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If Paul Kahan was a musician, he’d be a critic’s indie darling. Kahan makes a career of flying below the radar, all the while turning out sublime cuisine. Even though he won the James Beard award for Best Chef Midwest and was named Food and Wine Best New Chef in 1999, he skipped the limelight, avoided writing ego driven cookbooks, and focused on his craft. In contrast to his fellow Food and Wine Best New Chef classmate, Rocco Dispirito, there was no reality show restaurant meltdown for Kahan.
Like an indie band, Kahan makes sure he’s saying something with his art. He pays attention to the politics of the plate, using organic products, developing relationships with independent purveyors, and always respecting seasonality. This is no mere lip service. Kahan was instrumental in building up Chicago’s Green City Market which supports small family farms.
Along with Charlie Trotter and Rick Bayless, Paul Kahan and Blackbird paved the way for independent restauranteurs and played a role in defining Chicago’s current fine dining scene.
Fans of Kahan will be exicited to hear he may be opening a gastropub in Chicago later this year. In our podcast we talk about the vision for this new concept, sustainable agriculture, meat cures, the power of chefs, the influence of architecture on food, and whether chefs take themselves too seriously.
If you have Macromedia Flash installed, you can play the file right on this site, below, by pressing the play button. If not, download the file and play it on your PC or on an MP3 player here: Paul Kahan Interview
Check out our photo slideshow of Blackbird restaurant and Paul Kahan by photographer Tuan Bui.