Take everything that connotes Midwestern charm: effusive goodwill, love of community, and a killer work ethic, and you will find its embodiment in Chef Chris Pandel. His food is just as appealing—rooted in classic French technique and predominantly local Midwestern ingredients, Pandel’s cooking is rustic, yet refined.
Pandel graduated from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, and then spent what he calls “graduate school” in New York City, at Café Boulud under Chef Andrew Carmellini. He soon returned to his roots in Chicago, as well as to a job at TRU, which led to a position as corporate chef at three of Chef Rick Tramonto’s restaurants. Of his mentors, Pandel says Carmellini molded him into a cook, and that under Tramonto, he earned a “sense of self” in the kitchen and the know-how to run a business.
In 2008, Pandel opened neighborhood eatery, The Bristol. Located in Chicago's Bucktown neighborhood, Pandel’s menu features handmade pastas and charcuterie; farm-fresh, locally sourced produce; and a nose-to-tail approach to cooking.
Balena, an ode to Italian influenced simplicity, opened in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood in March of 2012. Balena’s menu consists of handmade pastas; pizzas from the wood-fire oven; and locally sourced, farm-fresh meats and produce. Balena was included in Bon Appetit’s list of 25 best new restaurants in 2012, and was nominated for a James Beard “Best New Restaurant” Award.
Most recently, Pandel opened Formento’s on Chicago’s West Loop “Restaurant Row” in January 2015. Formento's is an Italian-American heritage restaurant with warm hospitality and polished service, reminiscent of a 1950's "red sauce joint,” featuring classic Italian-American fare grounded in tradition.
In October, 2015 Pandel, along with Boka Restaurant Group and B. Hospitality Co. opened Swift & Sons, a retro modern steakhouse that celebrates the history of Chicago’s meatpacking district. At Swift & Sons Pandel provides the restaurant with his signature focus on high quality, locally sourced ingredients and classic cooking techniques presenting a menu of steakhouse classics, “boutique beef,” thoughtful vegetarian dishes and seasonal sides.