Chef Beverly Kim Clark was recently named the chef de cuisine for aria restaurant, aria bar and eno wine room at the Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park, and considering her background it’s no surprise.
Clark has worked as a line cook for the Ritz-Carlton Chicago, and at Charlie Trotter’s.
After graduating from Kendall College in Chicago with an associate degree in culinary arts, Clark worked at three of the city’s restaurants: Red Light under the notable Chef Jackie Shen, Opera and Takashi.
It was what happened next that was surprising. Clark’s next step on the career ladder took her to Cincinnati, Ohio, where she worked as a kitchen supervisor at Whole Foods and a consultant at Lucky John Market.
Restaurant Management talks to Clark about the two food fields she’s worked in—fine dining and grocery stores—and how the two are different—and similar.
Why did you choose to move into grocery stores?
At Whole Foods I was a kitchen supervisor. I chose this change in career paths for a while because I was pregnant, so I realized I needed to make a move. I was always intrigued and wanted to work for a company that believed in whole foods and natural and organic foods and farming, and promoted local farmers.
For me, it wasn’t just to help me through having my child and in the first year of his life, but I also grew a lot in understanding that other aspect of the food world. A lot of people—myself included—rely heavily on prepared foods but I’m interested in the ones that are not heavily processed, don’t include a lot of hormones, etc.
I also worked with my husband’s family at Lucky John Market, a market with a small restaurant in the back. I wanted to learn how a small business ran and I wanted to make an impact on my neighborhood.
We were bringing back the neighborhood grocery store and I feel that people want this. It was such a joy and it shows influences on my menu today in choosing local, seasonal ingredients.
What experience did you get at the two stores?
I was there for about two years. Lucky John’s was a really great experience for me. We went to a farm and hand picked our vegetables. It really gave me the satisfaction and the understanding of where our food comes from. You could tell the difference in quality like night and day.
We got cheeses from our local cheese maker. We sourced a Kentucky soy sauce. It’s the only small batch soy sauce I know of in the country—they age it in bourbon barrels and I’m working on getting it into the Fairmont.
It was primarily a vegetarian menu because we wanted to promote using more vegetables and trying to influence what’s happening in the food world, where you have more of a healthy choice, and the impact of eating less meat has on the environment.
At Whole Foods I learned how to prepare and create menus for hot bars and displays, keeping healthy options of cooking in mind.