"I always bust my sous-chefs' chops and ask them, 'Do you have the balls to come up with a vegetable dish?'"
That would be Jimmy Bannos Jr., the fourth-generation restaurateur who may be best known for his "Cheese, Wine and Swine" menu at The Purple Pig on Chicago's Magnificent Mile. Believe it or not, when he starts talking about in-season produce, he lights up like a kid in a (dirt) candy store.
"We laugh about this all the time," Bannos says. "There isn't even a spring here in Chicago. You can enjoy something for like three weeks, and it's gone. That's the beauty and the curse."
For the James Beard Award-winning Rising Star Chef, this cruelly short seasonality is both an opportunity for experimentation and a chance to challenge his own creativity and that of his kitchen staff. "I really think it's a mark of a great chef, being able to utilize vegetables and make a really successful dish. It's as rewarding as figuring out a way to use chicken feet in a way that I can serve at the restaurant," Bannos says. "I look at it as being the same difficulty level."
At a restaurant where the entrées read like a butcher shop's greatest hits—Pork Neck Bone Gravy with Ricotta, Pork Tripe a la Parmigiana with Pork Skin Breadcrumbs and Pig's Tails Braised in Balsamic with Grated Egg & Parsley—that's a pretty bold statement, but Bannos has made it part of his kitchen's ethos.Read More...
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