Chef Paul Fehribach showcases the Midwest's culinary diversity through 100 recipes

The chef-owner of Chicago’s Big Jones tells many stories behind an often overlooked cuisine in “Midwestern Food,” a new narrative cookbook.

Paul Fehribach, chef-owner of Big Jones in Chicago, has operated a popular Southern restaurant since 2008, but he has always been enamored by Midwestern food.

His roots are in Indiana, where German culinary traditions and farm-fresh ingredients defined meals. But the story behind the scope and diversity of Midwest cuisine has never been told.

Paul Fehribach
Chef Paul Fehribach

Fehribach sets out to change that through “Midwestern Food,” a narrative cookbook many years in the making, published this month by University of Chicago Press. Through 100 recipes and their stories, he describes the evolution of the cuisine, incorporating rural, urban and regional specialties. Fried chicken, sausages and cheese curds are all part of the mix, but so are the five pizza styles that are solidly Midwestern, as well as tamales and barbecue. All are touchstones of the Midwest identity.

Listen as Fehribach describes how Big Jones led the way in educating Chicago diners about Southern food and how he’s now on a mission to dispel misconceptions about Midwestern cuisine by relating the fascinating stories behind it.

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