We spent much of our sick day yesterday (achoo!) browsing through Time Out Chicago’s highly enjoyable Chefs Issue, particularly their roundup of The 12 Most Important Chefs Right Now, an inspired list that includes only one of the city’s usual suspects (Rick Bayless). Interestingly, the TOC team has seen fit to include folks from the beverage side of the equation — while we agree that The Publican’s beer wunderkind Mike McAvena and Perman Wine Selections’ Craig Perman are game-changers, we’re not so sure they’d call themselves chefs. But that’s a minor squabble. A more major squabble, though, is the question of chefs of color.
312 Dining Diva’s not so happy with TOC’s list — the site calls out the magazine for “overlooking” minority chefs. (Though it is worth noting that while TOC’s gang of twelve is an overwhelmingly pale list, Rootstock executive chef Remy Ayesh and Chickpea and Jam honcho Jerry Suqi are both of Middle Eastern descent.) Audarshia wrote that she “could not believe a number of amazing chefs of African-American, Asian and Latin descent were excluded,” calling out Sunda’s Rodelio Aglibot and MK’s Erick Williams, among others, as cooks who she felt ought to have been on the list.
While 312DD’s pointed out some serious culinary talent, the one chef she noted that we do think deserved to be on TOC’s list is chef Mark Mendez of Carnivale. Mendez delivers a smart, subtle menu that changes on a near-daily basis based on what’s available from the local, sustainable purveyors that he insists on using. For transcending what is essentially a technicolor Jerry Kleiner tourist trap (seriously, the place sells Carnivale-branded t-shirts next to the hostess stand), we think he deserves to be on the influencers list.