Thanks to Greg Gaardbo, Owner of Chicago Culinary Kitchen, the people of Palatine, Ill., don’t have to travel to Texas for authentic barbecue. Those with a hankering for delicious pulled pork, ribs, brisket and more barbecue favorites have the option of visiting their restaurant or find their food truck out and about. Gaardbo explains CCK’s journey from a small commissary kitchen to opening a new, larger location.
1. What inspired you to get into foodservice?
“We started in the backyard. Nobody is a trained chef; fake it until you make it. I know how to work, I know business, I have another business as well that we do printing and embroidery, and one thing led to another. I always had a passion for cooking. We traveled all around the world for beer and barbecue to check other places out. We went all over to see things, taste things, compare things; we educated ourselves by doing that.”
2. What do you love about your business?
“The creativity and making people happy. Our restaurant—pre-Covid—it was a freakin’ party. We’re only open two days a week, Saturday and Sunday. From 11am to 2pm, people are waiting to get in. It could be anywhere from 30, 50 to 100 people waiting outside to get in. Our main menu never changes, it’s always the same: pulled pork, chicken, your typical barbecue stuff for the most part. But what changes is our weekly specials. I go from Mexican to Korean; we do a lot of fusion. We take Texas barbecue and fuse it with whatever cuisine I’m interested in that week.”
3. What’s the most interesting/oddest/coolest thing to happen to your business?
“When we first started out, just because of our uniqueness, we had a lot of people interested in us. Our first one was Man Fire Food. We were big fans of watching that program and then they called us and they did an episode with us, that was pretty awesome. We did Big Bad BBQ Brawl; we’ve been on local news shows and we’ve been on our local food network. Those things help tremendously along the way.”
4. What was the biggest business challenge you overcame?
“That’s easy—the ‘VID’! We diversified. We are currently building a new location within the same village. We would bring the food truck there and we basically had an outside party every Thursday night. We’d sell out in a couple hours out of the food truck. That was something to help offset our income. We do weekly pickups of fun stuff. This weekend we have a taco pickup, it’s all set for you. You pick it up hot and you get to go home and eat it.”
5. What Cambro products help make your business work?
“We have a bunch of UPCH400 units, those are great to travel with, especially if we don’t have power on board. Let’s say I need to hold extra stuff on the food truck warm. I can put it in there, plug it in the food truck and then take it out of the food truck and it just sits outside in the back of the truck. It gives me another cabinet to hold things in. The Cambro works great for that.”
“It’s the diversity of that cabinet that really helps tremendously and the fact that it has that heated element that will hold. Especially when you start putting your hot foods in there and you plug that in ahead of time, then it helps to maintain all that heat that’s in there. You can go for hours and everything is still sitting at temp in there, especially if you don’t open it. You keep that baby closed until you actually need it and you’re good.”
Links for Chicago Culinary Kitchen
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: ADRIANA DESIDERIO IS THE DIGITAL CONTENT MANAGER AT CAMBRO.