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Food Network Spotlights How a Chicago Chef Uses Food to Teach School Kids

Plus, the state cracks down on a restaurant owner for allegedly bilking taxpayers of $9 million

A white man in a tuxedo smiles and poses at the James Beard Awards in 2022.
Pilot Light co-founder Jason Hammel is teaching new generations of chefs and diners.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Pilot Light, the Chicago nonprofit designed to educate school kids about food and nutrition co-founded by lauded local chef Jason Hammel of Lula Cafe in Logan Square, snagged a special feature this week on the Food Network as a part of its “Feed Your Passion” video series.

In the video, Hammel and celebrity chef Carla Hall present a tasty lesson to a third grade class at Ray Elementary School in Hyde Park, noting the students excitement and interest in sharing their reflections on the foods they encounter throughout their lives. Founded in 2010, Pilot Light has developed an unusual model for food education, integrating food into a range of subjects such as math, history, reading, and science. “We’re eating food together — coming together and having fun!” one of the third graders says.

Hammel, a 2022 James Beard Award finalist for Best Chef: Great Lakes, is a well-known figure in Chicago’s culinary scene. Lula Cafe is largely credited as one of the first and most influential farm-to-table restaurants in Chicago throughout its 23-year tenure. Additionally, Hammel’s restaurant inside the Museum of Contemporary Art, Marisol, is back open for the first time since the pandemic began.

Co-owner of pizza chains accused of bilking taxpayers of $9 million

A member of the Cirrincione family, the owners of popular Chicago restaurants Pete’s Pizza and the Superossa chain was in court Tuesday in suburban Skokie accused of bilking taxpayers of about $9 million over the last 10 years. Salvatore “Sam” Cirrincione faces a class X felony charge of theft of more than $100,000 of government property (that comes with a prison sentence that ranges from six to 30 years). The Cook County state’s attorney’s office says Cirrincione forged paperwork to conceal sales, according to Patch. Prosecutors say he unreported more than $100.47 million in revenue between January 2010 and January 2019. The totals to $8.96 million in unpaid taxes. Pete’s Pizza on Western closed in 2019, claiming computer problems. Cirrincione’s next court date is August 25.

Farmhouse and Farm Bar Host a Highland Park Fundraiser

On Thursday, August 4 — one month after the July 4 mass shooting in suburban Highland Park — sister restaurants Farm Bar Lakeview and Farmhouse Evanston will support survivors and the families of victims by donating 20 percent of all proceeds to the Highland Park Community Foundation July 4 Fund, according to a rep. Owners TJ Callahan and Ferdia Doherty will match donations up to $5,000. Madame Zuzu’s Teahouse, the Highland Park tea house co-owned by Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan and partner Chloe Mendel, in July raised about $250,000 at a concert benefitting shooting victims.

The Little Goat’s Last Hurrah on Randolph

Celebrity chef Stephanie Izard’s popular Little Goat Diner will hold a pool party (in collaboration with Chicago-based inflatable pool brand Minnidip) from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, August 5 with small bites of food, cocktails, and tunes from DJ Stryfe, according to a rep. The West Loop diner is set to relocate in early 2023 to a new home in Lakeview inside the former Southport Lanes space. Organizers have shifted the event to be open to the general public; guests no longer have to purchase tickets.

The New Shrimp Cocktail

Octopus is having a moment in Chicago — not at the Shedd Aquarium, where a variety of cephalopods are secured behind glass — but inside the city’s restaurants, on menus, grills, and plates, according to Tribune co-critic Nick Kindelsperger. Chef Lee Wolen (Boka, Alla Vita) has even dubbed it “the new shrimp cocktail” after watching it rank among the top sellers at Boka week after week. Chef Doug Psaltis, co-owner of Andros Taverna in Logan Square, also credits the spike in popularity to the quality of octopus available, mostly sourced from Spain.


1729 North Halsted Street, , IL 60614 (312) 337-6070 Visit Website

Farmhouse Evanston

703 Church Street, , IL 60201 (847) 492-9700 Visit Website

Little Goat

820 W Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60607 312 888 3455

Andros Taverna

2542 North Milwaukee Avenue, , IL 60647 (773) 365-1900 Visit Website

Farm Bar

1300 West Wellington Avenue, , IL 60657 (773) 281-2599 Visit Website

Little Goat Diner

3325 North Southport Avenue, , IL 60657 (773) 819-7673 Visit Website

Alla Vita

564 West Randolph Street, , IL 60661 (312) 667-0104 Visit Website

Lula Cafe

2537 North Kedzie Boulevard, , IL 60647 (773) 489-9554 Visit Website