You may know or not know of the underground dining scene. Chef’s cooking dinner for intimate dinner parties of 15 or more. With a varying number of courses, an air of enthusiasm, you’ll dine with an eclectic mix of guests all with one thing in common, you live to eat!
One of these chefs’s has a pedigree to rival most well starred chefs in the city. Val Bolon is a name you may recognize but not recall immediately. She cooked at Spring during its hey-day, Emeril’s in New Orleans when Emeril was actually there, opened Hot Chocolate as a leader in the kitchen and that’s when she got her “break.”
Val got the call and cooked on Top Chef Season 4 with Stephanie Izard. Unfortunately, she was sent packing during the second episode. She’s more annoyed with herself that she didn’t go further in her home city. She’ll admit to be competitive with herself, not necessarily to beat down other chef’s. But when she talks about how “that episode” shook out you can see a glint of fire in her eye of knowing she wasn’t the one deserving to go. It’s TV and sometimes personality trumps ability.
Val is well known in the restaurant circles of Chicago. Her focus has been on being a personal chef and hosting underground dinners and this Sunday July 25th, she’s hosting her first brunch, Brunch n’Brew with Goose Island. Her philosophy and focus is on the ingredients and keeping it simple.Besides cooking the other constant in Val’s life is travel. Between each job is a story of travels sometimes lasting month’s at a time. These trips to over 30 countries not only recharge her batteries but serve as influence to her cuisine. Her next trip will be India and Nepal meeting up with other travelers on the trail.
Val talks about how her food and the Chicago food scene are always evolving. Her notebook is full of notes on dishes and ideas. She’s pretty convincing in talking to her that she won’t compromise on quality despite what others may want from her. Val sees herself opening a casual place all her own. She misses the kitchen interaction where you’re always learning and pushing yourself. Perhaps BBQ, no matter what it is I’ll be one of the first in line to eat whatever it is.
Being in the industry for ten years, you can tell in talking to someone who does and doesn’t get it! Val get’s it and has the talent to back it up. She’s much bigger then her 4’10” frame in spirit and enthusiasm. When I asked her what was on the brunch menu? She popped out her notebook and rattled off some dishes but in mid-thought on a couple said no that’ll change, maybe this, hmmm no not that.Whatever she decides it will be simple and balanced with texture, acid, flavor all working together. If you’re ready for a fine dining experience underground you can find more information and get tickets at Val’s website.
Tell her hi from me and that the Chicago Food Snob sent ya.