J. Rocco Italian Table and Bar
A native of Chicago’s south side, Chef Steve Chiappetti definitely has cooking in his blood. His family name is behind Chicago’s oldest slaughter and packinghouse, Chiappetti Lamb and Veal, which after 51 years of business is the last remaining slaughterhouse in the Chicago Stockyards.
Born of European parents – his father Italian, his mother French – Chiappetti grew up in a household obsessed with food. Early on he absorbed a wealth of old world culinary values; the best of which Chiappetti believes is the greatness of simple food that satisfies the soul. He also learned that “a warm atmosphere, friendship and conviviality are just as important as the rest of your ingredients.”
Firmly grounded from childhood in the fundamentals of southern European fare, especially that of Provence, Chiappetti forged his own unique style of coking with a mixture of formal training and hands-on experience. After attending the Culinary School at Kendall College, he worked under a series of impressive mentors, among them Chef Fernand Gutierrez at the Ritz-Carlton Chicago’s The Dining Room and Chef Paul Bartolotta at Spiaggia. Chiappetti’s talent allowed for the opportunity to represent the U.S. in the Bocuse d’Or, one of Europe’s most prestigious food competitions.
In 1997, he was nominated for the James Beard Foundation’s Rising Star Chef Award, in addition to being named Wine Spectator’s Rising Star Chef. Also to his credit, Chiappetti served on the Board of Trustees for Kendall College and the Board of Directors for the American Institute of Wine & Food, founded by Julia Child. Despite his busy schedule, Chiappetti was also able to cook for the prestigious Cunard Liner, Queen Elizabeth 2 and served as a member of the Cunard Club.
As a chef and entrepreneur, Chiappetti went on to blaze his own trail, opening a string of successful, highly acclaimed restaurants. Mango, an American bistro, garnered three stars from the Chicago Tribune, Chicago magazine and Chicago Sun-Times, rocketing Chiappetti to the center of Chicago’s culinary scene. Chiappetti also received national acclaim from The New York Times, USA Today and Food & Wine.
Next, Chiappetti opened Grapes, a three-star Mediterranean café and funky, neighborhood place with a colorful dining room. Chiappetti later joined forces with the Chicago Symphony to open Rhapsody, a three-star contemporary American bistro. Chiappetti then consulted on the Freehling Room, the private donor’s club at Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Il. Before moving on to Café le Coq, a French bistro in Oak Park, IL. Chiappetti and his wife, Leslie, also opened the Banana Bakery and the Monkey Fudge Factory in Westchester, IL. Chiappetti went on the develop a line of gourmet products, Edible World, including custom spice blends for the home cook and a selection of sweet temptations.
A ‘Today Show’ regular and a repeat Disney Food & Wine Festival chef, Chiappetti says the essence of good cooking always has simplicity at its center. “To me, any food worth eating is in some way comfort food!” he says.
Since Viand, Chiappetti has gone on to a whirlwind journey throughout Europe to adapt new methods and flavors to his cooking arsenal. There, he gained proficiency in sous vide cooking, imparting seasoning and spice to a careful and precise technique.
Today, Chiappetti is utilizing his talent and knowledge through the development of a fresh farm approach at Chicago’s J. Rocco Italian Table & Bar.