Now that word is out on Joe Flamm’s Top Chef victory, he finds himself with about 2.7 million new friends. “People come up to me on the street and say ‘Thanks for bringing it home,’” Flamm says. The South Sider embodies the sweet home Chicago mindset; he earned his culinary stripes at bellyQ and Girl & the Goat, among others, before arriving at Spiaggia in 2014 and then becoming executive chef under chef-partner Tony Mantuano. While Flamm had been largely focused on bold, over-the-top flavors, Mantuano wanted finesse. “Italian food is really about restraint and simplicity. You can’t just keep throwing things at it,” Flamm says. Having Mantuano as his mentor provided not only a teacher and sounding board, but a devoted friend. “He did everything he’s wanted to do and still not compromised who he is and what’s important in his life,” Flamm says. And while Flamm looks forward to following in Mantuano’s footsteps with his own restaurant someday, he’s content for now to be back at Spiaggia after the show. “I’m just riding this huge wave and enjoying my time,” he says. “Everybody feels like we brought this win home together, and that’s an awesome feeling.”
Favorite restaurant of the moment Cafe Marie-Jeanne. I probably go there once a week.
Favorite comfort food I always go back to Italian sausage and rigatoni. It always reminds me of growing up. I swear, my mom’s house always smells like Italian sausage.
Best advice you’ve gotten Bill Kim once told me something Charlie Trotter told him: In 20 years, nobody remembers the food you put out. It’s the people, that’s the important thing. That’s why Charlie was so famous; he produced so many great chefs.