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Private Chef Opens Good Company In Ravenswood, Hosting Ticketed Events At Former Bang Bang Pie Location

A private chef who loves to host dinner parties is now hosting events in the space, including game nights, cooking classes and more.

Good Company owner Stephanie Johnston at her venue on Feb. 3, 2023.
Alex V. Hernandez/Block Club Chicago
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RAVENSWOOD — A self-taught chef who loves to host dinner parties has transformed Ravenswood’s former Bang Bang Pie into a new communal dining venue.

Good Company, 4947 N. Damen Ave., isn’t a traditional restaurant. Since opening last month, owner Stephanie Johnston has hosted events like dinner parties, cooking classes and game nights.

Johnston’s food career started at home, where she has more than 100 cookbooks and loves having family and friends over for dinner. Good Company was a chance to turn her hobby into a business with ticketed dinners for folks outside her circle, she said.

“I like to think of it as just like a social gathering space for communal dining,” Johnston said. “The vibe that I kind of go for in this space is, my personal apartment is two blocks away, but this is ‘Chefanie’s’ apartment. I really tried to create a space and programming that kind of emanates that.”

Tickets for events at Good Company cost $25-$80 depending on the event type, and the entire venue can also be rented for private functions.

The events, listed on Johnston’s website and Eventbrite, allow her to explore menus and formats daily.

“I don’t identify as a chef. I identify as a host a storyteller. And I am so lucky that I just happen to be connecting and doing that through food,” she said.

Credit: Alex V. Hernandez/Block Club Chicago
Stephanie Johnston had a custom dinner table built for Good Company.

As a kid growing up in the suburbs, Johnston often watched the Food Network and would write down the recipes she saw celebrity chefs like Giada De Laurentiis, Ina Garten and Julia Child prepare on screen.

“Obviously, I didn’t get all the information right because I was like 10 years old,” she said.

Johnston would then ride her bike to the store to buy ingredients with her allowance and set up the family video camera to film herself preparing the meal like one of the chefs she idolized on TV.

Now a professional cook, Johnston specializes in preparing vegetable-forward comfort food. Before the pandemic, she was a private chef for about 10 families. She also taught classes at The Social Table, another private dining space.

“I kind of got to scratch that itch of hosting and storytelling by teaching cooking classes at night. It was kind of the best of both worlds,” she said. 

But those cooking classes stopped in 2020 due to COVID-19, and Johnston lost several clients because of the pandemic, as well.

Three of Johnston’s personal chef clients stayed on, but she was preparing meals at her home before dropping them off at their doorstep. It barely covered her rent, she said.

Like many food industry people, 2020 forced Johnston to pivot.

Credit: Provided.
A raspberry and white chocolate muffin with orange zest and cinnamon from Good Company.

Johnston transitioned her personal chef business into a catering company specializing in family meal share plans with a rotating weekly menu, she said.

As word of mouth spread, Johnston had more people sign up for the service, and her home kitchen was no longer large enough to meet the demand, so she started to cook out of a shared kitchen space, she said.

In June, the owner of the shared kitchen stopped offering the space for rent and Johnston began looking for her own spot, eventually signing the lease for the former Bang Bang Pie location, she said.

During the day, Johnston uses her venue’s kitchen to continue her catering business, but during select evenings she offers curated events for neighbors.

Meeting new people became even more important to Johnston after the social isolation she experienced during the early days of the pandemic, she said.

“There’s just something so special to me about just gathering with people and talking, asking questions and learning,” Johnston said. “It sounds so silly to be like, I’m a lifelong learner…and the best way to learn from other people is to hear their stories.”

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