For the third time in two years, Big Star has appointed a new chef de cuisine to oversee the kitchen of the popular taco spot. Julie Warpinski stepped into the void left by the October 10 departure of chef Tom Van Lente, who ended his eight month taco tenure to take up residence at White Oak Tavern & Inn.
“It’s a daunting task — taking over one of the biggest restaurants in Chicago is huge,” Warpinski says. However, four years working at some of the city’s busiest restaurant have prepared her for the role. Her culinary career started on the opening team of Tortas Fontera's O’Hare airport location, where Warpinski says she learned both the fundamentals of Mexican cuisine and working in a fast-paced environment. From there she moved on to Lula Cafe, Publican Quality Meats, The Publican and, most recently, ran Big Star’s catering program.
Like her predecessors, Warpinski changes to the iconic menu will be minimal. She is currently testing specials that showcase regional ingredients and flavors, such as grilled queso with poblano salsa, as well as other vegetarian items (sweet potato salad and appetizers).