Lonnie Liming took over in late April as executive chef at prasino in downtown La Grange. Liming grew up in Ohio, but spent the past nine years in San Francisco where he witnessed (and participated in) the local and organic food movement that is dominating the West Coast. After returning to the Midwest, Liming couldn’t pass up a chance to help plant the food culture he so strongly believes in a little closer to home.
Suburban Life: How is the local and organic food movement developing?
Lonnie Liming: It's getting a whole lot bigger and a whole lot better. The California valley can pretty much provide what you want for 10 months a year, so it's easier to do [there], of course. There are farmers 10 miles down the road. You can go and pick your beats out of the ground if you want to. It's a little more difficult to do in the Midwest. It's a little more expensive. But the movement is starting to catch on.
SL: Why are you excited about coming to prasino?
LL: I like the direction that [the owner] is taking. I feel pretty blessed to be working with people like this who do know food and know how to cook it well … The west coast does it, and there's nobody else anywhere else that's doing it [as well]. You pretty much can't have a restaurant without having that approach in California ...
And finally I'm with a family that wants to do it [here] … It's a choice the world needs to make and is going to make. People are starting to [understand] that what we’re doing to the food is hurting us.
SL: What have you learned about La Grange so far?
LL: It just seems really relaxed. I don't know how to explain it. People come here and enjoy this place for what it is and want to be a part of it. Whereas when you go to a downtown place, it's a different vibe.
SL: How would you describe the atmosphere at prasino?
LL: We have a certain clientele that likes to sit and have a great lunch. I want to provide lunch items and breakfast items that appeal to our neighborhood person, our stay-at-home parent that comes in and stays and visits with their kids. And [also to] the business people who come in and want to enjoy lunch … During the week and during the day, we're a family place. And on the weekends, we definitely have a date night crowd of people who come in and really enjoy themselves and have some cocktails and some appetizers. There's no stuffiness to it.
SL: Are there foods that you can’t get locally?
LL: There's not an herb that I can't find that's affordable and organic. Mushrooms are looking nice right now. Any type of summer vegetable that you can imagine … baby squash, baby carrots, any type of sprouting vegetable, everything's looking really good. In terms of the fruits, I try and save [most of] the fruits for when it makes sense. Right now, it's summer time. It's melon and berries. That's what summer means to me. You can't grow it any other time in your backyard. That's what I enjoy doing.
SL: Anything else you want to add?
LL: I could talk about food forever. I really could … The only time I really shut up is when I walk into the kitchen and start cooking. I could talk about cooking all day.