For Eric Jorgenson, cooking is a lot like Leonardo de Vinci’s belief: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” The Little Market Brasserie chef de cuisine believes and respects that philosophy, whether he’s prepping the evening’s mise en place or problem-solving a delicate situation. He assumed the leadership position in the back of the house at the Mercadito Hospitality restaurant weeks after its January 2013 opening, a promotion he earned just five months after joining the restaurant group’s Tavernita. “My style is simple and straightforward at the core, but every once in a while, I throw a few curve balls,” he says. “This helps me refine the classic American dishes and comfort food we serve so they’re something a little out of the ordinary.”
Prior to Mercadito Hospitality, Jorgenson lived and worked in New York City for nearly three years. As chef de cuisine at The Mermaid Oyster Bar, he honed his knowledge of oyster varieties and sustainable seafood, as well as helped the restaurant attain a Forbes All-Star Eatery Award in 2011. Jorgenson first moved to New York City for an executive sous chef position at SushiSamba Rio after he assisted in revamping the menu at the brand’s Chicago location, which resulted in significant media coverage.
Jorgenson knew as a kid that he wanted to become a chef. Growing up in Oak Park, IL, with two younger brothers and both parents working for the police department, he was often in charge of feeding his siblings, which usually meant ordering pizza. One night, however, after his dad canceled plans to make the boys linguine and white clams for dinner, the 11-year-old Jorgenson prepared the meal himself. He discovered he had a knack for cooking, and he’d spend his free time watching Emeril Lagasse on the then-new Food Network, feeling awestruck and inspired by the passion he saw going into the food. Jorgenson’s cousin, a Culinary Institute of America grad, helped him break into the industry by getting him a dishwashing job at the age of 14. He then started working the salad station before making his way to every station in the restaurant. He had become the grill cook by the time he graduated high school and enrolled in classes at Kendall College School of Culinary Arts in Chicago.
Jorgenson lives in Chicago’s South Loop. In his spare time, he loves to fish.