Compliments of the Chef with Jimmy Bannos Sr.

Compliments of the Chef with Jimmy Bannos Sr.

This week, Chefs Feed met up with renowned chef Bannos at his restaurant The Purple Pig in Near North Side.

December 6, 2013
CF: I'm best known for my _______ but I can make one hell of a _______. 
JB: New Orleans-style cuisine; red gravy with pork neck bones, pork hawk, short ribs, pot roast, sausage, and meatballs over ziti. You can't twirl, you've got to stab. 

CF: A few words your sous chef would use to describe you. 
JB: Passionate, crazy, loyal, and relentless. 

CF: What are you most excited about right now in your restaurant(s)? 
JB: We just celebrated our 33rd anniversary at Heaven on Seven and it's just getting stronger and stronger. We also have a lot of great people working for us at The Purple Pig. The sky's the limit; I like being there every possible minute that I can because I love the vibe and energy in the restaurant. I especially like working with my son, Jimmy Bannos Jr., just like how my dad and I did. It's pretty awesome. 

CF: Which chef would you drop everything to stage with? 
JB: My grandmother. She was an unbelievable—I mean unbelievable—cook from Greece. They have this dish there called hilopites that's comprised of little, square-cut pasta, and she'd hand-make them at home. She'd roll out the pasta and cut it into little squares, then lay them all over each bed to dry (there were four bedrooms in her house). It was incredible. 

CF: Insider tip from the kitchen for diners. 
JB: If you are dining with a group, say a party of four, no one should order the same dish. I think it's a mistake when everyone orders the same thing. I usually make sure to go last so I can see what everyone else is doing, then add another dish. Us chefs always like to try a lot of stuff. 

CF: Is there something you won't order? 
JB: I'm not a big game person. I like it and I'll eat it, but I won't order it myself. 

CF: Message to professional food critics. 
JB: Think about those on the other end of your review. I know we "should" always be ready, but there's no need to review a new place a week or two after opening. Sometimes it takes a good six months to get your team really gelling together. 

CF: One piece of advice for aspiring young chefs. 
JB: Make sure you have a good attorney, banker, and funding if you want to open your own place. I find that many people don't know this; I guess culinary schools haven't been teaching this these days. To be in this business, you must also have passion. It's tough—you have to be prepared to miss holidays and not be around all the time. It's a huge commitment, and that needs to be understood. 

CF: Thick or thin patty? 
JB: Thin, which is interesting because at my restaurants we serve them both. 

CF: Favorite fro-yo combo? 
JB: Greek yogurt, honey, and fresh berries, although I still haven'tactually had it yet. I tried once at this yogurt shop, only to find out they require a password. I wanted honey on my yogurt so they asked, "What's the password?" I said I didn't know, and they said, "Well you can't get the honey if you don't tell me the password." My response? "You've got to be f-cking kidding me." They weren't. I never got the honey or my fro-yo, but I haven't given up. 

CF: What's for family meal tonight? 
JB: At Heaven, I'll usually do a nice chicken po' boy with onion rings and dill pickles, all dipped in a honey-jalapeño dressing.