Originally published Deb 18, 2012
'The Chef' is more than a mythical figment of my imagination. While becoming a regular at 'The Chef's Corner' in Naperville, we became good friends. The friendship started on our love for the game of basketball spilling over to ethnic culinary arts. We stay in touch by having him pass on the recipes that I became accustomed to eating while visiting his restaurant.
Chef's Rosemary White Bean Soup
Walking into Chef's Corner, there were random photos of his work at the United Center plastered on the wall.
Typically my visits were after the lunch rush, so that he could share basketball stories. Jordan and Pippen were naturally the first players that I asked about. It was not surprising to me that he had no photos of either on the wall, especially of Pippen. No Tippin' Pippen had a reputation, so Chef didn't have to go into great details on that but surprisingly he was fondest of the coaches both Phil and Tex. The picture gallery had all the usual characters that were expected from an European: Kukoc and Longley. With a few odd ball inclusions, even had a photo with Bill Bradley. I remember him saying that BJ Armstrong was respectful which should be of no surprise to anyone.
These basketball conversations started because I asked him about Arvydas Sabonis and if he really was 'that good' before he came over to the NBA. It is not too often that Chef gets distracted, this was one of those occasions. He looked at me with a shocked look because I *knew*. From that moment on, I tried to pry out who were his favorite players. Toni, Vlade, Sarunas, Drazen…I said a different name each day with him changing the subject and saying 'sit down German, I make food now'. Never knowing how close I got to the truth, weeks pass until I finally sit down at his restaurant on a Saturday afternoon………
Me: Opens door, "Chef! I worked downtown all week and had sh!tty lunches"
Chef: "yes I know this, loop is tuuurible"
Chef: "sit down, I have soup. You eat good food now"
Fifteen minutes pass, with little talk
Chef: "Drazen was the best ever. Better than Jordan"
Chef: "todays soup is Rosemary White Bean Soup, you eat with bread"
Chef walks away
I'll continue this Drazen story for the next blog post……the statement about Jordan is not exactly what you think, give me a chance to explain.
2 pounds Cannellini or any other white bean
2 medium onions
3 ribs of celery
4 garlic cloves
3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cubes of chicken bouillon
Fresh ground black pepper
2 quarts of chicken stock
- In a medium stock pot put beans, cover it with water
- Bring to boil then place it in a colander and rinse.
- Rinse the pot and put on high, add oil and all roughly chopped vegetables.
- Sauté vegetables until soft but not brown.
- Add beans, cover with chicken stock or water, doesn't matter.
- Add cubes of chicken bouillon and black pepper
- Bring to boild then simmer until it is soft.
- Adjust the seasoning, add salt
- Puree with a stick blender or bar blender, leave it chunky don't puree it finely.
Cut everything in half if this seems to be too much food. You really need some kind of stick blender or blender to puree this mixture. Take your time boiling the beans, you want them to start to begin getting soft.
Vedad Vrselj calls Travnik home despite being forced out during the Bosnian War. His former restaurant in Naperville remains one of the most respected and highly reviewed eateries in the area winning awards for best burger and infuriated competition with better ingredients for less money (His yelp reviews). His cult following continues with catering to the Chicagoland area and stays in touch with his Facebook page.