Fine dining and Converse sneakers aren’t typically found in the same sentence, let alone at the same restaurant—but chef Graham Elliot “Geb” Bowles isn’t a typical kind of guy. After cooking around the country, Bowles moved to Chicago to work with Charlie Trotter, and following an award-winning stint at Avenues at The Peninsula Chicago (where he was named the country’s youngest four-star chef and the restaurant itself earned the coveted AAA Five Diamond Award), Bowles opened his namesake eatery, Graham Elliot, in 2008. His casual, inventive take on fine American cuisine continues to turn heads and please palates, and this year the chef returns to Lollapalooza as culinary director, overseeing the music festival’s dining options. Here, a look at his past and his plans.
What inspired you to become a chef in the first place?
The freedom it allowed me to create and work with my hands.
What brought you to Chicago?
A job working in the kitchen of Charlie Trotter's restaurant.
And what made Chicago a great place to set up shop?
Having lived all over the world and the country, I can unequivocally say that there is no better place to live and work than the Windy City. The vibe, energy, people, lakefront museums, culture, savvy diners—can't beat it.
How would you describe your culinary style?
Contemporary, modernist, avant-garde.
What's your favorite food/dish?
If you weren't a chef, what would you be?
Politician [or] singer/guitarist in a band.
What are your plans for Lollapalooza?
I'm going to bring in some new restaurants, change the location of the food vendors, cut down on the number of outlets and focus more on quality than quantity.
List five things you'd want on a desert island.
My wife, my two sons, a guitar, pan and notebook.
What's next for you?
Grahamburger: a burger and wiener boutique. And Grahambulance, a foodie truck.