but we are trying to be our best Pastoral,” O’Neill says. “Being a small retailer, you have to stay hyper-tuned to where the winds are blowing. If you’re not listening, you’re not learning.”
If you order takeout in Chicago, chances are you’re ordering from GrubHub. The company (which merged in 2013 with Seamless, the other platform you might be ordering through) has more than 17.7 million users who can order from more than 105,000 restaurants nationwide. Maloney is basically the reason you’re able to order anything at your desk, from a chicken-and-waffle slider to a peanut butter açaí bowl. According to GrubHub’s annual “Year in Food” report, forty-three percent of people order food to the office more than twice a week. Earlier this month, GrubHub’s stock hit an all-time high in partnership with Yum! brands, which also means more jobs. Before the Yum! partnership, GrubHub employed about 20,000 drivers as independent contractors. Now, the company has agreed to double the number of markets it serves in order to deliver brands like KFC and Pizza Hut. “Not only are we increasing our markets by more than double, we’re going deeper and adding more drivers in all of the eighty markets we’re serving,” Maloney said in an interview on MSNBC. In 2019, delivery jobs and food options—from deep dish to tacos—aren’t going anywhere.
You’ll find MightyVine tomatoes all over Chicago: sandwiched into a bagel at Steingold’s, layered on pizza at Coal Fire, blended into a Bloody Mary at Kite String Cantina. Rick Bayless has been a champion since 2016. “It’s been so gratifying,” says Gary Lazarski, “to hear from Chicago chefs how much they appreciate the quality.” Before MightyVine, especially during the winter, Chicagoans settled for a watery, flavorless thing, what Michael Pollan refers to as “a notional tomato,” the idea of a tomato. “That was the genesis of the whole venture,” says Lazarski. “I asked the question: why can’t you get a good tomato in the winter?” Since 2015, MightyVine has grown vine-ripened tomatoes in its energy-efficient, hydroponic greenhouses in Rochelle, Illinois. They are expanding, doubling operations for the third time to meet the incessant demands of retailers, including Jewel, Costco and Walmart. By the end of 2019, MightyVine will be producing 105 million tomatoes a year. Not a single one of them “notional.”
Digital Content Creator
Adam Sokolowski (@chicagofooddude) is one of those young people you see hovering over dinner, snapping photos. Influencers. Sokolowski, however, “loathes” that title and prefers to be called a digital content creator. He wants you to understand “how much work and thought goes into” what he does. What he does is leverage social media to broadcast images and other information about products and services. But Sokolowski is not just a camera for hire. He has an ethical backbone, and although his audience is the right demographic for specific commercial products, he knows when to draw the line. “I have turned down work,” he says, “with e-cigarette companies.” Sokolowski’s audience trusts him, and he knows that he needs to keep that trust to do his job effectively.
Executive Director, Pilot Light
Pilot Light was born when local chefs expressed growing interest in connecting with the city’s future: children. “Not only is food an important part of all of our lives,” says executive director Alexandra DeSorbo-Quinn, “but it’s a life skill, and it’s one that our students need.” Since hiring former Elizabeth and Kitsune chef Justin Behlke as its first full-time culinary director, the organization realized that the primary connection with students starts with the teachers they see every day. Instead of chef-led lessons, DeSorbo-Quinn and company now pair teachers directly with chefs to develop a curriculum and delivery method that will work well into the future—making food education a staple for 6,000 students. “They can carry this through their lives,” she says, whether to a future in food or simply to “confidently ask the important questions about the food available to them in their schools, homes and communities.”
Jeff and Tony Dreyfuss
Owners, Metropolis Coffee
Father and son Jeff and Tony Dreyfuss started roasting, brewing and selling “Great Coffee for Everyone” sixteen years ago in Edgewater. This very magazine named those beans the city’s best. Today Metropolis has “uncountable” competitors, as Tony Dreyfuss says, but no regrets: “Chicago coffee, like Chicago architecture, worships no paradigms. Classic, modern, eclectic—there seems to be room for all of us.” He appreciates the community and professionalism developing through the new-age notion of “coffee roasting as an enterprise.” Since moving roasting and wholesale operations into a swanky new facility on the northern end of the North Branch development, next to Metropolitan Brewing on Rockwell, Dreyfuss eagerly awaits the future of manufacturing. “Chicago is uniquely designed for this sort of thing,” he says. “Together we are more than the sum of our parts.
Fooditor is one of Chicago’s smartest online chronicles of the city’s evolving food scene. Michael Gebert doesn’t just report news, he goes into the why and how behind stories. The work posted on Fooditor, and in the annual “Fooditor 99” listing of Gebert’s picks is, according to Rick Bayless, “decidedly not the PR-driven pap that passes for lots of clicky food journalism today.” After doing time at the Reader and Grub Street Chicago, Gebert says he is not interested in the latest news of openings and closings and chef or menu changes. “I turn down a lot of things that are not that interesting to me,” says Gebert. “I’m just not interested in the big, broad categories that lots of people are writing about. I talk to the people involved and try to get at the living food culture around the restaurant.”
Dining and Drinking Editor for Newcity, David also writes a weekly food column for Wednesday Journal in Oak Park and is a frequent contributor of food/drink and travel pieces to the Chicago Tribune, Plate Magazine and other publications. David has also contributed chapters to several books, including Street Food Around the World, Street Food, and The Chicago Food Encyclopedia. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org