Like many chefs, Chicagoan Jeffrey Hedin was first inspired by Julia Child. As a young boy, he and his dad were watching the culinary icon on TV as she made a soufflé, and they were motivated to give it a try. Although this first foray at making the classic French dessert was less than successful, the budding chef didn’t give up. He continued to try out recipes, and although he would over-caramelize the onions the first time he tried his hand at omelet-making, he was hooked. At the time, he had dreams of playing in the NHL, or perhaps becoming a documentary filmmaker or architect, but as the years passed, Hedin realized his interest in cooking was more than just a hobby.
Self-taught, Hedin worked his way up from washing dishes and waiting tables to running the line. While living in Boulder, CO, he began working at Mateo under Hugo Matheson. Matheson turned Hedin on to cooking seasonally and to connecting with farmers, and to working with the best quality fundamental ingredients – using seasonal vegetables at their peak, high quality oils and vinegars, sea salt, handmade pasta and the like. Hedin left Boulder for Chicago, where he began working for Shawn McClain at the acclaimed Spring. He moved up Spring’s kitchen ladder to the tournant position, and then moved over to Green Zebra, McClain’s vegetable-focused restaurant under chef de cuisine Michael Bulkowski and later as sous chef to Christine Kim. Hedin then accepted the sous chef position at Blue Water Grill under Joel Dennis and was later on the opening team at The Bristol. In 2009, Hedin met Christy Agee through a mutual friend; she and her partners were looking to elevate the menu at Witt’s Tavern. Hedin took the opportunity and later that year, the two began collaborating on Leopold.
At Leopold, Hedin explores Belgian cuisine, peppering in French and German influences. He describes his cooking as “simple and seasonal” and most enjoys the process of cooking – going from inspiration to conception to the finished plate. Though his childhood dreams didn’t pan out how he hoped, Hedin has found a new passion in the kitchen, one that is going to continue to develop and evolve over the years to come. Hedin lives in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood of Chicago.