PODCAST: To hear more from Nagrant’s conversation with Steve Chiappetti click the Podcast above. (00.42:03)
MN: You were one of the first to do contemporary American cuisine in Chicago.
SC: In 1995, I was one of the only ones with a chef-driven concept, besides Scott Harris. There was a need for it in the market. People wanted that simplicity and freshness. By 2000, chef-driven restaurants were everywhere.
MN: Your parents both come from four generations of butchers. Was there pressure to go into the business?
SC: Yeah, my grandfather had Chiappetti Lamb and Veal. My father would bring cuts of meat home, cuts that didn’t sell that day. But there were enough relatives to run the business. I needed something a little more sexy and fun.
MN: Where did you go for three years after Mango, Grapes, and Rhapsody?
SC: My partner and I decided to part ways. I needed some time to figure out my life. After five years of pushing hard, it took a lot out of me. I started doing photography. I had an exhibit at several galleries and libraries.
MN: What’s your vision for Viand?
SC: I left the downtown scene five years ago because I thought there were no opportunities. Now, I can return to doing something like Mango, because it’s a concept that fits today’s times. Viand is going to be an affordable American bistro, where people will find a menu that’s constantly evolving.
MN: What advice do you give your line cooks?
SC: You think you should cook for the customer, but you don’t know them or their tastes. You need to cook for yourself and hope that the customer will appreciate what you do.
MN: Any particularly memorable meals from your years as a chef?
SC: The weirdest was when Tom Hanks came into the Ritz and I had to make five pounds of smoked turkey every day for his dog. It was when he was doing Turner & Hooch. I had to cook for Hooch. Is there no humility after that?