Compliments of the Chef with Chris Pandel

Compliments of the Chef with Chris Pandel

This week, Chefs Feed met up with renowned chef Pandel at his restaurant, Balena, in Chicago's Lincoln Park.

December 6, 2013
CF: I'm best known for my _______ style of cooking but I can make one hell of a _______. 
CP: simple; pie 

CF: A few words your sous chef would use to describe you. 
CP: The nicest a--hole in the world. 

CF: What are you most excited about right now in your restaurant? 
CP: I'm really excited about our team and our new mentorship program. We have a ton of new talent in our kitchens, and in order to really indoctrinate our culture, we have revamped our training to become much more personal. The goal is for teacher and student to form a positive relationship, which results in happy, educated, and driven employees who are proud of where they work because they know someone has their back and will hold them accountable. It's very inspiring to be a part of this team and we are extremely excited about our future. 

CF: Which chef would you drop everything to stage with? 
CP: Chef Pascal Barbot at L'Astrance in Paris, which means "small flower" in French. Chef Barbot is brilliant, overly dedicated, and super talented. Aside from a couple of signature items, his menu changes daily. He cooks refined food without all the pretense, which is really cool. 

CF: Insider tip from the kitchen for diners. 
CP: If you have dislikes or allergies, let us know right away. I'm not here to cook for myself every night, I'm here to cook for you, so it's best to be upfront so we can adapt. We don't want to surprise you with something and accidentally kill you. 

CF: Is there anything you don't like? 
CP: Green bell peppers. I can't do it. They are just disgusting. They're bitter and acrid. 

CF: Message to professional food critics. 
CP: It would be nice if critics had a conversation with the chef before writing their reviews, that way they could really understand the chef's vision. When it's so early in a restaurant's life, you can't always project 100% of what you want onto a guest; these things take time to develop. 

CF: One piece of advice for aspiring young chefs. 
CP: Don't be afraid to fall on your face. Be committed and allow yourself to fail numerous times. 

CF: Favorite fro-yo combo? 
CP: I don't really have one, but if they can make a cannoli one, I'd eat that. 

CF: Thick or thin patty? 
CP: I like a thin, crispy, diner-style burger. 

CF: What's for family meal tonight? 
CP: Fried chicken feet, pig's head, and kidney stew, which are things that are considered pretty tame in most countries but not for the American palate.