Tastes & Tastemakers

Chef Bryan Baldi

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB?

I was thirteen, and I was making sandwiches and hot dogs at a snack shack at a nine hole golf course in La Grange, Illinois.

WHERE DID YOU DO YOUR CULINARY TRAINING?

I trained at the Lyons Township High School Culinary Program, La Grange, Illinois, and then took on a catering Internship with the executive chef from the Drake Hotel, in Chicago. After that I also trained at the Washburn Culinary School, also in Chicago.

I love being a chef, and to be honest it doesn’t feel like work.

WHY DO CUSTOMERS KEEP COMING BACK?

Our two restaurants have very different vibes. Café Calamari has an Italian and Continental themed menu, which features customer core favorites as well as daily specials, where I get creative. Harpoon Willie’s, on the other hand, morphed from a bar that serves burgers and wings, to a restaurant that can volley between the Cafe menu and bar food. Everyone who works there, from the front door to the wait staff to the kitchen, is absolutely necessary for providing a great experience for the customer.

I love being a chef, and to be honest it doesn’t feel like work. When you grow up in this business, you know what to expect, so you don’t notice the long hours and aches and pains. Training under my first chef, who was an old school European, I was taught to be quiet, pay attention, and listen carefully because he was only going to say it once. This conditioning at an early age has shaped my mindset and my work ethic.

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