The inimitable Ina Pinkney of Ina's, 1235 W. Randolph, is one of three chefs up for a Golden Bowl Award from the culinary organization Women Chefs and Restaurateurs. The award, to be presented in Washington D.C. this weekend, recognizes excellence in baking and pastry arts.
While the nomination alone makes her giddy, here's what really tickles Pinkney: She and 20 fellow female chefs will get a tour of the White House kitchen Sunday from White House commander-in-chef Cris Comerford, she says.
"I'm going to call David Axelrod," Pinkney says. "He was a regular here [at her restaurant, Ina's], as was Rahm Emanuel and Valeria Jarrett. So I'm going to see if David's working and see if I can get a glimpse of the West Wing!"
She says this with a laugh, but she's serious. And don't think she doesn't have pull.
In 2007, the Wall Street Journal named her West Loop restaurant one of the nation's top power breakfast spots. Pinkney says that's because she never feeds the press tidbits on her powerful dining guests and because "it's very, very quiet and the tables are far apart. The deals get done."
Daley eats there. Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda have eaten there. Judy Baar Topinka just announced her candidacy for state comptroller there Sunday, with a photo in our paper to boot. ("Republicans don't tip as well, but they're still welcome here," Pinkney had to explain to a Democratic friend who groused about this to her.)
Some of you also may remember that Pinkney ran for mayor in 2007.
Ok, so she kind of did it cheekily at the suggestion of a regular customer, after Jesse Jackson Jr. and Luis Gutierrez dropped out. In her monthly newsletter mailed out to customers in December of that year, she offered up a list of city departments she would create if elected (our favorite: the Dept. of Snacks and Morale).
It was after a call from one alderman, a visit from another and a call from Daley's chief of staff that she realized, "they had no sense of humor whatsoever" -- and formally threw her toque in the ring as a write-in candidate.
Pinkney got 2,302 votes. "And three unannounced inspections from the city that day."
"Even now, it makes me laugh," she says.
You know, Ina, 2011 is coming up fast.
Oh, she knows. "And I keep saying, 'You never know,' " she says.