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Cricket McNuggets? Beard Panel Chats About The Future of Restaurants

Rick Bayless and Steve Dolinsky moderated panel at Kendall College.

Beverly Kim, Renee Erickson, Ari Taymor and Rick Bayless.
Beverly Kim, Renee Erickson, Ari Taymor and Rick Bayless.
Barry Brecheisen
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

The James Beard Foundation Awards presented an opportunity on Sunday for a panel of some of the nation's leading chefs to share their predictions for the future of the restaurant industry. The panel, moderated by Chicago's own Rick Bayless and the "Hungry Hound" Steve Dolinsky, predicted that restaurants would focus more on finding ways to feed the poor, concentrating more on vegetables as a main ingredient and finding faster, more efficient ways to prepare food without sacrificing flavors.

Beverly Kim also provided a Chicago presence. She and her husband, John Clark, await news tonight if their restaurant, Parachute, wins the Beard for Best New Restaurant at the awards ceremony at the Lyric Opera. The panel spoke in front of a group of culinary students at Kendall College, sharing insights about their educations and the lives as restaurant owners. Kim is a former Kendall instructor and she and other panelists mentioned being less dependent on meats.

"You don't need a 12-ounce piece of protein. I feel sufficient, I feel happy with 3- or 4-ounce items," Kim said. "[It's about] being more moderate and healthy the way we eat, and using different ways to make food flavorful like chilis, using aromatics."

The panel referenced Dirt Candy, chef Amanda Cohen's New York restaurant. Despite focusing on vegetables, Cohen's careful to delete any mention of vegetarianism, as the term often as negative connotations. The future will see a rise in different protein sources other than meat. Bayless even jokingly suggested "cricket McNuggets."

Jokes aside, Spike Gjerde, the esteemed Baltimore chef who opened Woodberry Kitchen, spoke about the responsibility he feels chefs have to societal problems, including poverty: "Most of us are in cities and as chefs, we need to learn what is intrinsic to the people of our cities. We need to look at what it means to feed people."

That was echoed by Ari Taymor, owner of Alma in Los Angeles: "Clean food is a human right...If society is going to get better we have to feed them food that does not make them sick."

The chefs were also asked about failures that made them stronger. Kim responded by describing her time after "Top Chef" which was a bit humbling for her: trying to start a restaurant between her time at Aria and Bonsoiree before opening Parachute. She described herself as falling into "complete depression for six months," even mentioning a negative newspaper review. But thanks to the support of her husband and friends, she made it through.

"If you know who you are, and what your dreams are, you're going to keep going no matter what anyone says," Kim said.