From The Other Side of the Counter - Introductions and First Bites

By Staff in Food on Mar 22, 2011 4:20PM

2011_3_22ChristineC.jpg Last summer, I spotted Chicagoist editor-in-chief Chuck Sudo inconspicuously scarfing a burger at my business’ (Sunday Dinner) booth at the Green City Market. The ink barely dry on my first piece in print in Chicago Magazine, a rare moment of boldness came over me and I straight up asked him if there were any writing opportunities available on the news blog front. I expected, at best, to be taken half seriously and at worst, to be gently ridiculed. After all, I’m a chef not a journalist. I enjoy writing but it doesn’t come as easily to me as making chocolate mousse. I admit to having a well-worn thesaurus and a hefty arsenal of “freditors” (friend editors) whom I bribe with snacks to check my grammar. So why would I want to write for publication, and more to the point, why would anyone want to read what I write? Well, Chicagoist reader, lemme tell you.

Within every chef resides a desire to communicate ideas and stir passion. Food is the obvious conduit for those ideas but it is much more abstract and subtle than stark black words on white paper/screens. Words can be the perfect accompaniment to our dishes, if they are chosen wisely, and they can deepen our exchange with our diners. My business partner, Josh Kulp, and I clearly love the food we serve at our Sunday Dinner Club. But the best part for us is the post-meal conversations where talk of food, farmers, restaurants, cooking methods, travel and life flow like good craft beer- smooth, satisfying and always leaving you wanting more. That is why we do what we do - that is what we strive for: the ultimate connection between cooker and eater. I figured, what better way to do this on a greater scale than to write? It simply allows for a larger dialog.

People want to tap their inspiration from the source, particularly when it comes to food. This is true of diners- everyone wants to talk to the chef, myself included. But it is also true of chefs. We thrive on people’s response to our food, especially when it is positive, and genuinely appreciate constructive criticism. Cooking is not merely an expressive art form - it is the catalyst for a relationship among farmer, chef and diner. Josh and I choose to involve all of them in our process because it makes it more rich and meaningful. And personal. We give our diners direct access to us through our dinners- and we in turn have direct access to them. It’s a two-way stream. And we all drink from it when we are thirsty.

I want to offer my humble perspective from the other side of the counter. Just in case you didn’t know, chefs have a lot to say… about a lot. We spend endless amounts of time pouring over cookbooks and recipes, discussing techniques and menu options, evaluating cuisine, testing equipment, searching for unique and superior ingredients and eating, eating, eating - always eating. Did I mention we like to eat? What better resource for food awesomeness than a chef? So - because the Chicagoist has agreed to let me co-op some space a couple of times a month, I will happily share some of the awesomeness with you. My hope is to give you a little insight into our world and to contribute to the unending conversation, which stimulates creativity - hopefully, with delicious results. Stay tuned.

Christine Cikowski is the co-owner and founder of Sunday Dinner, and has done time at Blackbird and Milk and Honey Cafe. She spends much of her time sparring with spell check, fighting the urge to snack on mise an place and convincing herself that scotch is always a good idea.

If chefs or food industry personnel are interested in contributing the occasional view from "The Other Side of the Counter," contact us! Submissions can be printed anonymously, with editorial approval. Email anthony@chicagoist.com.