Michael Gebert doesn’t write about food.
He writes about the people behind it as the editor-in-chief and main contributor of Fooditor, a tribute to those starry-eyed entrepreneurs who smile through oil splashes and business plans to share with the world a plate prepared just so.
The articles on Fooditor treat their subjects tenderly, encouraging readers to learn about restaurateurs and chefs hidden in the back in the same way that the slow food movement demands eaters to learn about the food in front of them. So it may come as a surprise that the online publication’s first voyage into print is in the form of a guide book: a form of writing antithetical to the in-depth profiles that Fooditor is known for. The small book seems rather utilitarian when compared to the eponymous website.
Yet, Fooditor 99 still has the same flavor of sincerity within its pages. Gebert squeezes in details about cooks and servers as much as he can, choosing to remind readers that the hand that feeds them consists of people doing backbreaking labor. Revised for 2018, the guide’s tone is mostly straightforward, but at times jocular. Gebert’s writing is nowhere close to F.L. Fowler’s, and thus much more useful than food porn verbalized. He gives a succinct summary of what makes a place special, usually focused on the people making the food, and recommendations on what to order.
Fooditor 99 is a guide book not of the fanciest places to eat, nor the most famous, but simply the local watering holes that serve great food. Restaurant recommendations transverse price ranges, cuisines and Chicago neighborhoods. That last part is especially exciting in a time when national media outlets focus on the North Shore: neighborhoods deemed safe and attractive to white people. This is all to say that Fooditor 99 can be used by tourists, but it’s really for Chicagoans to get to know their city better. The book, if you so chose to use it so, is a bridge to explore not just the food in other neighborhoods, but the actual neighborhood.
Don’t you think Chicago is a little too big to be going to the same places over and over again? If so, you can buy Fooditor 99 at your local bookstore or here for $6.99.