What's the first thing to know about the photogenic and very fit guys of Nude Dude Food?
"We don't cook nudeany more," joked Ryan Van Voorhis, who is part of Nude Dude Food along with Seth Bradley. "We used to take off our pants once in a while, but since we've been getting more media coverage, we want to keep things tasteful. So shirtless with aprons is as far as we gobut guests are welcome to do whatever they like."
The duo originally met when they were 15, although, obviously, they didn't form their successful business until years later. "We've been best friends since driver's ed," Van Voorhis said. "We're from Peoria, and we moved [to Chicago] after undergrad."
Although they didn't initially dive into culinary endeavors once they moved here, they always "had a passion for food and wellness and healthy eating," Van Voorhis said. "Combine those with our health issues [including Van Voorhis' battle with Crohn's disease], and that's what led to what we have today. A lot of things just fell into place."
"We had been cooking at home, and have been entertaining family for 10 or 15 years," Bradley added. "That feeling you have when you share with friends and family? We wanted to take that into other people's homes. At the same time, we also take into account people's dietary restrictions, food allergies and health issues."
"Then, we wanted to make things approachable, so we took our shirts offand things happened very quickly," said Van Voorhis. "We wnated to be a picture of health, but we also wanted to add some sexiness."
Things have been so successful, actually, that the two were able to devote their energies to the business full-time in 2016. But there's more to their success than showing muscles.
"If you look at our webpage, you see that we take pride in how the food looks," Van Voorhis added. "We use locally sourced ingredientsand we try to make those ingredients shine," Bradley said. "The most important ideal we try to get across is to cook and eat honest food. Treat yourself better."
And there are additional benefits for guests. For example, according to Van Voorhis, for bachelorette brunches, "women may feel more empowered that men are cooking for them. Also, we love to teach techniques, ingredients and other things about cooking to guests." ( Nude Dude Food also conducts a range of events, including house dinners, corporate events and "The Naked Happy Hour." )
But it's not just about eatingespecially for these guys, who also make physical vitality part of their marketing. "We've always worked out, but we've had to heighten [exercising] now," said Van Voorhis. "We're in the gym often nownot just for exercise, but because it's a stress reliever. We have to practice what we preach." Bradley, avid climber, added, "It's motivating to set these fitness goals. The older I get, I discover that flexibility and mobility are more important, as opposed to strength training."
By the way, this may just be the beginning of Nude Dude Food, as it garners exposure ( ahem ) across the country. "We are expanding," Van Voorhis revealed. "We're looking to hire some more dudes as summer nears and as we travel." They also are looking to start other branches. "We're figuring out how to expand on a nationwide basis," Bradley added.
See NudeDudeFood.com .
Big Jones' big changes
Southern restaurant Big Jones ( 5347 N. Clark St.; bigjoneschicago.com/ ), in the heart of Chicago's Andersonville neighborhood, has undergone some serious changes.
The spot recently went through some comprehensive kitchen renovations and dining-room enhancements, and now has an open-kitchen concept. In addition to these physical changes, Executive Chef Paul Fehribach has changed the menu, exploring the roots of Southern cuisine in additional regions like Africa and the Caribbean. A recent media event highlighted dishes including pork-shoulder bark, flamin' hot cheese straws, vanishing bread ( which disappeared very quickly ), black-eyed pea beignets, gullah oyster rice, crawfish pie and rabbit rouladebut don't worry: The fried chicken ( amnog the best in Chicago ) is still there.