Chicago’s Pork Shoppe redefines BBQ
Published: Friday, April 6, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08
As summer-like weather hits the city early this year, many have started to set up their outdoor grills in preparation for barbecuing season.
Head chef Jason Heiman of Pork Shoppe, located at 2755 N. Belmont Ave., the hidden gem of barbecue restaurants in Chicago, shared his tips and tricks for creating a successful barbecue restaurant.
While Pork Shoppe’s menu features several traditional barbecue items, all made with products from local businesses, like the macaroni and cheese with breadcrumbs, sweet and spicy cornbread, the beef brisket tacos and the very popular pork belly pastrami, Heiman is constantly working on new specialty items.
“Yesterday he was working on Kielbasa, making it from scratch for the most part,” said line-cook James Tunney.
“You can really tell that he enjoys his work,” Tunney said. “He picks these recipes out for fun and tries them out and you wouldn’t be going through all that trouble if it were just a 9 to 5 job. He enjoys feeding us and we all enjoy eating his food.”
Heiman has over 25 years of experience in cooking and started at Pork Shoppe when it first opened in July 2010. He previously worked for Pork Shoppe owners Steven Ford and Mike Schimmel as the head chef of their restaurant Tizi Melloul.
After Tizi Melloul closed, Schimmel, Ford and Heiman came up with a list of possible concepts for a new restaurant, and barbecue was an option they all were interested in.
Schimmel said, “We thought the concept was pretty intriguing because there are not a lot of options around the city, especially on the north side, in terms of barbecue places.”
Although he received formal training at culinary school through Le Cordon Blue in Paris and originally specialized in Mediterranean food and higher end cuisine, Heiman learned the ins and outs of barbecue from his father at a young age.
“Growing up my dad would throw everything on the grill,” said Heiman. “There was always some sort of ‘smoke this or smoke that,’ growing up around that sort of cooking. I was just kind of going from there with what I know about flavors and food.”
Teamwork is an essential ingredient in Pork Shoppe’s kitchen. Tunney said everyone who works there is very hands-on and no task is beneath anyone. Everyone is willing to help out.
“[Heiman] will do my work if I’m busy with something and likewise,” said Tunney. “The owner Steven will often wash dishes and expedite food, and same with Mike. My first week working there I wasn’t exactly sure who the owner was because everyone was running around busting their butts. No one was just sitting in the back office or up front.”
Heiman said that they are looking to expand Pork Shoppe’s presence by opening up additional locations.
“We are looking to open another [restaurant] relatively soon. It will start being, not really a chain, but a couple of stores,” Heiman said.
Schimmel said that Pork Shoppe’s consistency in businesses is a reflection of consistency in the quality of food.
“He’s a wonderful chef and we are very luck to have him,” Schimmel said about Heiman. “He was very easy to adapt to the food choices in not so perfect circumstances.”