Lardon (2200 N. California Ave.), Logan Square’s all-day cafe and salumeria, has achieved great success in an impressively short time. From elevating the 100-year-old space to new heights to recently being named a 2022 Michelin Bib Gourmand recipient, the restaurant has achieved a lot in its first year of business.
For partners Steve Lewis (owner) and Chris Thompson (executive chef), that success means an opportunity to give back to their community by doing what they do best: making killer sandwiches.
Yes, Chef! A Charity Sandwich Series began with Lardon inviting some of Chicago’s most acclaimed chefs to Lardon’s charming space for a stacked lineup of rotating sandwich specials throughout the summer, all for a great cause. A portion of the proceeds from each sandwich will sponsor a one-week summer culinary camp for a CPS student at Yes, Chef! Culinary Camp by the Foundation for Culinary Arts (formerly Kendall College Trust).
“For us, giving back to our community has always been integral to our business mission,” Thompson said. “We came up with this idea as a perfect confluence of having fun creating new sandwiches our team and customers can be excited about, while also supporting a cause near and dear to our hearts.”
Yes, Chef Paves Way For Culinary Careers
The Yes, Chef mission is to provide portable life skills and provide a viable career track for economically disadvantaged CPS high school students who are in their formative years. The program is designed to broaden campers’ horizons in culinary culture and community.
For Thompson, that mission hits home. Coming from a difficult upbringing, Thompson grew up seeing his peers get the tools and opportunities to forge a career that he himself had to create on his own.
“Now that I can proudly call myself a self-made business owner, I want to provide those opportunities I had to seek out the hard way,” Thompson said.
Lewis similarly sees Yes, Chef as a unique opportunity for kids who may normally never have access to this level of instruction and guidance.
“This opportunity will give the kids we sponsor a chance to get their foot in the door of this industry instead of trying to get in from somewhere like McDonald’s,” Lewis said. “Not only that, it’ll give them the foundation to be able to cook healthy meals at home and provide for their families instead of falling into the fast food trap many kids do.”
Through the sponsorship, Lardon will provide campers with culinary instruction, field trip materials, equipment kits, uniforms, textbooks and instructional materials, access to supplemental instructional recordings, food supplies, and performance prizes throughout the camp.
Lardon Invites Top Chicago Chefs To Collaborate
Thompson and Lewis said they knew that to make this series successful, they’d have to partner with some of Chicago’s most acclaimed and exciting chefs. Fortunately, thanks to their commitment to Chicago’s industry and community, they had a bevy of potential partners.
“Finding chefs to work with on this was the easy part,” Lewis said. “There are so many charitable chefs we know in Chicago, so we knew they’d be eager for a new way to give back.”
First up in the rotating Yes, Chef sandwich series is another of Chicago’s meat and charcuterie kings, Rob Levitt of Publican Quality Meats (PQM). For the series kickoff, Levitt and Thompson knew they had to come out swinging and so decided to revive an iconic Chicago sandwich, the PQM Chicken Parm 3.0.
Now that the famous sandwich has exited the PQM menu, the duo knew it would kick off the charity series on a high note, they said. Thompson will be adding his own touch to the sandwich in the form of a new marinara that “tastes like Grandma would make”.
“You’d expect two establishments like ours to do some sort of 10-layer salami bomb,” Thompson said. “We’re looking forward to offering something unexpected you wouldn’t normally find at Lardon.”
June will bring Frontier and Ina Mae owner Brian Jupiter and his “Bad-Ass Southern Style Ham Sandwich.” In July, Thai Dang of Vietnamese hot spot HaiSous will whip up his take on the classic bánh mì sandwich.
For the finale in August, Dana Cree of Logan Square’s own Pretty Cool Ice Cream (2353 N. California Ave.) will create weekly rotating ice cream flavors. These will come lovingly sandwiched between two cookies baked in house at Lardon, a perfect way to cap off the hot Chicago summer.
Great Sandwiches For A Great Cause
Those looking to get their hands on these incredible sandwiches can do so by booking a lunchtime reservation or ordering takeout directly through Lardon’s website.
You can also find more information about the Yes, Chef! Culinary Camp on the Kendall College Trust website.
This is only the first of many charitable events and pop-ups that Thompson and Lewis will spearhead at Lardon. The pair said they understand the importance of supporting their community and are grateful for the success they’ve found in Logan Square.
“We hope this is just the tip of the iceberg for charity events here at Lardon,” Thompson said. “We’re always thinking of new ways we can help our community.”
Featured photo: Shelby Lester