A dining and talk series that seeks to build a support network for food industry pros is kicking off on Friday, April 28 at Guild Row — and chef Brian Jupiter of Frontier, Ina Mae Tavern & Packaged Goods, and Lottie’s Pub will be the first guest.
The event is being organized by In Culinary, a new membership network that aims to connect fledgling cooks and aspiring food and beverage workers with seasoned industry veterans. The initiative is from Jiwon McCartney, who founded the popular live cooking competition Culinary Fight Club and Fight2Feed, a non-profit dedicated to reducing food waste and hunger in America.
McCartney says the idea for In Culinary sprouted from conversations she had about the need to bring the culinary community together. In McCartney’s eyes, not enough was being done in order to support the next generation of culinary workers. “When I’m angry about something, then I create something,” she says.
That’s how In Culinary was born. After all, there’s no obvious playbook for an aspiring chef or mixologist or restauranteur. It can be scary when getting started, especially when you have no connections and no idea how to even make the jump.
“We talk a lot about how much we need staff, but we don’t really think about where it’s coming from,” McCartney says. “What are we doing today that’s cultivating the future in culinary? Where’s the next Emeril? Where’s the next Anthony Bourdain? I’m concerned.”
Currently, the network exists as a website where members connect on forums to trade tips, stories, and mentorship in order to connect young and up-and-coming professionals with veteran support. However, McCartney hints that future projects might even include a kind of academy to help train new culinary professionals.
The conversation series is an extension of In Culinary’s mission to draw new faces to the industry. McCartney hopes these events not only provide a platform for Chicago’s talented chefs, but also help foster a culture of community and open education.
In Culinary chose to work with Jupiter for its first event because of his work advocating for Black communities and youth in the city over the past two decades in Chicago. He is well-versed in mentoring those who need it by giving them a job or just cooking them a meal.
Jupiter will be demonstrating his original shrimp and grits recipe followed by an interview with event host chef Paul Young of Eby-Brown Co. There will also be a vendor market, a recipe tasting, and a meet-and-greet with Jupiter.
Future guests include Danny Espinoza, a Top Chef contestant and Culinary Fight Club champion. Espinoza, a Mexican American who was born and raised in Humboldt Park, counts Carlos Gaytán — the first Mexican-born chef to oversee a Michelin-starred restaurant — as a mentor. Espinoza is currently working with high school students in suburban DuPage Country.
Proceeds from the event will go to both In Culinary Inc and Fight2Feed.