Filming in Chris Pandel's kitchen at The Bristol for the upcoming Dinner Party was just plain fun. Relaxed and unassuming, Pandel just might be one of the best chefs in Chicago.
Like the majority of our city's top chefs, Pandel believes in utilizing small farms. As he notes, "You want to deal with nice people, with honest people, and you want to know how they take care of their soil and their livestock."
And, like the majority of Chicago chefs, Pandel strives to not only be a trendsetter in the restaurant world, but to make sure that his guests are pleased across the board.
Where Chef Pandel differs and where The Bristol shines is that Chef focuses on beautiful produce in unique combinations while keeping it as unadulterated as possible. This might sound boring, but as you will see in the Raw Squash, Seeds and Yogurt Dressing (Greek Yogurt, Mint, Lemon, Maple Syrup, White Pepper, Fennel, and Chia Flakes!) video below, it isn't. It's actually refreshing. The dishes are creative and well thought out, but not over-manipulated. Chef's layering of textures (seeds!), flavors, and often colors leaves all the nutrients there, letting your body know exactly what it is getting.
The Bristol has always had a globe-trotter approach to food and this is probably best revealed with Chef's Cassoulet Polonaise dish featured in the second video below. His own concoction of Kraut, Fermented Beans, Carrots, Duck Fat, Duck Leg Confit, Polish Sausage, Chicken and more shows a distinct blending of worldly food cultures.
In addition to The Bristol and Balena, Chef's second restaurant on Halsted, Chef Pandel will open a third restaurant in December, called Formento's, an old Italian joint on Randolph. Restaurants demand incredible hours and unrelenting schedules. I asked him why he would want to add another restaurant to already harried life.
"Sure, it's scary. It's always a risk. But you spend so much time developing your staff along with your restaurants that if you don't give them new opportunities, they will leave. It is about allowing them to reach new heights.
Plus, Chicago is the best city to cook in. We have true community here. Sure there is ego, but that's just good, healthy competition. And if you need anything, everyone bends over backwards. We like to see each other succeed."
Enjoy the videos below to see Chef's true humble nature. If you would like to taste Chef's Raw Squash Salad and Cassoulet Polonaise, he will be the featured chef on the December 1 Dinner Party, cooking for New York Times Best Selling Author, Rebecca Skloot (author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks), Comedian David Pasquesi, Theater Critic Chris Jones and members of the live audience.