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.
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 a 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.
Beginning in October 2015, you can find Pandel in the kitchen at Swift & Sons. The Swift & Sons menu displays Pandel's signature focus on high quality, locally sourced ingredients and refined cooking techniques with an elevated twist on steakhouse classics, a "boutique beef" program, thoughtful vegetarian dishes, and seasonal sides.
After receiving degrees in Baking & Pastry Arts and Food Service Management from Johnson & Wales University, Leigh Omilinsky began as a pastry cook at the JW Marriott in Denver. In 2006, she ventured back to Chicago where she worked for James Beard award winning chefs Rick Tramonto and Gale Gand; first at Tramonto’s Steak and Seafood as the lead pastry cook and then at TRU restaurant as pastry tournant. Enamored with the fine dining environment, Omilinsky began working at L2O restaurant in 2009, where she worked as chef de partie under celebrated chef Laurent Gras. In 2010, Leigh Omilinsky joined Sofitel Chicago Water Tower as assistant pastry chef. Promoted to Executive Pastry Chef in 2012, she oversaw the hotel’s pastry program including private dining, amenities and the plated desserts at Café des Architectes and Le Bar. In 2013, Omilinsky was included on Zagat’s 30 Under 30 list and received the Jean Banchet award for Best Pastry Chef.
After five years working with French pastry, Omilinsky jumped at the opportunity to venture further south and explore all that Italian cuisine has to offer, accepting the role of pastry chef at Nico Osteria in 2015, where she continued mastering the balance between simplicity and depth of flavor. In January 2019, she started with Boka Restaurant Group as the pastry chef of three concepts – Bellemore, Swift & Sons and Cold Storage, showing the diversity of her dessert styles. At Swift & Sons, her menu stays true to classic steakhouse desserts, elevating them with French pastry technique. At Cold Storage, she shows a more playful side, with an inventive sundae program, popsicles and a rotating pie program.