Orland Park man developing Moo & Oink products
By Mike Nolan firstname.lastname@example.org August 3, 2012 8:06PM
Updated: September 6, 2012 6:14AM
Bringing innovation to the backyard barbecue is a new item on the menu for an Orland Park man.
Mychael Bonner, whose interest in food and cooking started when he was a high school student in Indiana, recently was named corporate brand chef for Moo & Oink LLC.
Along with helping develop new products — he’s begun work on a dry rub that can be used on meat, chicken or fish — and improving existing ones, Bonner will represent the brand at community events, according to Best Chicago Meat LLC, which bought the Moo & Oink brand out of bankruptcy in December.
“It seems like a really good fit,” Bonner said. “Moo & Oink is a Chicago brand that is well known, and this will help reintroduce Moo & Oink to the market.”
Still, Bonner will continue devoting most of his time to his other employer.
“Lettuce is in my blood,” he said.
He wasn’t referring to the veggie but rather Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants, where he’s a partner and executive chef at four of the company’s restaurants in the Chicago area — Di Pescara in Northbrook, Petterino’s in Chicago, Reel Club in Oak Brook and Saranello’s in Wheeling.
“The responsibilities I have with the restaurants I’m involved with doesn’t change,” Bonner said.
Last year’s bankruptcy of the Moo & Oink grocery stores brought an abrupt halt to the retail availability of the company’s products. However, Best Chicago Meat said Moo & Oink rib tips, burgers, hot links and barbecue sauce are now available at more than 250 Chicago-area grocery stores.
Best Chicago Meat’s other brands include Glenmark, Jemm Burger and David’s Kosher. In bringing on Bonner, the company said the longtime chef “excels at quality and reliability.”
“This is an important step to re-establishing the brand with an unparalleled level of excellence and originality,” Dave Van Kampen, Best Chicago Meat’s president and chief operating officer, said in a news release.
Bonner said he began cooking when he was a high school student in Muncie, Ind. — influenced by his mother and grandmother, both of whom worked as cooks at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis.
“They did not want me to be a professional cook,” he said. “But once they realized I was good at it and enjoyed it as much as I did, they fully supported me.”
Bonner studied at the Culinary Institute of Chicago and later worked as a sous chef at The Signature Room at the John Hancock Center.
In 1992, he joined Lettuce and the following year became vice president of culinary operations for Maggiano’s Little Italy, opening 36 Maggiano’s restaurants around the country. In 1997, Lettuce sold Maggiano’s to Brinker International, which also operates Chili’s.