Parachute in Chicago: Beverly Kim + Johnny Clark on Bringing Modern Korean Fare to the Midwest

Parachute's Beverly Kim & Johnny Clark on Bringing Modern Korean Fare to the Midwest

Parachute in Chicago is a bit of an anomaly in the city’s dining scene. It’s located in a neighborhood not traditionally known for its restaurants, the food isn’t of the meat-heavy variety commonly found in the Midwest, and it’s not run by one of the marquee restaurateurs of the city (think Paul Kahan or Stephanie Izard). But that hasn’t prevented this modern Korean-American spot, run by Top Chef alum Beverly Kim and her husband John Clark, from becoming one of the most popular and exciting places to eat right now in Chicago. Within its first year of being open, Parachute received three stars in the Chicago Tribune and was named one of Bon Appétit‘s hottest new restaurants in America.

As Parachute enters its third year of existence with no sign of the crowds dying down, we spoke to Kim and Clark about the restaurant’s early successes, their love for Chicago, and what’s next for their tiny but mighty destination. Continue Reading

Magical Mystery Tour: Behind the Scenes at Minibar by José Andrés


“This is the part of the day most people don’t ever get to see,” says head chef Josh Hermias, as he ushers me into Minibar by José Andrés, the what-you-see-isn’t-always-what-you-get wonderland of molecular gastronomy and avant-garde cooking. It’s the shining crown jewel of the Spanish-born, James Beard Award-winning chef’s restaurant empire, which includes D.C. standard setters Jaleo, Zaytinya, and Oyamel, China Poblano in Las Vegas, Miami’s Bazaar Mar, and others.

On this late August afternoon, Minibar’s open kitchen, the counter surrounding it where will guests will sit that evening, and the semi-private dining area off to the side – dubbed José’s Table – are all ablaze with activity. (Not much can happen in the incredibly compact, unexposed back area of the restaurant, as there’s only room enough for a small counter, two ovens, an impressively tiny walk-in freezer, and the washing station). Approximately a dozen staffers are getting ready for tonight’s epic epicurean experience when 24 diners will enjoy a 26 to 28-course tasting menu. Hermias estimates it takes in excess of 140 man-hours just to make the six-hour dinner service happen. A crew of half a dozen begins working at 7AM; the last team member doesn’t go home until 3AM the following morning.

Clad in black aprons over white shirts, the cooks are currently prepping an array of components. Wending our way through the kitchen, we see chicken skins frying, chocolate eggshells being poured, and the legs of langoustines being snipped off with a small pair of scissors. One staffer shaves mounds of black truffles. Meanwhile, the orchids that decorate the space during dinner service rest in the window to get some light.

As we’re walking around, a cook presents Hermias and me with slices of super juicy watermelon to approve for use. The rosy wedges will be infused with tequila and Grand Marnier, and then served on a salt block. “It’s like a margarita,” says Hermias, who gives them the thumbs up, “but instead of a salted rim, your plate is the salt.”

A dry erase board catalogs all the work that needs to be done today: 30 marinated rabbits, 26 blowfish, 105 cauliflower leaves; the list goes on. A nearby chalkboard bears a quote from recently departed chef Michel Richard, “People love to get something that looks like one thing and tastes like something totally different. That’s truly magical.”

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Visual Sugar Rush: 8 Pastry Chefs on Instagram to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Pastry Chefs on Instagram

Scrolling through your Instagram can give you a visual sugar rush. That’s because pastry chefs are using the  photo-driven app to show off their most dazzling creations, give diners a peek into the baking process, and hint at what sweet treats might be coming to their menus next. Here are eight highly accomplished pastry chefs on Instagram you should follow if you’re trying to figure out what delicious dessert to dive into next.

Scott Green, aka @chef_scottgreen, of Pavilion, Chicago

Before he got into pastry, Green attended fine arts school to study oil painting and ultimately received a degree in graphic design. His dexterity with composition, color, shape, and form are showcased in the drool-inducing photos he posts. “Different medium, different tools, same principles,” he says.

He shoots on a Nikon D3200 using a strobe light and holds his photo sessions in a storage closet in the hotel where the restaurant is located. “When my colleagues see flashes going off under the door, they know I’m shooting and they shouldn’t come in,” he says.

Rather than follow fellow pastry chefs for ideas, his feed is full of architects, textile enthusiasts, tattoo artists, and illustrators. “I don’t want to repeat what I’ve seen,” he says. “There are a lot of people who will shoot specifically for Instagram, but I want to just shoot pictures that I like.”

Pro Tip: “Be in tune with what your audience likes and doesn’t like. I don’t put savory dishes up. I don’t put up personal shots very often. It makes me cringe when I post a photo that doesn’t fit with that I do.”

Pastry Chefs on Instagram

Chris Ford, aka @butterloveandhardwork, of THE Blvd, Los Angeles

“I want to kill it with every single post,” says Ford. “No filler. I’m not going to put a picture up if isn’t going to further me, my team, or the larger community of chefs. This attitude makes you push yourself further and harder.”

The self-taught shutterbug uses a Canon Rebel XSi to turn his pastries into Instagram stars. Occasionally, he snaps shots of his adorable French bulldog, Josephine. One of his most liked posts (nearly 6,000 hearts) features Kim Kardashian and Kris Jenner. Along with Khloe and a film crew, they stopped by the hotel to score some of Ford’s well-loved cream puffs, which he topped off with edible pictures of Kanye and North. “Kris took my number, but I’m still waiting for the call,” says Ford.

We’re not sure what she’s waiting for, but we can’t urge her strongly enough to pick up the phone and call.

Pro Tip: “I shoot plated desserts from above, so you see the flow and the story of the dish. I want the viewer to see what I see.”

Pastry Chefs on Instagram

Brian Mercury, aka @mercurybrian, of Oak + Rowan, Boston

You won’t see any selfies in Mercury’s feed. No rants and raves. No political posts. His pictures fall into two distinct categories: family and food. “I’ve got a 3-year-old and an 11-month-old,” says the chef. “If I’m not cooking, I’m home with them.”

He captures his baked goods and his little ones using his iPhone 6. His go-to method for scoring a sweet shot of his baked goods is to place it outside or near a bright window and shoot it over the top. Occasionally, he’ll place a plated dessert on dirt or in the grass to add a natural element with interesting textures. “Sometimes you have to add some whimsy or put something in the background,” he adds. “But sometimes getting a good shot is just dumb luck.”

Pro Tip: “I’m a huge fan of negative space, both on the plate and in the background. I like bright white plates that makes colors pop.”

pastry chefs on instagram

Alex Levin, aka @alexnlevin, of Osteria Morini, Washington, D.C.

There’s a cult following for Levin’s best-selling warm dark chocolate cake. If he posts pictures of it too often, the restaurant gets swamped with orders and he runs the risk of running out. So, he keeps his feed lively with a mixture of his other desserts and a backstage look at the life of a pastry chef. “I enjoy inviting people to see what I do,” he says.

He wants to get his followers’ salivary glands working overtime, their hearts pumping, and have their eyes pop out of their head. “It’s about being a source of temptation,” he says. “It’s supposed to be food pornography.”

As well as enticing viewers, Instagram is a way for him to be a part of a larger community and to get a glimpse of what his peers are doing in kitchens around the world. “I get excited when I see what other chefs are doing,” he says. “It’s inspiring.”

Pro Tip: “You have to be smart about using hashtags, so you don’t annoy people.”

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We Have a Winner! Reem Assil to Open Reem’s Arab Street Corner Bakery

We Have a Winner! Reem Assil to Open Reem's Arab Street Corner Bakery

Last spring we at OpenTable launched a contest to help one restaurateur fund his or her dream project. In conjunction with the release of our How to Open a Restaurant guide, we called on the restaurant community to tell us about the restaurant concepts they wanted to open and enter a competition to win our grand prize, worth more than $38,000 total. In August, after narrowing down the entries with the help of a trusted panel of New York restaurateurs, three finalists launched Kickstarter campaigns to raise money for their restaurant projects.

Today, we are thrilled to announce that Reem Assil is the winner of our Restaurant OPEN 2016 contest! Reem raised more than $50,000 through her 40-day Kickstarter campaign — far surpassing our $35,000 goal — and is well on her way to opening the doors to Reem’s, her Arab street corner bakery in Oakland, California.

One of the greatest things about this competition was really to help me celebrate the evolution of Reem’s over the past year,” says Reem. “I’m really fortunate that I have a backing behind me and people who really believe in Reem’s and want to see it as an anchor establishment, the way I envision it.”

The dream of Reem’s was born in a street corner bakery in Beirut, Lebanon six years ago, when the scent of za’atar, yeasted bread and sweet orange blossom syrup inspired Reem to bring the Arab bakery experience to the Bay. She worked as a community and labor organizer for a decade before dedicating herself to a culinary career and is now part of the food business incubator program, La Cocina. Offering traditional Arab street foods combining traditional flavors and local, organic ingredients, Reem aims to nurture a strong, vibrant, welcoming community in her Oakland neighborhood.

The larger work I’ve had to do — and am still really excited about doing — is being the visionary and talking about the larger project of Reem’s,” she adds. “It’s not just a food establishment, but an anchor establishment that provides really good jobs for the folks living in the community and a space for people to gather and learn about Arab culture and history and politics in a way that nobody’s ever done before.”

To recap, here’s what’s included in Reem’s prize package: 

  • A 12-month subscription to OpenTable’s flagship Guest Center product, plus access to the world’s largest diner network and a credit on cover fees
  • A full set of professional All-Clad pans 
  • A set of 25 Hedley & Bennett aprons 
  • 25 annual memberships to the online content from Journee, a community for restaurant professionals
  • $15,000 cash to put toward your project

Read on for our full Q&A with Reem below!Continue Reading