Chef James Toland – (The Black Sheep)
Chef James Toland’s cooking career began shortly after leaving a prestigious New York arts conservatory where he had been studying acting. “I was just trying to make a living in New York City, when a roommate of mine suggested I come work with him at a Midtown Italian restaurant as a cook. I loved food so just faked it till I made it” says Toland.
After a few months of swinging pasta and tossing skins, Toland headed to Europe, where he launched his apprenticeship with the first of many French mentors. “I was the kitchen whipping boy … it was tough but I just kept showing up — advice I give to all my young cooks who now apprentice with me,” smirks Toland. With a letter of reference from the likes of the La Gavroch in London and Eldorado Petite in Spain, Chef Toland embarked on an exciting career in some of America’s premiere restaurants and hotels including The White Barn Inn Relais Châteaux, Hotel Fauchere R&C, La Bohème, Lovell’s of Lake Forest and the famous Lockwood Restaurant in Chicago.
In 1996, while Chef du Cuisine at the famous White Barn Inn Relais and Chateaux, Chef Toland had the honor of being the youngest Chef, at 27, ever to receive the 5th Diamond from AAA. In 2008, Chef Toland partnered with fellow Chicago Chef Sam Kass and launched a very successful private chef business. The most famous of their elite clients was Barack Obama and his family.
Chef Toland depends heavily on local growers and farms for his ever changing menus, demanding only the freshest ingredients for his innovative cuisine. “It’s really simple. Find the best version of that ingredient and celebrate its beauty and energy with integrity. You will never go wrong if you do,” beams Toland.
James’ other interest include script writing, independent film making, fiction writing, guitar, song writing, skateboarding and competitive sailing. For more on the daily inspirations of Chef Toland, visit his popular blog, Salty Power Chords.
General Manager: Tony Cournia