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Lincoln Square, North Center, Irving Park

Baker Miller Is Letting Struggling Chefs Use Its Cafe To Make Packaged Dinners For Sale

Most of the proceeds from the four-person meals go straight to the chef.

Sam Engelhardt (left) and Zacharias Craig are the first two chefs preparing the special dinners at Baker Miller.
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LINCOLN SQAURE — Baker Miller, a bakery and cafe, has developed a new way to help chefs and small vendors struggling financially because of the dine-in ban: Let them use their kitchen to make packaged dinners for sale.

The special dinners serving four people cost $65 and can be picked up from Baker Miller, 4655 N. Lincoln Ave., or delivered to a customer’s home.

“One of the first things we thought of when this happened is how could we put together dinner packages,” said Dave Miller, Baker Miller’s owner. “One of our employee’s significant other is a chef. After telling our staff she suggested we bring in other chefs who may be facing a hard time and try to support them with these dinners. Right now for this we have a tight knit group of chef’s on hand who we know aren’t sick we’re helping out.”

The service launched Wednesday and has already sold out. These first dinners will be ready for pick up by Friday afternoon.

“The plan is do expand offering the dinners two days a week starting next week,” Miller said. “Our goal is to produce as many dinners as possible, but we are limiting our number of orders for the time being so we can be responsible about our budget and be able to stay open during all this uncertainty.”

The dinners going out Friday are being prepared by Zacharias Craig, who’s resume includes City Hall, Trencherman and Kuma’s, and Sam Engelhardt, who is opening a new restaurant in Logan Square called En Passant.

The guest chefs keep the majority of the money from these dinner sales, Miller said.

“We take a percentage of the dinner sales to cover our overhead. But so far it’s kind of becomes an entire department that is basically supporting and running itself,” Miller said.

These first dinners include a roasted whole freebird chicken that’s been spatchcocked with fresh chimichurri, garlic and herb roasted creamer potatoes, brusell sprout agrodolce, a tray of six biscuits, blended organic spring and hydroponic bib salad and four chocolate chip cookies.

“One of the other elements we’re trying to do with this is also find small farmers or producers who are also going through a hard time and use their products in these dinners,” Miller said.

To that end, Miller partnered with another restaurant to buy a whole hog from Ohio-based Catalpa Grove Farm.

“We buy grain and pork through them. Yesterday I was speaking to the owner and he said he’s struggling because his hogs have to keep getting fed regardless of whether people are buying them with what’s happening right now,” Miller said. “So we bought a hog from him that we are splitting with another chef to help the farm out. We’ll be using our half in one of the future dinners.”

Miller has kept his eight employees on staff during the dine-in ban and plans to keep paying them for a long as possible. 

“Right now everyone is responsible for their sections, with coming up with ideas on how to adapt what we do during this craziness,” he said “I’m asking employees to come up with ways to keep their departments profitable. They know their departments better than I do, so they will be better at coming up with new ideas, like the chef meals, to cover their salary so we can keep them on staff. But I also told them I will take care of them down to the last dollar.”

For more information about how to order these dinners visit Baker Miller’s website or call 773-654-3610.

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