Culinary Independence

July 2015 · Chef John Reed, CEC, CCA

I am very moved by the events of last week. The thought that nearly 90 percent of Americans continue to have access to health insurance is wonderful news, but more important, is many of our friends and colleagues have the freedom to share their love for one another without shame. That is very powerful. I am not making this month’s newsletter a socio-political rant or stating a religious position or a platform for one’s personal belief. There is enough hate, passion and one-sided rhetoric from both ends in the social media dialogue. What I am going to say, however, is that through all of this, I still believe that we are a one human race and, whatever that looks like, we can still survive and be kind and thoughtful to one another. What does this have with a food newsletter? I am getting to that – relax – and go have a cold drink!

Once, I was asked my thoughts on all of this, which was at a young and vulnerable time in my life, and I reacted very passionately and somewhat off tilter. It caused some long-term effects in some of my personal relationships. I felt cornered and reacted badly as I was trying to justify everything that was happening in the world by having to pick a side. I thought about my life and experiences and how it shaped my beliefs in how I see other people around me. I know now that in order to really understand someone from the opposite side of the fence, you can’t be closed minded. This could be their culture, music, sports teams and what they eat. (Sorry Yankee fans, I’m not budging on that one.) My goal is to look into their world with a clear and open mind with no perceived notions of who they are. So, I have tried to do this through food for my family.


I wanted my kids to be able to share a meal with their friends in their homes without feeling uncomfortable or an outsider. Growing up, they became friends with many different cultures, religions, family unions and dialects. I wanted my kids to feel confident when they sat down at a friend’s house that they could easily fit into the world of Longanisa, Dal’s, Sambal, Pho, Sauerbraten, pierogis, steak and kidney pie. I think it’s terrible that when we get together for birthday parties, school events or baseball games that this amazingly diverse group of people feel that we have to serve pizza or hot dogs to be part of this community. This is what I call “labeling.” Does everyone fall into this same trap of what we are as a nation? Are the kids of modern day America growing up eating chicken fingers, “shitty” pizza and over processed wieners? I say that if you are really open, let’s see a taste of this nation on our back porch during this time of year. Don’t hide! I want to eat something other than a burger or the processed cheese tray that was made two months ago. It takes a little effort on your part to look past the label to awaken your own curiosity. It is in all of us who want to feel the excitement of doing something mischievous.


I just don’t write this, I live it. I cook and eat something different every night of week. This week alone, we had German, Italian antipasto, Gene and Judes’ hot dogs and Hecky’s local bbq in Evanston. I am very proud as both a chef and, more importantly a father, that my kids are asking me for really good Indian and naan for dinner. Together, we even make a bowl of real Ramen for lunch.

Yes, we are a different nation than we were a week ago and we will be a different one tomorrow. That is the beauty of this nation. We can live, love and eat freely. Throw away the ranch dressing, vanilla ice cream and fried chicken and drink a craft beer and grill Kibbeh at your backyard bbq as the stars and stripes waves to the back drop of fireworks.

Enjoy your independence!



Stone Smoked Porter

Stone Smoked Porter

Hot Dogs

Gene & Jude’s

Gene & Jude's
Considered one of the best hot dogs in America.


Hitachino Nest White Ale

Hitachino Nest White Ale

Download July Newsletter

John Reed
Chef John Reed, CEC, CCA
John Reed is a professional chef with over 30 years experience. John has extensive knowledge of culinary techniques, ethnic cuisines, food history and more!

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