By: Dinko Cirkic
We are proud to have another great chef join us here on Cheap Eat$ for College Peeps. Chef Bruno Mondello, from Chicago, who has been involved with food since he was a child. Bruno is a proud Italian-American who knows his culture’s dishes like the back of his hand, but his skills don’t just rest there Bruno knows a thing or two about your culture’s cuisines as well.
Dinko: Bruno, where did the love of food resonate for you?
Bruno: My love of food began as a child growing up with authentic Italian cooking since my father immigrated to America. He prepared the cuisine that he grew up on and his passion for cooking was infectious.
D: Tell us a little bit about your schooling and professional background?
B: I have attended the Illinois Institute of Art and completed half of my culinary degree prior to transferring to Kendall College, which I will graduate in Jan 2011. I have worked in the food and beverage industry, mostly as a bartender, for nearly 18 years prior to changing focus to follow my passion in culinary. I have worked at JEM Café as Nighttime Head Chef prior to arriving at Whole Foods Market, which I have helped out in bakery, prep foods, seafood, and worked in both customer service and the meat department.
D: What is your specialty in the culinary arts?
B: My culinary specialty is International cuisine. I believe there are incredible dishes in every culture and I pride myself on being able to cook a wide range from Indian, Moroccan, French, Regional Italian, Sicilian, German, Asian (Korean, Japanese, Thai, Chinese – Mandarin, Cantonese, Szechwan, American contemporary, Cajun, Latin American – Puerto Rican, Regional Mexican, Cuban, Jamaican, Argentinean, Brazilian, Greek, Mediterranean, etc.) to name a few. I also work in baking and pastry, and garde manger.
D: What is your favorite cuisine? What other cultural culinary cuisines are you fond of and would like to master?
B: My favorite cuisine is Moroccan and Mediterranean. I would like to learn more about and master Middle Eastern cuisine.
D: What is your role at Potbelly‘s? Our blog is centered on “Cheap Eats for College Peeps” are there any great deals at Potbelly’s that you would recommend?
B: I am completing my internship at Potbelly in their management-training program while working at Whole Foods. Potbelly does have affordable eats our food is very high quality and priced reasonable with our regular sandwiches priced at $4.50, Big’s sandwiches which at 30% larger and more of what you love priced at $5.50, hand dipped shakes and smoothies made with real frozen yogurt or ice cream at $2.69.
D: What’s your favorite cheap eats place in Chicago?
B: One of my favorite cheap eats in Chicago is the Taco and Burrito House, 3939 N. Broadway in Lakeview. I have been going there since the 80’s for inexpensive Mexican food that is incredible and worth the visit.
D: What is one meal you would recommend a student being able to cook up under $20?
B: For an inexpensive tasty meal I recommend is Spaghetti Carbonara (Poor Man’s Spaghetti).
2-3 cloves of garlic (minced)
½ box to a box of spaghetti or angel hair pasta
2-3 Tbs. Butter
2-3 strips of Bacon
Dash fresh ground Pepper
¼ cup of Fresh Grated Cheese (Parmesan, Romano, Asiago)
Cook the bacon until crispy and set on paper towels to drain and set aside. Bring to boil, lightly salted water in a pot and add pasta when boiling point is reached. Cook pasta until al dente and strain in a colander, reserve a Tbs. of pasta water. In another pot sauté the minced garlic in butter until a light brown then add the pasta, more butter, bacon crumbled up in pieces, grated cheese, and then black pepper. Stir continuously while on low heat for a couple minutes, until all the flavors are incorporated. You may add any combination of the cheeses mentioned above. A variation on the recipe would be to add peas at the end, frozen peas are perfect, approx. ¼ cup.
D: Do you prefer catering over being a house chef?
B: I enjoy catering events up to 75 people, being a personal chef, and of course restaurant cooking. Basically as long as I am cooking I am happy, food is the international language and a symbol of hospitality/culture. I share the same passion of my father and enjoy sharing my gift with people and making them happy.
D: I noticed you were a member of the American Culinary Federation and the National Restaurant Association. What are some special perks associated with those fine groups?
B: The American Culinary Federation (AFC) s responsible for the prestigious culinary accreditation such as master chef, certified executive chef etc. The AFC and National Restaurant Association (NRA) have both provided opportunities to network within the industry and stay on top of trends.
D: Thank you Bruno.
B: It was my pleasure. Peace and Dishes.
There you have it Cheap Eat$ Peeps another great Chicago chef taking time out of his busy schedule to talk food. I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Mr. Mondello. So, to recap, this man can do it all. I hope you guys take a look at that recipe and make it your own at home. Next time I’ll as Bruno to hook us up with some crazy alcohol concoctions. Well, like always leave some love for us here at Cheap Eat$ for College Peeps you know we love hearing from you guys and like Bruno said, “Peace and Dishes.”