When searching for a chef to be the face of Chicago food, by curating the city’s very first edition of Taste Talks, the first name on everyone’s lips was Paul Kahan. After all, not only is the James Beard Award winner behind many of the Windy City’s best restaurants, including Blackbird, Publican, Big Star and avec, but he’s often referred to as a “chef’s chef,” not only respected and admired, but genuinely well-liked by his peers.
We chatted with Kahan about what he loves most about the Chicago’s dining scene, what his role as curator actually entails, and the events he’s especially looking forward to at this year’s Taste Talks!
How did you end up getting involved with Taste Talks Chicago?
Mario Batali called me, saying Taste Talks was really cool and fun for him in New York, and that he threw my name into the hopper [for Chicago]. Molto Mario’s stamp of approval speaks volumes.
What does your role as curator entail, exactly?
I suggest ideas and possible panelists, as well as chefs for the BBQ and locations in Chicago that are cool.
You’ve been described by many as “a chef’s chef.” What do you think that refers to?
I try not to be a dick. I try not to take what I do too seriously.
What particularly excites you about Chicago’s dining scene?
It’s an exciting time for Chicago’s food scene, as opportunities are opening for small independent restaurateurs and unique casual concepts are popping up around the city. People may not know how incredible the sustainable food culture is in Chicago.
What specific panels/dinners/events are you most looking forward to during Taste Talks?
The BBQ should be great, but I’m really looking forward to my panel, The Evolution of The Farm Dinner in City Dining, with Michel Nischan, Terra Brockman and Dave Cleverton.
Taste Talks Food & Drink hits Chicago October 3-5, 2014. See the full schedule and buy tickets here.