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Jimmy Bannos Jr. on Chicago's The Purple Pig

Jimmy Bannos Jr. on Chicago's The Purple Pig


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We talk to the chef about his restaurant, consistency, and constantly evolving

You can’t say Jimmy Bannos Jr. His menu at Chicago’s The Purple Pig is apparently six times larger than when the restaurant opened. But the strategy seems to be working — Bannos was recently nominated for a James Beard Award for Rising Star Chef and the restaurant has received countless accolades from national outlets like Food & Wine and Zagat.

The secret to the success, according to Bannos, is that while he serves food that could stand up to any white tablecloth restaurant, he keeps the atmosphere low-key. "You know we’re not really fussing around a lot, [we have] bold flavors, and that’s kind of my motto," he says. "Simple food is not simple, rustic food is an art form... I think it’s for everybody, it’s not just special occasions, come once a year, it’s for everyone... It’s a very unpretentious and casual atmosphere but with top-notch service."

For more from Bannos, watch the video above and make sure to head to The Purple Pig the next time you're in Chicago.


The Purple Pig's Pork Chops

The chef duo put a Mediterranean twist on Grilled Pork Chops.

    Pork chops
  • 4 - 1 inch thick pork chops
  • 1 gallon of water
  • 2 cups of salt
  • 1 cup of sugar

Mix salt, sugar, and water together. Submerge the porkchops in the brine for 24 hours

    Horta
  • 2 qts dandelion greens
  • 1 cup of swisschard
  • 1 cup of spinach
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 red onion sliced
  • 1/2 tbs fennel seed
  • 1/2 tbs coriander
  • 1/2 tbs mustard seed
  • 1 tsp of chiliflakes
  • peels of two lemons

Toast the garlic in olive oil, then add the sliced red onion. Cook down for a few minutes then toast the spices in the olive oil quickly. Shortly after add the lemon peels. You then add all of the greens to the pot. Cook it down so it releases most of its own liquid. Especially to draw out some of the bitterness from the dandelions. Shortly after just cover the greens with water then cook down until they are super tender about one hour. Add salt and pepper to taste

    Fava Salata
  • 1/2 cup of fava beans
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • lemon to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste

Boil fava beans until tender cool down in ice water. When cool add the favas and garlic to a food processor with the olive oil and puree till smooth. Then add the greek yogurt to the food processor. Afterward, add the fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Turn your grill to medium high heat on one side, then medium on the other half. Season the pork chops with only black pepper, drizzle olive oil. Then place on the grill. Sear well both sides of the porkchop on medium high. Then finish cooking on the medium half of the grill, until just cooked through. Before taking off of the grill hit it with fresh squeezed lemonjuice. On a large serving plate, place the fava salata down first. Followed by the horta which should be heatedback up in a pan with loive oil, lemon juice and salt. Finally plate the porkchops on top.

The Purple Pig
500 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
312-464-1-PIG (744)
thepurplepigchicago.com

Jimmy Banos: Chef/Partner, The Purple Pig Chef/Owner, Heaven On Seven

Jimmy Bannos, a third-generation restaurateur, worked at his parents' diner when he was growing up between the age of 9 and 20. After receiving his formal culinary education at Washburne Trade School, Bannos became infatuated with Crescent City cooking in the early 1980s and worked with famous New Orleans chefs, such as Paul Prudhomme at K-Paul's, Frank Brigtsen and Emeril Lagasse.

Bannos' bustling New Orleans-style Heaven on Seven restaurants have been one of the most popular eateries in Chicago for 32 years. Serving a highly personalized interpretation of New Orleans and Southern cooking, Bannos has smartly reinvented his food and his restaurant over the years to keep his concept fresh and vibrant. Today, he marries Latin, South American, Asian and Western European methods with New Orleans techniques and ingredients.

A collector of both modern and antique cookbooks, Bannos entered the publishing world himself with The Heaven on Seven Cookbook: Where It's Mardi Gras All The Time! and Big Easy Cocktails, Jazzy Drinks and Savory Bites. They invite food lovers into his kitchen and share some of his favorite down-home recipes.

What separates Bannos from the rest is his ability to season aggressively without overpowering the palate. While he uses cayenne-spiked seasoning blends and red chili pepper sauces, he also incorporates milder, well-rounded seasoning agents. The result is a complex layering of flavors that is consistent with New Orleans cooking principles, while bringing the region's food into the 21st century.

Jimmy makes regular appearances on The Today Show as well as local shows such as WGN, ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX highlighting some of his seasonal specialties, as well as demonstrating his versions of holiday classics and family favorites. He is a leading figure in the community, and has donated his time and efforts to such causes as Hurricane Katrina relief, Meals on Wheels and March of Dimes. Jimmy received the Chicago Chefs Hall of Fame Award (2007) and March of Dimes, Chef of the Year Award (2011).

Jimmy resides with his wife Annamarie in Illinois.

Jimmy Bannos Jr. Chef/Partner, The Purple Pig Chef/Owner, Heaven On Seven

Jimmy Bannos Jr., a fourth generation restaurateur, was 'born and raised' in Heaven on Seven. Put to work bussing tables for his father at age five, Jimmy learned the trade first hand while spending days at the family owned Louisiana style restaurant. Jimmy quickly discovered that he shared his father's passion for people and food and made the decision to attend the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. While there, he worked at the critically acclaimed Al Forno restaurant, located near the university in Providence. As part of his studies, Jimmy also completed an internship at Emerils in New Orleans, Louisiana. Upon graduation Jimmy returned to Chicago to assist Gabriel Viti with his opening of Miramar Bistro in Highwood, Illinois. He also teamed up with Scott Harris for the opening of one of the Mia Francesca locations. Although raised on gumbo, Jimmy let his passion (and his palate) guide him to more Mediterranean styles of cuisine. He soon embarked on a six month excursion to Italy, in order to immerse himself in the culture and cuisine. Upon his return to the states, he made the move to New York City. There he spent three and a half years working under Mario Batali at his Del Posto, Lupa Osteria Romana and Esca restaurants.

Jimmy has returned home to Chicago, bringing his love for Italian food, the restaurant business and his family to become Chef/Partner of The Purple Pig, offering cheese, swine and wine at 500 North Michigan Avenue in Chicago.


Messy Purple Pig Lawsuit Ends Quietly With Settlement

The Purple Pig's legal saga, which began in November 2014 when Scott Harris sued his business partners at the popular Michigan Avenue restaurant, has ended quietly. The parties have agreed on a settlement and scrubbed Harris' presence from the restaurant, The Cook County Record first reported.

Harris' attorney described the agreement as both confidential and amicable, according to The Record. Both sides signed off on the settlement on Feb. 23.

Tony Mantuano, Jimmy Bannos Jr. and Jimmy Bannos Sr. were all listed as defendants in Harris' initial lawsuit that accused the Bannoses of embezzling money and alleged they had fiscal problems. Harris wanted at least $1.5 million in damages, saying his partners refused to show him financial records. Two months later, Bannos Sr. would close the Rush Street location of his Heaven on Seven restaurant, but said it had nothing to do with the litigation.

Spiaggia's Mantuano (a Beard Award nominee this year for "Outstanding Chef") and the Bannoses filed a countersuit in December 2014 claiming Harris was going through his own financial woes. This led to a period of ugliness with ex-employees and others slinging dirt on both sides posting allegations on the Internet. The suit also included a reference to an infamous picture of Harris' private parts. Harris acknowledged the photo, saying he's known the Bannoses for more than 25 years and they shared in this sort of jocular activity.

Harris, known for his Francesca's restaurants, has since opened a Mexican spot in suburban Frankfort called Fat Rosie's.


Chicago restaurateur charged with battery

Jimmy Bannos Jr., owner of popular Michigan Avenue restaurant the Purple Pig, turned himself in to police Nov. 2 after allegedly punching a fellow attendee at a Millennium Park food event.

Bannos, 35, was charged with misdemeanor battery after allegedly punching a 26-year-old man who is unnamed in police reports. The altercation happened at Chicago Gourmet, an annual September event celebrating wine and food that features celebrity chef appearances, musical performances and hundreds of vendors offering samples.

Bannos is a fourth-generation restaurateur who won the prestigious James Beard Foundation rising star chef award in 2014.

Bannos issued this statement: "On Saturday evening, Sept. 28, I was confronted by multiple individuals on Randolph Street. I felt threatened during the exchange, which escalated quickly, and acted in self-defense. I remain troubled by the incident and regret its occurrence."

The Chicago Police Department had no additional information on what preceded the incident.


Jimmy Bannos Jr. on Chicago's The Purple Pig - Recipes

By Jonathan Bilyk | Cook County Record

A status hearing is scheduled for Thursday in a $1.5 million lawsuit stuffed with claims of kickbacks, embezzlement, stiffing employees, squeezing out partners, and sloppy spending.

14-Dec-14 – Some of the driving forces of Chicago’s culinary scene are embroiled in a legal fracas over the fate of their joint venture, The Purple Pig, after one of the founders filed a lawsuit last month. The suit accuses his partners of embezzling revenues, manipulating records, and cutting him out of management at the popular River North restaurant.

On November 20, Scott Harris (left), chef and one of the founding partners of The Purple Pig and longtime owner of the Mia Francesca restaurant chain, filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court against fellow restaurateurs and partners Jimmy Bannos, Sr. , Jimmy Bannos, Jr. , and Anthony Mantuano .

He also sued investor Gary Veselsky , the restaurant’s general manager, Laura Payne , and Prairie Bread Kitchen, a business owned by Payne’s husband.

Among other demands, Harris has asked the court to award him $1.5 million in damages – including $1 million in punitive damages, order a full audit and accounting of The Purple Pig’s books and records, and remove Bannos and son from ownership and management of the restaurant.

(Above, left to right: Jimmy Bannos, Sr., Jimmy Bannos, Jr., and Anthony Mantuano.

The suit brings to a full boil a years-long simmering dispute among the partners, who have received acclaim for their culinary skills and successful eateries, written cookbooks, and appeared on television programs.

Harris and Bannos, Sr., have been Purple Pig partners since 2008. Located at the corner of North Michigan Avenue and East Illinois Street, the Magnificent Mile establishment specializes in Mediterranean cuisine centered on “cheese, swine, and wine.”

Eventually, they added Mantuano to the venture, further bolstering the culinary credibility of the new restaurant, which brought together the chefs and owners of Chicago dining institutions Mia Francesca, Heaven on Seven, and Spiaggia.

The restaurant opened in 2009 under an ownership split awarding 40 percent each to Harris and Bannos, Sr., and 20 percent to Mantuano.

Bannos son gets partnership, other partners get less

The partners soon added Bannos, Jr., to the restaurant staff as chef with a five percent stake. This was despite Harris’s alleged misgivings over the Bannos son’s perceived lack of experience in restaurant management. This reduced the stake of the elder Bannos by two percent and stakes of Harris and Mantuano by one percent each.

A year later, allegedly without Harris“s approval, Bannos, Sr., added Veselsky to the partnership by awarding him a five percent stake that reduced Harris’s cut to 32 percent.

In 2013, the partnership was adjusted again without consulting Harris, giving Bannos, Jr., an additional three percent stake, again pulled from among the three primary partners, according to the suit.

(Above) The Purple Pig on west side of North Michigan Avenue. (Click on image to view larger version.)

The situation did not heat up until spring 2014, when Harris said he suspected misdealing at the restaurant and tried to investigate.

Harris claims his investigations have led him to believe the Bannos father and son have embezzled Purple Pig operating revenues and used business credit cards for their own personal use such as home repairs, personal vehicle expenses, personal health insurance, personal computers, an engagement party for a daughter, and “abusive spending” at an awards ceremony in New York.

In his lawsuit, Harris also alleges a kickback scheme in which the Bannos father and son attempted to conceal revenue from taxation by paying “bonuses” to Payne and making fake purchases from Prairie Bread Kitchen.

Harris further contends his partners manipulated employee time records, manually reducing hours worked to avoid paying overtime, potentially exposing the restaurant to regulatory action and lawsuits from employees.

Since early 2014, when he claims he began voicing concerns over alleged misdeeds, Harris says the other managing partners have moved to freeze him out of The Purple Pig’s books and management, preventing him from learning whether his allegations are correct, and if so, the full extent of his partners’ actions.

A judge has denied a request by Harris for an injunction and temporary restraining order. A status hearing is scheduled for December 18.


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Experience the exquisite cuisine of James Beard, Rising Star Chef 2014 – Jimmy Bannos Jr.

As a fourth generation restaurateur, he was mentored by his father, Jimmy Bannos (Chef/Owner of Heaven on Seven) and catapulted his expertise through training by nationally renowned chefs.

Since opening in 2009, under the leadership of Jimmy Bannos Jr., The Purple Pig has received numerous accolades, including being named one of 2010’s “10 Best New Restaurants in America” by Bon Appétit magazine and a Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand recipient since 2011.

Dubbed the “Prince of Pork” by Dana Cowin (former Food and Wine Editor-in-Chief) Jimmy Jr. brings his love for Mediterranean food to the Windy City in fun, inventive ways – at this rustic sharable plate restaurant, conveniently located on the Magnificent Mile.

Located at 444 North Michigan Avenue, the restaurant offers cheese, swine and wine, among other standout dishes, showcasing the flavors of Italy, Greece and Spain.


Purple Pig named one of best new U.S. restaurants

The magazine says, "This Mediterranean-inspired hot spot brings daring favorites like roasted bone marrow, pork-neck-bone rillettes, and pig's ear to the Magnificent Mile. Communal tables, small plates, long hours, and a huge L-shaped bar (with excellent beer and wine lists) make this one of Chicago's most delicious--and easygoing--foodie destinations."

Bon Appétit explains the origins of the restaurant's name: "The owners must have known they were going to sell a lot of pork and wine. Legend has it that if a pig drinks red wine, it will turn purple."

Chef Jimmy Jr. is in charge of the kitchen at The Purple Pig. Bon Appétit singled out his Pork Blade Steaks with Nduja and Honey and Arugula Salad as especially noteworthy .You can try it at The Purple Pig, thepurplepigchicago.com, 500 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago. For reservations, call 312-464-1744. Or bring a taste of the Purple Pig to your dining room, by making the recipes the chef is sharing with ABC 7 Chicago.

You can also sample dishes from The Purple Pig at the third annual Chicago Gourmet www.ChicagoGourmet.org celebration on Saturday, September 25 and Sunday, September 26.The food and wine festival features hundreds of top chefs, master sommeliers, winemakers, brewers, and distillers from Chicago and across the country.

This world-class celebration of the city's rich culinary heritage, taking place in Millennium Park, will showcase the talent of Chicago's culinary community with two days of food, wine, spirits and beer tastings, celebrity chef demos, educational seminars, book signings and more. Attendees will have the chance to interact with hundreds of culinary experts, including Bon Appétit Editor-in-Chief Barbara Fairchild, Restaurant Editor Andrew Knowlton and Executive Chef Cat Cora, and learn about today's most interesting epicurean trends first-hand from the innovators who are creating them in Chicago and nationwide.

Created by the Illinois Restaurant Association, Chicago Gourmet honors Chicago's culinary achievements and highlights Chicago as an international culinary destination via its unparalleled epicurean talent.

Kicking off Chicago Gourmet 2010
On Friday, September 24, Chicago Gourmet will kick off the weekend with the Hamburger Hop, a cooking competition featuring 15 of the city's top chefs, for best burger in Chicago. Hosted by Bon Appétit Executive Chef Cat Cora and Chef Art Smith of Table 52, and presented by Allen Brothers Steaks and MillerCoors' Blue Moon, this lively, interactive event will take place at Harris Theatre's Rooftop Terrace in Millennium Park from 6 to 9 p.m. The event is open to the public and entry is $75 per person. Tickets may be purchased at www.ChicagoGourmet.org.

New at Chicago Gourmet 2010 Chicago Gourmet announces two new offerings for 2010: the Bon Appétit Marketplace Tent and the Foodspring.com Specialty Food Pavilion, brought to you by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT). The Bon Appétit Marketplace Tent will offer guests the opportunity to meet and mingle with the magazine's top editors and Executive Chef Cat Cora while enjoying sips, bites, and special promotions from their favorite brands.

NASFT is sponsoring The Foodspring.com Specialty Food Pavilion that will feature more than 60 specialty food and beverage purveyors who will showcase and sample their products in the South Promenade Tent.

Returning to Chicago Gourmet 2010
Chicago Gourmet will continue to allow for interaction with some of Chicago's most innovative chefs and wine experts via a variety of programming. Celebrity chefs will demonstrate their personal passion for great food on the Bon Appétit Main Stage and on the Bon Appétit Culinary Stage. On-stage cooking demonstrations will offer the chance of a lifetime to sit up-close-and-personal as the chefs cook, taste, and teach.

Seminars on today's hottest gourmet food, wine, beer, spirits and other topics will be offered throughout the event, allowing participants ranging from beginner through aficionado to hone their skills, cultivate their palates and interact with worldwide experts and producers. A full schedule of demos and seminars will be announced soon.

The ultimate wine experience, the Grand Cru Tastings at Chicago Gourmet, will offer attendees the opportunity to taste some of the finest wines in the world, as selected by the master sommeliers. During these exclusive 90-minute events, taking place from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. on both days of the festival, the Master Sommeliers will be on hand to present and discuss their selections. The Grand Cru is a separate ticketed event at $175 per person and requires a general admission ticket. Attendance is limited to 200 people each day.

In addition, oenophiles, beer-lovers and spirits aficionados can look forward to numerous guided tastings and seminars, led by a wide variety of master sommeliers, mixologists, winemakers, master brewers and master distillers throughout Chicago Gourmet.

Admission General-admission tickets to Chicago Gourmet, regularly priced at $150 for a One-Day Pass and $250 for a Weekend Pass, are available for a limited time price of $90 for a Sunday pass and $175 for a Weekend Pass. General admission allows full access to the festival area, which includes five culinary tasting pavilions, live cooking demonstrations presented at 30-minute intervals on the Bon Appétit Main Stage and the Bon Appétit Culinary Stage, as well as premium wine and spirits tastings and seminars. Tickets are available at www.ChicagoGourmet.org.

The Bon Appétit Chicago Gourmet Dine Around
The Bon Appétit and Chicago Gourmet Dine Around program offers a way for diners to earn a free, One-Day Pass to Chicago Gourmet by dining at designated participating restaurants. From August 30 to September 26, guests may order from any restaurant's special Dine Around prix-fixe menu (or opt to order a la carte from the regular menu) each guest who collects five receipts may present them in Chicago's Gourmet's "passport" envelope at the registration table on Saturday, September 25 or Sunday, September 26 for one free One-Day Pass. This is the second year the Bon Appétit Chicago Gourmet Dine Around program will be offered, and nearly 60 restaurants are participating.

2010 Participating Chefs and Master Sommeliers
Chefs participating in Bon Appétit Presents Chicago Gourmet 2010 include:


Behind Chicago Food

Jimmy Bannos Jr.

It’s unseasonably warm in Chicago this week. I open the door to The Purple Pig’s enclosed patio and walk through it. For the first time in three years, I don’t have to push past dozens of people. It’s 5:30p and there’s still time for the madness to unfold. Inside is a different story. Already, tables are filling fast and wine is flowing.

I am escorted to one of the large family style tables, where I perch at the head. A burly young man wearing the famed bandana around his head and a white, short-sleeved chef’s coat approaches.

A well known on Zagat and Michelin Bib Gourmand lists.

Food & Wine’s “America’s Greatest New Cooks”.

James Beard Rising Star Chef.

The ‘Prince Of Pork’ himself.

Jimmy Bannos Jr., The Purple Pig

“Let’s go in the back,” Jimmy Bannos Jr. says to me. “These tables are going to fill up real fast.”

I hastily gather my things and head to the private room, dedicated to special occasions but used for folding napkins and other little behind-the-scenes touches when not in use. We sit at the long table and, for two hours, we talk.

“This whole thing should be dedicated to my wife.” – Jimmy Bannos Jr.

Jimmy and his wife, Marianna

Jimmy shakes his head with reverence as he talks about his wife, Marianna. I immediately asked if food was a big part of their relationship or even their courtship. “No!” He laughed. “Isn’t that crazy? I made her try tongue once in New York when we were dating and she said never again.” Fair enough. (Although, Marianna, I’ve tried the smoked pork tongue at The Purple Pig and I’m a fan. Are you sure you won’t try it a second time?)

Balancing personal relationships with the brutality of a chef’s work schedule is “a constant struggle,” Jimmy admits immediately. “It’s hard on everybody hard on her the most. Everyone else gets to have their husbands home [on weekends and holidays]. It’s a unique situation and one that you can’t be bitter at. You have to embrace it.”

And when it comes to raising kids? “It’s a humbling and scary and exciting experience,” Jimmy says. Raising two toddlers with Marianna, Jimmy is now in the position his own parents were in years ago.

Jimmy, Marianna, and their daughters

“Never once as a kid did I feel neglected by my dad,” he refers to Chef and Owner of Heaven On Seven, Jimmy Bannos Sr.

Jimmy with his father, Jimmy Bannos Sr.

Having been raised in the restaurant business, it’s a well-known story that Jimmy Jr. began working in his family’s restaurant when he was just about five years old, observing his father and grandparents at work.

“The youngest memories I have of my grandmother are from the kitchen,” he reflected warmly. “She used to make all the desserts…classic, epic stuff. She was a fixture in the restaurant. She died 22 years ago and I still have guests that will come in and tell me what a tremendous person she was. She had a big effect on a lot of people…her hospitality…her warmth…her kindness.”

Jimmy’s shining achievement is his critically acclaimed, award-winning restaurant The Purple Pig, but he has a tremendous soft spot for where his love for cooking all began. “When I’m at the restaurant [Heaven On Seven], there’s a constant connection that I feel I have with [my grandparents]. It’s so important to be doing this and carrying on our family legacy.”

Some might express an element of surprise that Jimmy didn’t follow his father’s tremendous passion for New Orleans cooking. Having been raised in an Italian and Greek family, Jimmy has embraced both cultures and cuisines his whole life. So, by the time he finished up his freshman year at Johnson and Wales for culinary school, it was clear to him that Mediterranean food is what he wanted to pursue. “Italian and Greek food is my life. It’s my roots. It’s what I am.”

La panino merda

“Be prepared to eat the ultimate shit sandwich every day and enjoy it.” – Jimmy Bannos Sr.

Ask any chef and they’ll tell you their career path is the truest labor of love. You can tell the ones who will make it from the ones who won’t. The fighters are the ones that embrace when their station gets overwhelmed close to end of service. They’re the ones that will come in to work and go through the same, mundane motions for hours on end. Jimmy is no stranger to the brutal slog.

“Knowing that I opened this restaurant up when I was 25, ignorance was definitely bliss. Knowing what I know now, I’m going to be way more scared to open up my second place. That growth and progression is exciting.”

The growing pains of opening a restaurant can be one of the main reasons why establishments fail, no matter how decent the food and service is. Making sure that each member of the team is just the right fit and integral to an overarching process that can break down in a matter of moments during service is the big battle won. But then there’s further considerations like management, communication between front of house and back of house, a thorough understanding of food costs and payroll along with, of course, the food itself. To make a restaurant run like a well-oiled machine is, in Jimmy’s words, “…one of the worst businesses there is. And I love every inch of it.”

Sua etica lavoro

“I’m my own worst critic. Always. Nobody is harder on me than me, and I don’t ever want to change that. It’s important in order to grow.” Jimmy Bannos Jr.

Growing up in a restaurant family, Jimmy has been no stranger to watching other tremendously successful chefs work hard to rise to the top of their games. During his childhood, his father Jimmy Bannos Sr., along with famed New Orleans chef and restaurateur Emeril Lagasse set examples.

While training, his mentor Mario Batali played a tremendous role.”When we won the [James] Beard award, the first person off the stage that I was in contact with was Batali. Ten years prior, I knew I wanted to work for him. [I] Went through this journey getting my ass kicked every day and loving every second of it. And then I walk off the stage with a James Beard award and my mentor is giving me a hug. It’s unreal.”

But Jimmy doesn’t rest on those memories for too long. A self-admittedly “glass half empty kinda guy,” he always pushes for more and nothing short of perfection. His recipe for growth involves research, practice, and building a dedicated team. On a daily basis, Jimmy tries to squeeze in an hour of reading. New cuisines and techniques are constantly experimented with and tweaks are made to the menus in subtle ways. The goal? To Conquer.

“We make lists,” his tone picks up in tempo. “Conquer bread making. Conquer pastries. Conquer veal every way.”

He picks a cuisine, a technique, an ingredient, a dish, and then dedicates himself and his team to mastering it. Jimmy chuckles as he thinks back on past menus and how he “cringes” at some of the items. Not that any of them were bad. Their consistent Michelin Bib Gourmand status proves his constant efforts to evolve have worked. But that’s the key. The Purple Pig menu doesn’t significantly fluctuate with constant experimentation. The mastery can be found in the subtle nuances of dishes. Therein lies the true talent of a chef – knowing when to say “enough”.

“Always stay relevant. Always evolve. Be the best you can be.”

La strada davanti

“I want my guys to know that we’re together as a team. Wherever it takes us, we’re going to keep accomplishing. And everything that we’re attached to? We want it to be great and different and unique.” – Jimmy Bannos Jr.

When asked about what’s next, there’s a small shift in Jimmy’s demeanor an electric current of vulnerability and excitement. He deliberates for a moment, carefully, and the same careful consideration with which he approaches his work comes across.

“We’re in a world right now where a lot of restaurateurs need a ‘hit’…to strike while the iron is hot. I hate that. This isn’t like opening up a cookie cutter franchise. You gotta maintain the house.” That is to say that The Purple Pig comes first. There were hints dropped about a new project being in-concept but his fiery passion stays true to his “home base” and, most notably, to his staff.

I asked Jimmy, “In a couple of decades, when you look back, what aspect of your career would you like to be the most proud of?” His answer came as no surprise.

“First and foremost, in this business, I will feel more accomplished to know that one of my sous chefs is accepting the prize for the James Beard Award. I’m lucky enough to have grown up with my dad mentoring me. A lot of people don’t have that. I want to be that for my guys. Making someone do something they never thought was possible…that’s awesome.”

“I want to walk away at the top of my game.” He takes a moment, fiddling with the napkin in front of him almost wistfully.

We smile, realizing it’s been a full two hours since we sat down to chat. The sun has set and the air has a crisp quality to it spring on a winter’s eve. In our silence, the surrounding noise levels have increased. We both turn as if on cue to look at the swelling crowd at The Purple Pig’s patio standing room only diners having a ball.

Jimmy grins and sweeps his hand at the sight. “This is a dream! It’s crazy! It never gets old. I’ll never take any of this for granted.”

To view the tremendous feast that I got to partake in after our discussion, please visit @foodfictionproject on Instagram.


Jimmy Bannos Jr. on Chicago's The Purple Pig - Recipes

Settlement ends legal food fight over The Purple Pig

Harris no longer associated with River North restaurant

By Jonathan Bilyk | Cook County Record

10-Mar-16 – A legal food fight – in which prominent names in Chicago’s culinary scene served accusations against each another of mismanagement, financial wrongdoing, and other scurrilous allegations – appears to have ended quietly, with at least one of the former partners in The Purple Pig walking away from the popular River North restaurant.

On February 23, attorneys for both sides signed off on a motion entered in Cook County Circuit Court ending the legal fracas launched in late 2014 by chef and restaurateur Scott Harris against his then-partners in The Purple Pig, fellow Chicago restaurateurs Jimmy Bannos, Sr. and Jimmy Bannos, Jr. , among others.

(Above, left to right) Chicago restaurateurs Jimmy Bannos, Sr., Jimmy Bannos, Jr., and Anthony Mantuano, co-owners, along with investor Gary Veselsky, of The Purple Pig.

The motion, granted by Cook County Judge Kathleen Kennedy , says only that the parties involved have “reached an out of court settlement” and have agreed to dismiss the litigation with prejudice, meaning neither side can sue over the matter again. Each side agreed to pay its own legal costs.

Spencer Marks , an attorney with the firm of Pokorny & Marks, LLC, who represented Harris, confirmed the dismissal.

“The case was amicably resolved by the parties in a confidential agreement,” Marks (right) said.

He added that Harris “is no longer associated with the Purple Pig restaurant.”

The Purple Pig website also appears to have scrubbed any reference to Harris, his involvement in the restaurant either now or in the past, and a link to a Harris bio which had formerly been featured under the site’s About Us page no longer functions.

Marks declined to offer any further details on the settlement.

The relationship between Harris (left) and the Bannoses dates back to at least 2008, when they partnered to launch The Purple Pig at the corner of North Michigan Avenue & East Illinois Street. The restaurant has since specialized in Mediterranean-themed cuisine centered on “cheese, swine, and wine.”

Before the restaurant opened in 2009, they added Anthony Mantuano of Spiaggia fame to the group, putting him in the mix of chefs and owners of such Chicago dining institutions as Harris’s Francesca’s , and the Bannonses’ Heaven on Seven , lending pedigree to The Purple Pig.

When the restaurant opened, Harris and Bannos Sr. each held 40 percent stakes in the company, while restaurateur Mantuano had 20 percent. The ownership structure was eventually revised to give Bannos Jr. and investor Gary Veselsky small ownership stakes, as well. Bannos Jr. was also hired as the restaurant’s chef.

In November 2014, however, Harris filed suit against the Bannoses, as well as others involved in ownership and management at The Purple Pig. Other named defendants included Mantuano, Veselsky, general manager Laura Payne , and Prairie Bread Kitchen.

Harris had demanded at least $1.5 million in damages and removal of the Bannoses from ownership and management of The Purple Pig, over allegations the Bannoses had embezzled from the restaurant, while manipulating records and moving to cut Harris out of management at the restaurant. Harris had accused the Bannoses of using business credit cards for personal expenses, including home repairs, vehicle expenses, parking tickets, family parties, vacations, and “abusive spending” at an awards ceremony in New York, among other items.

Harris further alleged a kickback scheme, in which the Bannoses allegedly attempted to conceal revenue from taxation by paying “bonuses” to Payne and making fake purchases from Prairie Bread Kitchen, which was owned by Payne’s husband.

The Bannoses, however, countersued less than a month later, accusing Harris of wrongdoing. They said Harris had defaulted on a $3.6 million loan at another restaurant he owned and forged Bannos Sr.’s signature on bank documents to loop The Purple Pig into the default. They also said Harris, when the Bannoses rebuffed his suggestion to open more Purple Pig locations, opened competing establishments with similar menus and lured Purple Pig employees to staff them.


Watch the video: VLOG 1 PURPLE PIG? (October 2022).