At D’Artagnan we proudly work with chefs across the country, providing them with quality ingredients to express themselves in the kitchen. In our latest chef interview, we’re excited to introduce you to Tom Bronny at Big Delicious Planet in Chicago. The extraordinary BDP, as it is known, is a catering company, a canteen, and an urban farm. Read on to learn more about the greenest caterer in the USA and their executive chef. Born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, Tom Bronny started cooking professionally in 2007 in Sister Bay, WI. At first, he saw it as something to do during the summer tourism months that could finance his extensive travels offseason. Eventually, he realized that cooking was more than that, and the kitchen life won him over.
Tom lived and cooked professionally in Door County, WI, Bellingham, WA, and Amsterdam before returning to Chicago in 2013, where he worked at Les Nomades, Longman & Eagle, Dusek’s Board and Beer, and The Promontory before joining Big Delicious Planet as Executive Chef in 2017.
BDP is a catering company – but not just any catering company. According to the Green Restaurant Associaion, they are the “Greenest Caterer in America” consistently since 2013, and have a 4 Star Certified Green rating. Their commitment to the environment includes an urban farm that grows 146 different varieties of vegetables, herbs, fruits, and edible flowers, all used in their busy kitchen which supplies their events and canteen. The urban farm is also host to outdoor dinners and two beehives buzzing in the corner.
For what they cannot grow, BDP sources ingredients from sustainable and local vendors, and D’Artagnan is proud to be a trusted purveyor for their culinary team.
The rich bounty of farm produce is an inspiration to Tom and his kitchen. He is excited about the BDP Farm Dinner series this summer, which suit his style of cooking: a big table, new and old friends, lots to drink, beautiful setting, great ingredients presented purely and simply. There are several scheduled in August, so if you’re lucky enough to be local, join them.
When not working, Tom likes to travel, get lost in the woods, garden, eat, drink and cook for his family and friends.
What was the first kitchen job you held?
My first cooking job was at a creperie and wine bar in Fish Creek, WI called Mr. Helsinki. It was wild, I’d never even seen a crepe iron before, I got the hang of it pretty quick. We had a lot of fun that summer.
Has any crazy stuff happened during your time in the kitchen? What takes the gold medal?
I’ve been in all of the kitchen archetypes, but the gold medal for crazy goes to Longman & Eagle, working in that basement as a line cook before they remodeled the place, it was an impossible situation but somehow they made it work. I still wince when I think about that walk-in. Not that it was gross, it was just the worst game of Tetris you could ever imagine but with kegs and lots of meat. Chefs used to take the rubber bands off the claws of live lobsters and hide them where you would reach but couldn’t see. That place was full of surprises. And whiskey.
Favorite music to work to in the kitchen?
If I’m alone, Dylan, Dire Straits, Ween, Brian Eno, John Prine, I’m all over the place. When the kitchen is full I’ve found it best to let everyone take turns choosing what we listen to, I’ve been turned on to all kinds of great new music this way. I was an AM Sous for a while so there was plenty of alone time at unreasonably early hours and I can say definitively that the best album to start the day with is Shangri-La by Mark Knopfler.
What’s your favorite post-shift snack?
Favorite post-shift snack: sushi, and beer. It’s so different from what I work with every day that I’m not turned off by it, it’s also cold.
What is your favorite D’Artagnan product?
Our sales rep Todd jokingly called me “the Sirloin Flap King of Chicago.” For what we do with catering it is so versatile and has such great flavor.
Name one ingredient you can’t live without … or one you’d be glad to never work with again?
Now, I would say that fresh herbs straight from the garden are the ingredient I can’t live without, they make everything better. As far as things I’d rather not work with, if I never had to touch a chicken again I’d be okay with that.
What is the weirdest or most interesting ingredient you’ve ever cooked with?
Calf brains. Nothing feels like brains.
Best meal of your life so far? Or fondest food memory?
My wife took me to Oriole here in Chicago for my 40th birthday, that was incredible. We had a very memorable dinner at Upper Bloem in Cape Town, South Africa on our honeymoon that stands out, but I think the dinner we had in our backyard the night of our wedding tops the list. Nothing beats big family dinners for me, they are my fondest memories of food and probably the reason I started cooking.
If you could share a meal with anyone, who would it be? What would you eat?
Bob Dylan, he would be interesting to dine with. We’d have oysters, caviar service, smoked fish from Russ & Daughters and bread and wine, then Dungeness crab prepared in the Nayarit style and some beer.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
Professional Man of Leisure.
Thanks for talking with us, Chef Tom!
To learn more about Big Delicious Planet visit their website, or follow them on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. Or join a BDP Farm Dinner series in Chicago at their hidden West Town urban farm. Each one has a different menu, incorporating the dozens of organic crops they will harvest the morning of the dinner.