An interview with the Chicago culinary icon
conducted by award-winning foodwriter and publisher
The following information appeared in The Chicago Food Encyclopedia, University of Illinois Press, 2017, and was authored by Barbara Revsine.
Gordon Sinclair was working in public relations when a psychic predicted he would become a famous restaurateur. After working part-time as a maître d’ to see whether he liked it, he opened his flagship restaurant Gordon in 1976. While Sinclair’s forte was the front of the house, he was a keen judge of culinary talent. Every chef who ever worked for him, beginning with Norman Van Aken and including Michael Kornick, Michael Foley, Carrier Nahabedian, and Charlie Trotter, turned in a bravura performance. His restaurant raised the standard for Chicago dining and became a showcase of contemporary American cuisine.
Sinclair also was an urban pioneer. Choosing to open his first restaurant on the 500 block of North Clark Street when the area was littered with derelicts and seedy bars helped to jump-start the trend-setting neighborhood’s gentrification.
Gordon’s clientele was a worldly as they were food savvy. They smiled at the salacious artwork in the restrooms, appreciated the avant-garde option of ordering half portions of select dishes, cheered the groundbreaking ban on cell phones, and displayed an endless appetite for the restaurant’s flourless chocolate cake and artichoke fritters. He closed the restaurant and retired in 1993.
* * * *
Michael Gebert is one of Chicago’s leading food writers and food media professionals. He is editor and publisher of Fooditor, which won a Peter Lisagor Award for Best Independent Blog in 2019, and has written for the Chicago Reader, Chicago magazine, Plate, First We Feast, and other publications. As video producer for the Reader’s Key Ingredient chef challenge series, he won a James Beard Award in 2011 and has been nominated two other times for his video work. He is currently working on an oral history of Chicago restaurants for Agate Publishing.
* * * *
Wednesday January 13, 2021
If you are not already on our email list, then to receive zoom link, please e-mail: Culinary.Historians@gmail.com