Compliments of the Chef with Ina Pinkney

Compliments of the Chef with Ina Pinkney

This week, Chefs Feed met up with renowned chef Pinkney at her restaurant in Near West Side.

December 6, 2013
CF: I’m best known as _______ but I can make one hell of a _______. 
IP: The Breakfast Queen; roast chicken. 

CF: A few words your sous chef would use to describe you. 
IP: Calm, focused, and always ready with a band-aid. 

CF: What are you most excited about right now in your restaurant? 
IP: Right now I'm most proud of our "business breakfast." My goal was to fill Ina's up Monday through Friday, and I've done so by creating a real haven for people to come and have business meetings. There is no music playing and no cell phones allowed in the dining area, and as a result people get work done. 

CF: Which chef would you drop everything to stage with? 
IP: Thai Dang at Embeya, because I don't think I've tasted food that's more balanced or thoughtful than his. The flavors totally work together in your mouth; there isn't one note that goes off to the side or one bit of heat that takes you out. Everything he does is so beautiful and thoughtful without being precious. He is my first choice for every meal I eat in Chicago now. 

CF: Is there anything you don't like? 
IP: I don't tend to like offal—tripe, brains, things like that. Organs just don't do it for me. 

CF: Insider tip from the kitchen for diners. 
IP: The tip I always give people who come in really hungry and have to wait a little bit is to place your food order before your drink order. It speeds up service by 10-12 minutes, and sometimes that makes a big difference in somebody's blood sugar level or their overall experience. 

CF: Message to professional food critics. 
IP: I think showing up the week a new restaurant opens does a disservice to everyone. I don't think it's right or fair. Even though we're good at what we do, it still takes a little bit of time to smooth everything out. When we opened Ina's, I called Phil Vettel, our food critic from the Tribune, and said, "Phil, I'm opening up on March 5th," and he said, "Oh Ina, I can't print that. You know restaurants never open on time." I said, "Actually, you can take that to the bank because I opened up two weeks ago." But you see, I wouldn't announce the opening. You have to protect your child. A restaurant is a baby; you can't just open the doors and let everyone at it. 

CF: How come at 70 years of age you don't have any wrinkles? 
IP: I've committed myself to a slow death by whipping cream. 

CF: Favorite fro-yo combo? 
IP: Apricot—a true, true apricot—with almonds. 

CF: Thick or thin patty? 
IP: I'm a thick patty girl and I like it pretty rare. 

CF: What’s for family meal tonight? 
IP: It's so interesting. I personally think a real treat would be the leftover fried chicken and waffles. I tell them to go ahead and fry it up, but they hate it. Our cooks like to make their own family meal with rice, eggs, chorizo, and spinach, and always with a side of pancakes, of course. For them, that's heaven; for me, that's hell. I want that fried chicken and waffles!