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  • Splash - Sun Times


    Splash - Sun Times 

    Thanks to a slew of shows like “Top Chef,” “Life After Top Chef,” “Top Chef All-Stars,” “MasterChef,” “Iron Chef America” — the list goes on and on — celebrity chefs have become the latest superstars.

    But when Spike Mendelsohn, 34, decided to enter the culinary scene, foodie stardom wasn’t on his mind at all. “I became a chef the old, traditional way, before reality TV competitions,” he says. “My aspiration was to open up one restaurant and have a couple Michelin stars. … Then ‘Top Chef’ came along and crushed all those dreams.”

    ‘Crushed’ is hardly the right word: After finishing fifth on “Top Chef’s” Chicago-set season 4 in 2008, Mendelsohn headed to Washington, D.C. to parlay his burgeoning fame into a burger joint, Good Stuff Eatery. He’ll open the spot’s first Chicago outpost at 22 S. Wabash Jan. 28 — a stylish 72-seat diner — and follow it up quickly with a second shop in Lincoln Park at the end of summer. The all-American concept has garnered waves of praise and press coverage, most notably when Mendelsohn debuted the Prez Obama burger — a combination of applewood bacon, red onion marmalade, Roquefort cheese and horseradish mayo that won top spot at Chicago Gourmet’s Hamburger Hop last year.


    Following his first success, Mendelsohn proceeded to cut the ribbons on several other D.C. spots, including We, The Pizza, an aptly dubbed pizza parlor; The Sheppard, a speakeasy; and Béarnaise, a chic French restaurant. He’s also swung open the doors to three other Good Stuff Eatery locations on the East Coast. But Chicago remains a sweetspot for Mendelsohn: His sister went to Northwestern University and his development partner for Good Stuff, Brian Dralle, is a Chicago native who was itching to set up shop in the city. “[Chicago is] a meat-and-potatoes kind of town,” says Mendelsohn. “It’s got a great food scene.”

    It’s tough to imagine a restaurant more American than Good Stuff — think burgers, hand-cut fries, hand-spun milkshakes, farm-fresh ingredients and a selection of local brews on tap — which is ironic, given that Mendelsohn was born in Montreal and cut his teeth working at Pepin Restaurant, his parents’ Spanish fine-dining hot spot in Florida. “I grew up in restaurants,” he explains. “I was a dishwasher, I did all the nitty-gritty [jobs]. But becoming a chef was the last thing I wanted to do growing up. It wasn’t as glamorous as it is now.” Mendelsohn laughs: “It was long hours — still long hours. It was working holidays — still working holidays, too.”

    That early reluctance to become a chef shifted when Mendelsohn’s grandfather became ill, and his parents left the then 18-year-old in charge of the kitchen. A year later, the kitchen ran more smoothly than ever before. “I didn’t really know what I wanted to do [with my life],” he remembers. “[My parents] said, ‘Why don’t you stick around another year and we’ll send you to culinary school?’… I thought it was a joke, but they held up their end of the bargain and I held up mine.”

    The deal was enough to seal Mendelsohn’s fate. He attended The Culinary Institute of America in 2004, which he credits for giving him the confidence to pursue cooking. “It made me feel like I had something a little different,” he says.

    It’s yet another understatement from Mendelsohn; while he’s built a brand slinging burgers and fries, he’s proved his mettle in some of the toughest gourmet kitchens in the world. During his culinary school years, the young chef jetted off to Europe to work at the famed Château Les Crayères, tucked away in a castle in northern France. “That was an intense experience, big time,” he remembers. “I begged for eight months on the phone with a French chef to get that position. I’m the only American walking through the door, and they instantly called me ‘L’américain.’ They really put it to me. They didn’t let me just stroll right in and think I was awesome, they put me in check and embarrassed me and made me learn a lot of those hard lessons. But after about two months of initiation, they accepted me as [one of] their own.”

    In 2005, the globetrotting gourmand left France for the California countryside, working in Napa Valley at Bouchon before switching coasts to join the famous Le Cirque in New York.

    But it was “Top Chef” that unlocked Mendelsohn’s full potential: Though he began as a culinary purist with no eyes on fame, he’s since carved out a niche for himself, thanks to his charming personality and trademark fedoras. Now, his rock-star status continues to rise: He’s launched a private events company in D.C., where he currently resides, and is simultaneously taking his burger empire global. “We just signed an international expansion [deal] for Good Stuff Eatery in Saudi Arabia,” he says. “There happens to be a huge burger boom going on [there] right now.”

    Mendelsohn hasn’t given up on TV, either. Last year, he moved from show competitor to figurehead, helming programs like FYI’s “Midnight Feast” and “Late Nite Chef Fight.” But, female fans, prepare to be disappointed: The wunderkind chef is spoken for. “I am seeing somebody,” he admits, before adding a humorous aside: “If you can’t be near the one you love, love the one you’re near. … I’m just playing! My grandfather used to say that to me, [it was] one of his little schticks.”

    Despite already earning accolades here at the Hamburger Hop and garnering a fawning female fan base (Cosmopolitan magazine even spotlighted his dating tips), Mendeslohn is determined not to get a big head. He never saw fame coming and recognizes the spotlight’s fleeting nature, so he stays focused on the food, saying, “You never know when the idea of rock-star chefs is going to go away.”

  • Eater Chicago






  • Chicago Tribune

  • Spike Mendelsohn on CBS The Dish


  • Chicago Magazine



  • Drexel to Host Second Philly Chef Conference


    By Arthur Etchells  |  November 13, 2014

    Drexel University’s Center for Hospitality and Sports Management is hosting its second Philly Chef Conference. The two-day event takes place on Sunday and Monday, January 11th and 12th and will bring renowned chefs, restaurateurs, purveyors and food writers from across the city and region to come together to discuss issues facing the restaurant industry as well as new food trends, products and techniques.

    The second day of the conference will be dedicated to hospitality and restaurant professionals. Participants will learn about writing a cookbook, opening a second restaurant, rebounding from a bad review, developing a menu and more. Panelists will include Craig LaBan (Philadelphia Inquirer), Bill Mignucci (DiBruno Bros.), Bryan Mayer (Kensington Quarters), Kristina Burke (Drexel), Joe Beddia (Pizzeria Beddia), Spike Mendelsohn and many others. Check out all of the panels on Drexel's Philly Chef Conference web site.

    Read more.

  • Going International

    DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG


  • Washington Business Report


  • Good Stuff Eatery Heads to Saudi Arabia



    Posted by Jessica Sidman on Oct. 3, 2014

    Good Stuff Eatery will open its first international location in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in the next eight to nine months, with the possibility of as many as four more shops in the country going forward. Chef Spike Mendelsohn and his family are franchising the restaurant with Gulf Restaurant & Park Company in Saudi Arabia, which is owned by the Al Sairafi family. The company also operates Quiznos in Saudi Arabia as well a number of Lebanese, Chinese, and Italian restaurants.

    "One of them had gone to Georgetown and eaten and gone back home," says co-owner Micheline Mendelsohn, Spike's sister. "And we kind of just started talking with them about the possibility of bringing the brand over there."

    The Mendelsohn family gets as many as three to four franchise inquiries a week, Micheline Mendelsohn says. They've gotten about 10 total requests from the Middle East.

    "We're very careful about who we give the brand to and how we want to proceed with opening up different stores," she says. So what ultimately sold them on the Al Sairafi family? "Sometimes you just meet people and you automatically click, and that's what happened with this family... We're excited to give them our baby and see what they can do with it."

    The restaurant plans to send a team over to the Middle East to make sure the staff is trained properly. The Saudi team will also come to the U.S. for training. While the Saudi Good Stuff will aim to replicate the American versions as closely as possible in terms of look and menu, there will be some necessary changes. For example, Islamic dietary laws restrict pork and alcohol. That means no beer, and beef or turkey bacon instead of pork. Micheline Mendelsohn says they also don't allow very loud music in their restaurants. "When you walk into a Good Stuff Eatery, we have a really great playlist," she says. "So that will be one thing that we're going to change. We'll do some different types of sounds. We're going to figure that out."

    Y&H previously wrote a column about how American chains expanding to the Persian Gulf is all the rage. Red Velvet Cupcakery opened a location in Doha, while Arlington-based Elevation Burger has several locations from Kuwait to Bahrain to Oman. Other national chains like Pinkberry, Shake Shack, P.F. Chang's, IHOP, Potbelly, and The Cheesecake Factory also have spots in the Middle East, along with celebrity chefs like Alain Ducasse, Gordon Ramsay, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten.


  • Spike Mendelsohn Is Bringing Good Stuff to the Loop



    Mendelsohn, who took the crown at this past weekend’s Hamburger Hop, has also got toasted marshmallow shakes and a mayo bar on tap for the joint’s first Chicago location.

    In what seems like a rare-as-a-perfect-peach public-relations convergence, chef Spike Mendelsohn won this past weekend’s Hamburger Hop competition at Chicago Gourmet, in advance of the planned early-winter opening of a local branch of his hamburger spot, Good Stuff Eatery (22 S. Wabash Ave., no phone yet).

    Mendelsohn, an alumnus of the Chicago–based season of Top Chef, opened the first Good Stuff in the Washington, D.C. area in 2008, the same year the show aired, and rode the TV-powered wave. “I did not really know the power of Top Chef, but [Good Stuff] became a success immediately,” he says. “Now we have nine restaurants—four done and five on the way.”

    In addition to the soon-to-be-nine Good Stuffs, Mendelsohn has two other concepts in D.C.: We, the Pizza and the less-casual French-inspired bistro Béarnaise, introduced after the other two. “I became known as the burger and pizza guy, and maybe my ego couldn’t take it,” he says.

    The menu for the fast-casual Good Stuff will hew to the model of the others, with hand-cut fries and a mayonnaise bar, milkshakes made from homemade custard (toasted marshmallow is popular, Mendelsohn says), and the burgers, including the Hop-winning Prez Obama Burger, with applewood bacon, onion marmalade, Roquefort cheese, and horseradish mayonnaise.

    Yep, the Prez Obama Burger, winning a Chicago burger competition right before its restaurant opens. Like we said, it’s like a total solar eclipse of public relations.

    More Here

  • Spike Mendelsohn wins Chicago's Hamburger Hop


    By Phil Vettel

    Spike came. Spike cooked. Spike conquered.

    Spike Mendelsohn, whose Good Stuff Eatery restaurants are in the Washington D.C., and Philadelphia areas, was guest chef and big winner in Friday night's Hamburger Hop, besting 14 other competitors.

    The Hamburger Hop, back for its fifth year, is a friendly, creative-burger competition among a dozen or so chefs. Patrons are treated to burger tastings and endless quantities of beer, wine and cocktails, and vote on the People's Choice winner. A panel including Carla Hall (of ABC's "The Chew"), Jeff Mauro (the Sandwich King) and Lin Brehmer (WXRT 93.1 FM) selected the judges' winner.

    Sponsors Allen Brothers Steaks and Turano Bakery supplied the meat and buns for the competition, though chefs provided individual specifications.

    Mendelsohn took the judges' prize for his Prez Obama Burger, which featured Amish gorgonzola chese, horseradish mayo and red-onion marmalade on a brioche bun.

     More Here


  • Chicago Gourmet Hamburger Hop 2014

    Local and national chefs faced off at Hamburger Hop to see who makes the best burger
    By Amy Cavanaugh

    The kickoff event to Bon Appetit's Chicago Gourmet food festival, Hamburger Hop featured local and national chefs facing off to see who can make the best burger. DC’s Spike Mendelsohn, who is opening a Chicago outpost of Good Stuff Eatery later this year, won the judge’s vote for his Prez Obama Burger, with red onion marmalade, gorgonzola and horseradish mayo. The fan vote went to River Roast’s John Hogan and Tony Mantuano for their Tête de Tête burger, with head cheese, onion pickle relish, cheese and crispy pig skin.

    More Here


    It starts months before. Chefs and culinary personalities across the country put on food and drink events in Chicago all year. Then comes the big weekend – that’s now.

    Last night Bon Appétit presents Chicago Gourmet opened with the traditional Hamburger Hop. Twenty chefs competed to create the hamburger with the most epicurean elan.

    Chef Spike Mendelsohn of Good Stuff Eaterygot *Judge’s Choice for his “Prez Obama Burger,” with red onion marmalade, gorgonzola crumbles and horseradish mayonnaise on a brioche bun.

    More Here

  • Good Stuff Eatery To Open First Chicago Location This Fall


    By Lizzie Schiffman

    "Top Chef: Chicago" star Spike Mendelsohn will open an outpost of his cult classic burger joint in Chicago this fall, a spokeswoman said Thursday.

    Mendelsohn's Good Stuff Eatery first opened a Capitol Hill location in Washington, D.C., in 2008. He later launched spinoff locations in Washington's Georgetown neighborhood, Philadelphia and Crystal City, Virginia.

    The Chicago location, Mendelsohn's first venture outside the East Coast, will open this fall on Wabash Avenue between Madison and Monroe streets, according to a spokeswoman for the company.

    The restaurant chain is known for its house-made burgers, hand-spun milkshakes and the extensive selection of toppings it offers for its hand-cut fries at a "dipping bar."

    More Here

  • Top 10 celeb-inspired cheeseburger joints in the US


    By Stephanie Schaefer

    September 15, 2014

    How do you make a cheeseburger an even more all-American meal? Throw in a side of pop culture and a dash of creativity. Chefs across the U.S. are constantly reinventing the cheeseburger and the good ol’ burger joint, drawing on the heroes of movies, music, politics and more for inspiration. Read on for our top 10 favorites of these all-American restaurants where celebrities are inspiring the dish of the day.

    Good Stuff Eatery, Washington, D.C.

    Located in the heart of the nation’s capital, Good Stuff Eatery is known for attracting high-profile diners including President Obama himself. In addition to featuring the “Prez” burger, this patriotic restaurant also gives First Lady Michelle Obama a nod. The “Michelle Melt” is a healthier version of the classic American staple and is made with a free range turkey burger, caramelized onions, Swiss cheese, tomato, lettuce and a wheat bun. Something tells us Mrs. Obama, a health and fitness advocate, gives this meal her vote.



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