Q & A with Chef Joseph Flamm '04

Photo: Bravo/Tommy GarciaJoseph Flamm, a 2004 Marist High School graduate, is among 15 contestants that will compete in the upcoming season of Bravo’s “Top Chef.”

Flamm took time to discuss his career ahead of the season 15 premiere, which is set for Dec. 7. He is the only Chicago-based chef participating in the televised cooking competition.

Flamm was raised in St. Denis Parish in Ashburn and moved to Beverly shortly after enrolling at Marist. He now lives in Humboldt Park and works at Spiaggia and Café Spiaggia at 980 N. Michigan Ave. on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile.

What made you want to become a chef? “Spending time with my grandmother is what made me fall in love with cooking. We would make raviolis for the holidays and pizzas on Christmas Eve.”

What made you think to go into the restaurant business? “I had a job at a restaurant called Joe Daniels (in Palos Heights). I fell in love with it. I would bus tables. I would wash dishes. I would make pizza. I would barback. I would even work the door if I was the biggest guy working that night. Whatever they needed.”

What was it like being a “Top Chef” contestant? “It was an incredible experience. There is nothing like it. There is nothing that prepares you for it. It is incredibly hard. But the people you get to meet, and the places you get to go are all so unreal. It provides so many opportunities that you would just never get otherwise.”

How did your Chicago upbringing help you in the competition? “Chicagoans, we are used to working with what we have got. You go to a farmer’s market in Santa Monica in November, they have the most beautiful tomatoes you have ever seen. In Chicago, we get tomatoes for nine weeks if we are lucky. And we are like, ‘Oh my God, this is the greatest thing that ever happened.’”

What do you think stands out most about the South Side in terms of its culinary traditions? “There is no bad pizza on the South Side. The worst pizza place on the South Side would still be the best pizza place in any other city on the planet… besides maybe Naples.”

You were also a part of Chef Stephanie Izard’s team for a 2012 episode of “Iron Chef America.” How is “Top Chef” different? “’Iron Chef’ was just one day. With ‘Top Chef,’ you are just cut off from the world. Your whole life is on the show.”

Do have any memories about Marist that really stand out? “We got thrown out of lunch our senior year - our whole table. We had to eat in the auditorium with the dean. He got really mad at me and said, ‘You know what the sad thing is Flamm? You are going to spend your whole life flipping burgers.’ The crazy thing is, he wasn’t that far off and it has turned out to be the best thing.”

Photo Credit: Bravo/Tommy Garcia


This article was written by Howard Ludwig, a media specialist in Chicago. He can be reached at howardaludwig@yahoo.com.