Chef Jimmy Bannos Jr. Rides Purple Pig Toward “Rising Star” Award

The Puple Pig Chef Partner Jimmy Bannos Jr Photo Credit Lisa Predko

The Purple Pig Chef Partner, Jimmy Bannos Jr. Photo Credit: Lisa Predko.

The esteemed judges behind the James Beard Awards have nominated Jimmy Bannos Jr. as one of the nation’s “Rising Star” chefs.

Only one problem: They’re too late. Bannos is already a star.

He’s the magic man who works wonders with pigs. His creations with all manner of pork bring appreciative patrons in droves to The Purple Pig in Chicago.

Bannos Jr. is the complete package – his heritage, his education, his hard work and his distinct approach to cooking have propelled him to the top.

He’s a fourth-generation restaurateur. He grew up in the kitchen and started bussing tables at age 5 at his legendary father’s Heaven on Seven restaurant.

Bannos Jr. didn’t coast on the family name, however. He studied at the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, R.I. He has paid his dues at Al Forno near Providence and Emeril’s in New Orleans.

Later, he moved to Europe and immersed himself in Italy’s culinary treasures. He also spent more than three years working the restaurant scene in New York City.

Now, Bannos Jr. is bringing it all together back home in Chicago, creating a place where “cheese, swine and wine” please diners day after day.

Bannos Jr. learns on May 6 at the James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Awards whether he is indeed a “Rising Star Chef.”

In the meantime, we asked him a few questions:

Q: What about the pig makes it such a great starting point for your cooking?

Pig has a great rich flavor, nice fat content and is very versatile – we’ve been able to feature it in various ways on the menu: ears, tail, tripe, sweetbreads and more.

Q: What are the top three lessons about being a chef, or just being a good person, that you picked up from your father?

Integrity. My dad always taught me to put in 110 percent and make sure I can look myself in the mirror at the end of every day. I am still learning from him.

Chef Jimmy Bannos Jr. and Chef Jimmy Bannos

Chef Jimmy Bannos Jr. and his father, Chef Jimmy Bannos. Photo credit: Lisa Predko.

Q: “Celebrity chef” is now a popular concept in America. Do you see yourself becoming such a thing? Are there good aspects of being a well-known chef? If you become tagged as a “celebrity chef,” do you see any downsides?

Being a celebrity chef is a wonderful thing but the most important thing is passion and respect for the food which hopefully leads to satisfied customers and full seats.

Q: Let’s say you win the “Rising Star Chef” award. Now you’re hosting a celebratory dinner for a few of your closest friends. What’s on the menu?

Home made fresh pasta with some seasonal ingredients.

Make sure to visit The Purple Pig in Chicago for your own meal of “cheese, swine and wine!”