Country Chef in the City

Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants

At Chicago’s popular Sable Kitchen & Bar, Chef Terhune centers plates on local products and Midwestern farms.

It’s not easy, turning a hotel restaurant into a local one. But that’s the vision—and effect—of Heather Terhune, executive chef of Sable Kitchen & Bar at the Hotel Palomar in Chicago.

In fact, of the $8 million Sable Kitchen & Bar collects in revenues each year, Chef Terhune says the bulk comes from city dwellers looking for local food and hand-crafted cocktails, while breakfast draws the larger hotel crowds.

The reason? Chef Terhune thinks it stems from Kimpton Hotels’ chef-driven approach and her own dedication to showcasing Midwestern farms and food.

A Vermont native who grew up in a rural setting, Chef Terhune has spent a considerable amount of her time during Sable’s four-year existence working to forge relationships with farmers across Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, as well as other local producers.

Her dedication to Midwestern farmers began 16 years ago as a pastry chef new to Chicago. Even more opportunities to look local and work with farmers in that region emerged when, a year later, she joined Kimpton Hotels as executive chef of Atwood Café, in downtown Chicago’s Hotel Burnham. She was just 28 years old at the time, and the boutique hotel group operated 60 units with 65 restaurants.

“I’ve always learned from other chefs who pulled from local resources, and I don’t buy a lot of imported items,” says Chef Terhune. “All my friends growing up worked on their farms before and after school—that was your job. I always respected that, and so knowing where food comes from and what I’m serving my customers is so important to me.”

Now, to handle the high volumes at Hotel Palomar’s Sable, Chef Terhune receives deliveries from farmers twice a week. On other days, she’ll peruse Green City Market, Chicago’s largest, sustainable farmers’ market, often conducting cooking demos for shoppers there.

Farmers now come to her for guidance on what to plant. “Peter Klein of Seedling Farms showed me his fruit and seed catalogues before the season last year and asked what I wanted him to grow,” says Chef Terhune. “I was really blown away by how cool and smart that was, and now other farmers are doing the same thing.”

As a Vermont maple syrup devotee, she found it exciting to meet Tim Burton of Burton’s Maplewood Farm, who introduced his Illinois-based product. Four years later, she’s gone through gallons of the “liquid amber,” serving it at breakfast with pancakes and making glazes, dressings, and marinades—even homemade bacon—with the find.


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