By Anna Lothson
There's an entire television network dedicated to it, and Americans are obsessed.
The four-letter word (food) has got the country in a frenzy to find the next top chef, the quickest meal and the most unique fare.
Here in Oak Park, the food craze is growing and Daniel Vogel, a chef and resident, is hoping to cultivate the phenomenon by rejuvenating the spot that recently housed The Perfect Dinner, turning it into a catering company of his own.
Vogel plans to bring Food Obsession to the space at 809 South Blvd. sometime in February. He also has a long-term vision of starting a culinary school to Oak Park. In the meantime, he's making plans to open the kitchen at Food Obsession for cooking classes.
"What we want to do is fill this void where you've got these traditional lower-end mom and pa, and higher-end catering," Vogel said. "We want to be able to provide that high-end service at a more reasonable cost."
Vogel comes with classical French cuisine training and has worked for Blue Plate Catering and Phil Stefani Signature restaurants. His focus is on quality of food in the "farm-to-table" manner that he learned growing up in Iowa.
As a 12-year-old kid, instead of rushing home for cookies and chips after school, he would craft homemade pasta with his own pasta maker. He thought of going to medical school until his dad showed him a culinary school pamphlet.
"That whole farm-to-table [philosophy] is very near and dear to my heart," Vogel said. "We do all we can in the Midwest to have this. I think it's just a really nice way to reconnect with food."
Midwest weather can prove challenging for this philosophy, but he's got connections with farmers in many states to help him achieve this goal.
Vogel put himself through culinary school and trained with some of the world's finest chefs, including certified master chef Roland Henin, Wolfgang Puck, Nobu Matsuhisa's Hubert Keller, Michael Mina and Jim Anile. Through this he learned to look at food on a global scale.
At Blue Plate he was accustomed to putting out 600 servings at an off-site event. That's not the trend anymore, but it's a tradition the Midwest farm boy would like to bring back.
"Before it was cool to do farm-to-table, we were doing farm-to-table just to get by," he said.
He thinks the biggest problem in most catering companies is that they don't cook onsite, which dramatically affects the quality of food. Food Obsession, however, will cook as much as possible onsite. He will also offer a small number of pick-up dinners.
"It's never the same," he said, which is the main reason he enjoys the industry. "The challenge of putting out high-quality food when you transport everything is always there. We are trying to raise the level of expectation when it comes to catered events."
He's also hoping to raise people's ability to cook, including kids, with classes in his kitchen. Food Obsession is more than a catering business, he said, describing it as a culinary resource.
"We want to be a resource in the community — anything we can teach people," he said. "The more we teach, the better we are as a person. … It's going to be a continually evolving thing."
To learn more about the new establishment, visit foodobsession.net.