[FOOD & DRINK] BITES KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL DEFYING CONVENTION, A LOCAL CHEF BRINGS ARTISANAL PRODUCTS IN-HOUSE. By Lisa Shames After Soﬁ tel Chicago Executive Chef Greg Biggers earned HACCP certiﬁ cation (an intense food safety program), he wondered how he and the hotel kitchen staff could beneﬁ t from all the hard work. “I decided I wanted to do everything we could in-house,” he says. “My team looked at me like I was insane.” Two years and ﬁ ve permits later, Chestnut Provisions , which provides a variety of housemade products for the hotel, was born. “Every day, I looked at my chefs and said, ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t know what I got us into,’” says Biggers of the arduous project. Now that it’s well on its way, it’s a different story. “My team is so proud of what we’ve done,” he says. Beyond offering inspiration for new dishes at the hotel’s restaurant, Café des Architectes, and lounge, Le Bar, the housemade items will soon be available for retail. Here, Biggers offers the details behind them. 20 E. Chestnut Ave., 312.324.4063, soﬁ tel-chicago.com CAVE-AGED CHEESES Creating the cheese program was the biggest learning curve, says Biggers. “It was like a welder learning to be a nurse.” But once he and Executive Pastry Chef Leigh Omilinsky stopped simply following recipes and approached the process in the same way they cook—”by sight, touch, smell and taste,” says Biggers—their cheeses, including cave-aged brie, chevre and taleggio, got much better. JAMS AND PRESERVES “For the canning, I called chef Paul Virant, who literally wrote the book [ The Preservation Kitchen ($30, Ten Speed Press)] on it,” says Biggers, who estimates they have 1,600 jars of 40 or so different items ready to use. “We took the opportunity of the spring and summer months to can everything we could,” he says, including cucumbers, mushrooms, carrots, eggplant and cauliﬂ ower. And they made plenty of jam too. Says Biggers, “You name it, we jammed it.” CHARCUTERIE For help setting up the charcuterie program, Biggers looked to the guys at Old Town Social, which was one of the ﬁ rst Chicago restaurants to obtain permits for curing meats in-house. “We’re doing everything from soppressata to bresaola to lardo,” he says. Expect lamb and goat charcuterie soon. 158 CS DECEMBER 2014 THE DISH While the products are terriﬁ c on their own, they’re even better when used together. For this appetizer, Biggers pairs Hudson Valley foie gras with housemade Tomme cheese, pickled beets and garlic scapes, preserved gooseberries and pepperoni ($18).