Chicago chef, Restaurateur, and Greek-American Jimmy Bannos, Jr. was awarded one of the most prestigious awards in the culinary industry when he was named 2014 Rising Star Chef by the James Beard Foundation on Monday, May 5, 2014. Bannos shares this year’s award with another Rising Star Chef, Blaine Wetzel of The Willows Inn on Lummi Island, WA.
Covering all aspects of the industry—from chefs and restaurateurs to cookbook authors and food journalists to restaurant designers and architects and more—the Beard Awards are the highest honor for food and beverage professionals working in North America.
Bannos, son of Jimmy Bannos, Sr., is a fourth-generation Greek-American restaurateur, and was ‘born and raised’ in his father’s Chicago restaurants 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. Once realizing he shared his father’s passion food and the restaurant industry, he decided to attend the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, R.I.
Although raised on gumbo, Jimmy let his passion, Greek heritage, and palate guide him to more Mediterranean styles of cuisine. Bringing his love for Mediterranean food, the restaurant business and his family, Jimmy returned to Chicago in 2009 to open The Purple Pig in December of that year. Located at 500 North Michigan Avenue, the restaurant offers cheese, swine and wine, among other standout dishes, showcasing the flavors of Italy, Greece and Spain.
Jimmy Bannos, Jr. is half Greek, on his father’s side of the family. Incidentally, Jimmy, Sr. is also a well-known Chicago restaurateur (Heaven on Seven restaurants) and partner in Jimmy, Jr.’s restaurant The Purple Pig. Jimmy, Jr.’s great grandparents all emigrated from Greece in the early 1900’s, and hail from the Tripoli area and the small villages that surround Tripoli.
Jimmy, Jr.’s cooking and the menu at The Purple Pig are strongly influenced by his Greek heritage, with some of his favorites being: Chicken Thigh Kebabs with Tzaziki, Taramosalata, and the Olive-oil Poached Tuna with Greek Gigante Beans. Another strong focus at The Purple Pig that celebrates Jimmy’s heritage is the wine list – it lists several Greek wines (details, listed by region, available here http://thepurplepigchicago.com/white.html) , imported by fellow Greek and friend of the Bannos’, Ted Diamantis of Diamond Wine Importers.