Reader’s Six Degrees of Cooking Bacon

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Photo: Courtesy Chicago Reader

Man, have we found a new parlor game. As part of its 40th anniversary issue, the Reader revives a 2006 feature by Elizabeth M. Tamny called “A Chefs’ Family Tree,” which grouped Chicago chefs by who they’d worked for. Now Mike Sula and Kate Schmidt have updated it, and more than mere trivia, it reveals a lot about how the influence of different schools (Blackbird, Boka Group) moves through the city’s food scene, both the obvious and well-known (Alinea) and the less heralded (North Pond). Of course, this chart is only the start, and it gets one thinking about other lesser-known figures who are at the center of food life in this city— purveyors who seem to turn up everywhere you look like Roderick Markus (Rare Tea Cellars) or Giles Schneierle (Great American Cheese Co.) or forager Dave Odd, or historical restaurateurs like Louis Szathmary of The Bakery or Jovan Trboyevic of Le Perroquet. (And of course, you could also cover the truly connected guys, like the late Al “the Pizza Man” Tornabene.) You could connect people all day, and probably discover a lot about why the food scene is like it is in the process.

Speaking of Trboyevic, his best-known proteges are less anyone working in Chicago today, than Los Angeles’ well-known Two Hot Tamales, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger. Steve Dolinsky has an audio interview with Milliken that talks about her early days being terrorized, or perhaps Trboyorized, in Chicago here.

Reader’s Six Degrees of Cooking Bacon