Executive Chef/Owner Craig Bell Big Hatt Gourmet

Meet the Team: Chef

Meet: Craig Bell

Big Hatt Role: Executive Chef, Owner

Chef Craig Bell Demonstration Dinner Big Hat Gourmet

Chef Craig’s culinary obsession began with a fascination of the smoking and cooking process for pork and BBQ while growing up outside Memphis, Tenn. He joined a competitive cooking team with a few friends, racked up a few awards and then decided he wanted to quit his “day job” and teach people to cook by starting with classes for friends in his backyard in Chicago. When class sizes outgrew him, he took a position with the Chopping Block and enrolled in culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu. “Cooking was my passion, and I was determined to turn it into a career,” says Bell.

After graduation, and time spent traveling and studying in Spain, Chef returned to Chicago and took on the role as Executive Chef for Sub-Zero/Wolf. A position he says “combines my love of cooking with my desire to share my passion through teaching. I do cooking shows, demonstration classes and private events for anywhere from 10 to 2,000 people at a time and almost always in front of a live audience.”

An unabashed BBQ man at heart, Big Hatt Gourmet is his catalyst for changing the perception of the outdoor grill by combining his classical techniques with modern cooking styles to elevate barbecuing to a high-end culinary experience — without the pretense.

“What inspires me is the happiness I can impart to my guests. Whether it is serving them an incredible meal or demystifying a recipe so they can make it at home,” he says. “I’d like to write a cookbook one day, if I can slow down long enough to write it all down.”

Hometown:

“Louisville, KY is where I was born but don’t necessarily call anywhere home. I’ve lived in Louisville, Boston, Chicago, New York, Little Rock, Atlanta, Spain, Florida and now Chicago.”

Chicago neighborhood: Roscoe Village

Favorite Big Hatt Menu item:

“Lamb chops.”

Fave meal/dish to make:

“Smoked pheasant and dumplings.”

Restaurant/Chef Dinner or BBQ?

“BBQ. Do I even need to say anything more?”

Favorite ingredient:

“Umami. It’s more a flavor and it tastes so good. Umami is the Japanese description of the fifth essence of taste, the unknown. Every meal should have a little.”

Favorite utensil:

“I only carry one knife — a chef’s knife. If you can’t do what you need to with a chefs knife you don’t need to do it. I can filet tuna, break down a pig and open a beer bottle with a chefs knife… why would I want anything else? Other than that I have a pair of tongs.”

In my free time:

“I like skiing and white water kayaking. The Ocoee is my fave place to kayak, and Telluride is my favorite place to ski.”

Bourbon or Beer:

“YES.”