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Chicago Chef Damarr Brown Finds a Moment of Bliss on ‘Top Chef’

Plus, Logan Square will get a food truck park later this year

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Two women and a man stand in front of a table covered by a green cloth while a chef holds a spatula over two hoecakes in a frying pan.
Damarr Brown works on his hoecakes while judges Dawn Burrell, Padma Lakshmi, and Tom Colicchio look on.
David Moir/Bravo

Warning: spoilers ahead.

It’s official: this year’s Top Chef winner will be a BIPOC. And it may still be Chicago’s Damarr Brown, the chef de cuisine at Virtue in Hyde Park. This week’s elimination challenge was right in Brown’s sweet spot: preparing a soul food feast for a block party at Bethel Church to raise money for Freedmen’s Town, a Black community in Houston founded in the 1860s after emancipation. Though Brown had some difficulties after he burned a batch of hoecakes, he recovered and went on to knock it out of the park with a plate of unburned hoecakes and collard greens that the judges — who this week included Top Chef alums Dawn Burrell and Kwame Onwuachi — called “a moment of bliss.” (Recall his mission statement from the opening episode: “I came on this competition to show that my collard greens deserve to be in the same room as someone else’s cassoulet.”)

But it didn’t matter, because Brown had already won immunity by triumphing in the Quickfire challenge. Each of the remaining seven chefs had to draw a knife and create a monochromatic dish that matched the knife’s color. Brown drew green and although he was initially disappointed because he prefers to create dishes with contrasting colors, he went on to impress the judges with a harissa-glazed broccoli steak.

Meanwhile, Luke Kolpin of Seattle was sent packing after the judges found his meatloaf too dry. For more details, check out Eater Houston’s recap.

Logan Square will get a food truck park later this year

The city council on Wednesday approved plans to turn a vacant lot at 2420 N. Sacramento Avenue in Logan Square into a food truck park, Block Club Chicago reports. Spearheaded by the group Logan Square Preservation, the park, funded by $53,000 in state capital funds, will open later this year. The lot, nestled next to the El tracks, is currently used as an illegal parking lot for a nearby auto repair shop.

Chicago has another James Beard nominee

Julia Momosé, the star bartender and co-owner of Kumiko, the Japanese-inspired bar and restaurant in the West Loop that has been named one of the world’s best, has been nominated for a James Beard media award for her book The Way of the Cocktail: Japanese Traditions, Techniques, and Recipes. The book, which was cowritten with Emma Janzen, combines Momosé’s memories of learning to drink in Japan with practical instructions on how to mix a great cocktail. The winner will be announced on Saturday, June 11 during a ceremony at Columbia College Chicago.

A woman stands behind a bar holding a cocktail shaker
Julia Momosé has been nominated for a James Beard award for her book The Way of the Cocktail.
Nick Fochtman/Eater

Plan to turn former Rainforest Cafe into a dispensary not extinguished yet

The former Rainforest Cafe in River North may still fulfill its destiny as a dispensary. Though Palatine-based Progressive Treatment Solutions was foiled earlier this month in its plan to relocate its Norwood Park dispensary to the former restaurant covered with sculptures of frogs and mushrooms, it has not given up, the Sun-Times reports. Now the clout-heavy pot company has partnered with Bio-Pharm, a social equity firm, which may help it make an end run around the zoning laws that stymied its previous efforts. The dispensary’s fate will be decided at a community meeting on Wednesday, May 11.

Neon signs light up Chicago memorabilia auction

Does your home need some extra decoration? Several celebrated neon signs from restaurants in North Center are up for auction tomorrow, April 30, including the Orange Garden (reputed to be Chicago’s oldest working neon sign) and Chicago Joe’s, which closed in February. Dinkel’s Bakery, which ends its century-long run this weekend, will also be auctioning off its sign on a yet-to-be-determined date, with the proceeds going to Misericordia and Little Sisters of the Poor.

Rainforest Cafe

306 South Avenue, , MN 55425 (952) 854-7500 Visit Website


513 South 3rd Street, , IL 60134 (630) 208-1588 Visit Website


661 West Walnut Street, , IL 60661 (312) 877-5899 Visit Website

Orange Garden Restaurant

1942 West Irving Park Road, , IL 60613 (773) 525-7479 Visit Website

Chicago Joe's

2256 W Irving Park Rd, Chicago, IL 60618 (773) 478-7000 Visit Website


630 West Lake Street, , IL 60661 (312) 285-2912 Visit Website

Dinkel's Bakery

3329 North Lincoln Avenue, , IL 60657 (773) 281-7300 Visit Website


1462 E. 53rd Street, Chicago, IL