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In the Kitchen with Chef Chris Pandel at Bristol

Last year's Jean Banchet winner talks about the Chicago food and philanthropy community

A good chef does much more than cook food. They create an experience for their diners and represent their culinary city and influences, both past and present. They also can make a great difference in their hometown. This Friday, February 3 is the annual Grand Chefs Gala hosted by the Chicago Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. More than fifty chefs, mixologists, and pastry chefs will create a special evening to benefit the global cause. Many of these chefs are past and present recipients of the CFF—presented Jean Banchet Awards for Culinary Excellence.

As a supporter of the cause, and previous Jean Banchet Award-winner, Chef Chris Pandel from The Bristol {2152 North Damen Avenue, Chicago; 773.862.5555} gave a peak into what it’s like to be a part of the Chicago food community, and support the CFF’s cause …

What led you to become a part of the Chicago food community at The Bristol?

I actually grew up just outside of Chicago. After working and studying in different cities I decided to focus my career in Chicago.

I had always had the goal of opening my own restaurant before turning 30 and The Bristol was that opportunity. John Ross and I had previously worked together and when he was looking to branch out, he reached out to me as the chef.

What influences have had an effect on your cooking style?

There are so many influences through the years. Andrew Carmellini (New York City) was my first mentor and still someone I hold in very high regard. He is a constant source of inspiration as I have grown through my career. The real turning point in my career was having spent time with Chris Bianco (Pizzeria Bianco) and Michael Tusk (Quince and Cotogna). They led me to want to cook simply and with the seasons.  I would say my cooking style was pushed in a more specific direction after meeting and cooking alongside those chefs.

What is the best part about being a chef?

The best part of being a chef is teaching my team to be inspired to take the best care of their guests.

And the toughest?

The toughest part of being a chef is likely the demanding schedule, but everyone uses that as a crutch. I would say the toughest part really is the balance between creativity and running a responsible business.

The Bristol Chilaquiles

What do you think makes our food community unique in Chicago?

Our food community in Chicago is made through its diversity and mutual respect. While it’s plenty competitive, I have found Chicago to be a very welcoming and helpful restaurant community—it’s a Midwestern thing, I suppose. Looking out for your neighbors and helping one another is a rare thing to find in this business and I think Chicago is unique in this way.

What did you hope to bring to the culinary table at The Bristol?

I wanted The Bristol to be a place where people feel comfortable in knowing they would be eating well sourced, well-prepared food without any pretense. The Bristol is your quintessential neighborhood restaurant, which provides things that are familiar and comforting alongside dishes that are adventuresome and perhaps a little off the beaten path. The service is relaxed but professional and welcoming.

What are some of your favorite dishes on the menu?

I am a huge fan of our roast chicken. It’s a comfort food thing. My mouth starts watering just thinking about it.

You were awarded Jean Banchet Award last year and you will present at this year’s Cystic Fibrosis Foundation award ceremony. How did that win feel to you?

Last year, I got so nervous and emotional I was overwhelmed and couldn’t convey how truly grateful I was to receive the award.

Why is the CFF such an important cause to you?

Given the opportunity to assist in helping those affected by cystic fibrosis is a big responsibility and I think that I can speak for most of my colleagues in saying that we are all honored to give our time and abilities to raise money for the cause.

By Kaleigh Glaza | Online Editor