At the age of fifteen, Joseph Heppe began working in restaurants not knowing that his ultimate career goal would lead him to become the Executive Chef of River North’s newest restaurant concept, Untitled.
Growing up in a small town outside of Milwaukee, Heppe started cooking at local, fast casual restaurants. He studied at the University of Milwaukee, focusing on their English/Literature Program, but quickly gravitated to a job at a bar and grill on campus where he worked his way through the kitchen. Advancing from bar food to white linen fine dining at another establishment in Milwaukee, Heppe still thought after graduation he would go into the “English Degree” field. But, as luck would have it, he was offered a sous chef position with a company that was opening a new restaurant, Bjonda, where Heppe truly began his career as a chef. He soon became their Executive Chef as well as overseeing the restaurant’s off-site catering company, Gracious Catering.
In 2007, Heppe moved to Chicago to further his culinary career, landing a job at Vermilion, a high-end Indian-Latin restaurant on River North’s bustling Hubbard Street. Heppe began as a Sous Chef and soon advanced to Chef de Cuisine. It was here that he was able to expand his expertise in spices and blending cuisines by taking traditional Indian and Latin street food and preparing them in an upscale manner. Heppe traveled with Executive Chef Maneet Chauhan to Indonesia (Jaakarta and Singapore) to absorb in the culture and take part in food demonstrations and multi-course feasts with local chefs. There he showed chefs how to use American ingredients in ethnic cuisine and discussed Indian food preparations and cooking techniques used at Vermillion. While the Vermillion team was opening their second location in Manhattan, Heppe oversaw the Chicago kitchen. Heppe was also given the opportunity to travel to New York with Chef Chauhan where they competed on Food Network’s Iron Chef America against celebrity Chef Morimoto and hosted a James Beard "Chef's Night Out" during the 2009 James Beard Award Ceremony.
Heppe’s next move landed him the position as Sous Chef at Mercat ala Planxa, Iron Chef Jose Graces’ popular South Loop restaurant. There he focused on cuisine from Barcelona which was more specific than Spanish cuisine. Heppe became accustomed to using ingredients imported from Spain and created dishes from spectacular charcuterie platters to traditional Barcelona small plates. Heppe made sure to push the envelope in his dishes using modern techniques with modern technologies in the chef-driven restaurant. He especially enjoyed working alongside Chef Jose Garces on events and appearances for the Food Network, Iron Chef America and Gourmet Magazine. It was with this talented team that prepared Heppe for his next move and goal as a chef, Executive Chef at Untitled.
From the ground up, Heppe has watched the construction of Untitled, including the creation of a gorgeous kitchen where he and his team will soon take over. The cuisine at Untitled will exemplify American Contemporary with a nod to the spirits of the speakeasy and elements of dining during the prohibition era. Heppe most looks forward to working with the skilled, experienced and ambitious team and creating memorable experiences, the true goal of any restaurateur.
When Heppe isn’t tasting and testing food items at Untitled he is typically eating, traveling or snowboarding. His favorite meal is one that is rustic and regional and hopes to bring these elements and more to his new endeavor.