Nina Barrett

After 20 years as a practicing journalist and author, in 2006 I decided to pursue an old passion and go to culinary school. By 2007 I had a professional chef’s degree from Le Cordon Bleu School of Culinary Arts (formerly CHIC) in Chicago, and then I worked for a while in a couple of professional kitchens and the wine department of a gourmet market, trying to get the real-world experience I felt I needed in order to open my own place. But the economy just kept sliding toward disaster, and instead I found myself picking up an audio recorder and microphone and starting to contribute creative food features to WBEZ’s “Eight-Forty-Eight” show.

In 2010 I got my first James Beard Foundation Award nomination, and in 2012 I was the only member of the Chicago media to actually win the award in my category, Radio/Web broadcast, for a six-part series I did called “Fear of Frying.” I often take a playful approach to food, like the time I questioned why nobody ever DOES bring you figgy pudding, despite how fabulous the Christmas carol insists that it is, or why the Haggadah doesn’t answer the Four Questions of how to make Passover brisket actually taste like something you might choose to eat on any other night. My stories have featured lots of “regular folks”—like the time I held a Meatloaf Dinner Party and invited guests to bring along their Ancestral Meatloaf, or the time I challenged all my neighbors to go to the Farmer’s Market, pick out one fruit or vegetable they knew nothing about, and bring it along to a pot-luck dinner party that night. I’ve also featured prominent Chicago chefs and food personalities including Gale Gand (on pie crust), Bruce Sherman (on rabbit), Nancy Brussat (on polenta), and Ina Pinkney (on chicken fat). In 2013, I won the Beard for the second time in a row for stories in which I traveled to Monroe, Wisconsin for a close encounter with Limburger cheese, and covered the activities of women butchers from all across the country who converged in rural Illinois for “Grrls’ Meat Camp.”

You can find most of the stories archived at the WBEZ website.