About the Creator
Suffering from anger issues, alcohol abuse, and a bout with depression, Michelin starred chef Phillip Foss (EL Ideas, Chicago) was faced with the sobering reality of his team staging a walkout. Using that as a wake up call - and through many hours of therapy and daily meditation - Chef Foss decided to piece his life back together. Life in EL, The Saga of the Immaculate Toque, is a tangible result of that process. Co-written and drawn by his cousin, Timothy Foss, the graphic novel examines the unsustainable nature of life as a chef, and calls out some dangerous, yet deeply indoctrinated, mantras of kitchen culture.
Chef Foss’s path to becoming a storyteller has been anything but ordinary. Hailing from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Foss graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York in 1991. From there he moved to New York City, where he spent the next eight years apprenticing in some of the finest kitchens of the era (Le Cirque, the Quilted Giraffe, Lafayette, Oceana). Wishing to fulfill a dream of cooking through Europe, Foss spent the majority of 1999 traveling with cooking stops in Holland, and most notably, a stagier with the legendary French chef, Jacques Maximin.
After returning to the States in 2000, Chef Foss moved to Chicago where he spent almost two years working as executive chef of Bistro Margot in Old Town. Disillusioned after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Chef Foss decided to leave Chicago as 2001 drew to a close. Little did he know it would be close to six years later before he would return to the continental United States.
These years would best be described as nomadic for the thirty year old chef, “This time was about experiencing life more than honing my craft... still, I worked everywhere and learned so much about how other people approach life.” he states. Summed up, Chef Foss spent 2002 in Brazil (Trapiche Adelaide in Salvador), 2002-2004 in Maui (Four Seasons in Wailea), 2004-2006 in Israel (King David Hotel in Jerusalem), and 2006-2007 in Bermuda (Fairmont Southampton Princess)
The current day odyssey for Chef Foss, began in 2007 when he was tapped to open Lockwood Restaurant in the legendary Palmer House in Chicago. While there, Foss made a name for himself with a focus on French cooking, but mostly for his oversized social media personality as chronicled on his blog (The Pickled Tongue). On this forum, Foss made waves by criticizing a food critic, renaming Asian carp as ‘Shanghai bass’ and selling it to unsuspecting restaurant guests, and spearheading the movement to reform Chicago’s archaic food truck laws with City Hall.
Riding this momentum, in 2010 Chef Foss became one of the very first chefs in Chicago to launch a food truck with the Meatyballs Mobile. After expanding to three food trucks, the business model flipped in 2011 when Foss conceived EL Ideas.
The most unlikely of Michelin-starred restaurants, ‘EL’ is located in the little known Chicago neighborhood of Douglas Park. Upon entering, guests encounter a setting not generally associated with restaurants serving elite cuisine. As there are no walls separating diners from chefs, interaction with the kitchen team throughout the meal is not only welcome, it is encouraged.
A collaborative culinary effort from Chef Foss and his team, the cuisine at EL is about as adventurous as the setting is unusual. Given the direct connection with the guests, the small team describes their creations through inspirations, stories, and even guest interaction. Through this direct line, a relationship is forged between diner and chef that inherently goes deeper than thought possible in a Michelin-starred restaurant. Part dinner party, part performance, and all restaurant, eater.com may have summed it up the best with the headline to their feature article, ‘No Chef in America Cooks Dinner Like Phillip Foss’.
In his free time, Chef Foss loves spending time with his wife and two daughters, and enjoys music, reading history books, and playing chess. In regards to what’s to come, Foss hardly sounds as though he’s content, “I want to change the way people think. Period.”