The chef of the new restaurant is celebrated Chicagoan Jason Hammel, the Executive Chef and owner of award-winning Lula Café in Chicago’s Logan Square community. Known for his trailblazing, creative seasonal cuisine, Hammel made Lula Café a pioneer of the farm-to-table movement, of which he was an original voice. Hammel was one of the first chefs to source local, organic ingredients and build close relationships with Midwestern farmers, emphasizing freshness and seasonality and adding creative new dishes every week.
Hammel says, “Before I discovered cooking, I used to think of myself as a young, urban artist, a seeker in the world. Visiting the MCA, I found something beyond the galleries—a creative community of people who continually test ideas and the imagination. This is now the space where my team will open a restaurant and take-away counter where, through food, design, and hospitality, we can speak in a way that is inventive and alive, presenting something real, delicious, and contemporary.”
Hammel was born in Connecticut and graduated from Brown University, after which he traveled extensively throughout Italy, which made a lasting impact and presaged his career as a chef. He returned to get a MA in English from Illinois State University and then opened Lula Café in 1999. He splits his time between the restaurant and the non-profit food education group he co-founded called Pilot Light, which develops classroom lessons that weave food and nutrition into subjects such as English, math, social studies, and science.