Born and raised in the rolling, forested hills of Southern Indiana, Paul Fehribach calls the small town of Jasper home and vividly recalls ample time as a youngster spent on family farms, exploring the wonders of kitchen gardens, and wandering the woods hunting and fishing. Years later, upon opening Big Jones, these early experiences would shape Fehribach’s approach to the Southern culinary cannon, taking things beyond superficial farm-to-table proclamations while seeking deeper meaning in the history and heritage behind the Southern table. Applying his passions for history and social science to cooking, Fehribach believes that only by grounding a cuisine in the richness of its history can one look forward with a trained eye into the future. Resulting is an obsession with heritage and heirloom crops and livestock breeds, traditional farming methods, and culinary history.
Fehribach studied trombone and education at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana before deciding to pursue restaurants as a career, a notion he first conjured up as a young boy. After learning to cook eggs on 1,000-cover breakfast shifts at Denny’s during college, Fehribach moved into the kitchen at Chapman’s Restaurant, and within two years found himself Executive Chef at age 24, a position he held for three years before helping Richard Satnick open the legendary Laughing Planet Café on Kirkwood, one of the first organic and local foods-focused fast food restaurants in the country.
From there, Fehribach’s career took an unconventional turn. He moved to Chicago with his love and now partner, Mark Armantrout and moved into front of house work in order to “pay the bills and save some money” as he put it, logging five years at both Hi Ricky Asia Noodle Shop and Schubas Tavern. By 2007, it was time to strike out on his own, and Big Jones opened in April 2008. Big Jones’ presence was soon felt as it was named “Best New Restaurant” by Chicago Magazine in 2009, and received three stars from the Chicago Tribune’s Phil Vettel in 2011. Big Jones continues to make headlines as one of OpenTable’s best brunch restaurants in America, Bon Appetit’s best fried chicken north of the Mason-Dixon, and many other honors. Most recently Fehribach has been honored as a nominee for the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef: Great Lakes in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.
Fehribach published the Big Jones Cookbook on University of Chicago Press in May 2015 to great celebration in Chicago. Fehribach has been featured regularly on WGN’s nationally-syndicated Lunch Break, and has appeared on WBEZ, WGN Radio, ABC-7 Chicago, and WTTS Chicago Tonight. His recipes have been published in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-times, Plate, Traditional Home, Edible Chicago, The Chicago Reader, TastingTable, and Chicago Magazine.
Paul Fehribach is a proud member of the Southern Foodways Alliance, James Beard Foundation, Seed Savers Exchange, serves on the board of Chefs Collaborative as treasurer, and volunteers with Cooking Up Change, the Green City Market, Share Our Strength, and Purple Asparagus. In his spare time he’s a fitness enthusiast and avid vinyl record collector, specializing in Cuban, Brazilian, and African popular music of the 1940’s-1970’s, and the New York Spanish Harlem scene of the 1950’s-1970’s in addition to Southern and Chicago soul.