Sometime last summer Jennifer Kim told me she was keenly interested in collaborating with Nariba Shepherd for a proposed Monday Night Foodball, the Reader’s ongoing weekly guest chef pop-up series at the Kedzie Inn in Irving Park.
Kim, of course, is the ex-Passerotto chef who emerged amid the pandemic as the driving force behind Alteconomy, throwing a wildly divergent and collaborative series of pop-ups throughout the pandemic, but also disseminating resources to empower hospitality workers typically excluded from the upper echelons of the industry. And Shepherd, aka Trini Zaddy, a member of the Snackette collective known for her Trinidadian chutneys and pepper sauces, is also the cohost of the Terms of Service podcast shedding “light on the human costs of the hospitality experience.”
This was sometime around the Alteconomy pop-up staged at sunset atop Horner Park hill, a veritable loya jirga of DIY pandemic pivots, many of whom would go on to play their own Foodballs when we started up a month later. Shepherd’s salted cod salad, fried float bread, and mango chow with searing pepper sauce have haunted me ever since.
Given MNF’s overwhelming focus on novel, nimble, often virtual endruns around the traditional restaurant economy, I can’t think of two better chefs to headline our 2021 finale. Who but these two could imagine and execute an Afro Caribbean-Korean mashup that includes Catalpa Grove Farms lamb curry with chewy handrolled Korean rice cakes, cucumber chutney, and pepper sauce; or a straightforward version of the Trini split pea fritter pholourie with the refreshing acidic bite of water kimchi? Or a Korean fried chicken thigh lashed with stinging habanero-fueled Zaddy Sauce?
They’re making history, baby. “We’ve never seen Afro Caribbean-Korean food like this,” says Kim. “You’d never think there’d be that many bridges to connect in that conversation, so it’s really exciting to explore that, but also pay homage to two very unique cuisines.”
Kim is taking preorders right now via her Alteconomy site, but as always, walk-ins are welcome. It starts at 5 PM this Monday, December 13, at 4100 N. Kedzie. Order a crisp refreshing Hite lager (make a soju bomb), and say hello to Jon Pokorny at the bar.
Meanwhile, keep your eyes open for a fresh chef lineup for season 2 of Monday Night Foodball, which will pick up again early next year.