Jason Hammel

Chef, Author & owner of Lula Cafe

Jason Hammel is the executive chef and owner of Lula Cafe in Chicago, the Logan Square community institution for its creative, seasonal, all-day cuisine. Phaidon will publish his cookbook, The Lula Cafe Cookbook: Collected Recipes and Stories, on October 4, 2023.

Since 1999 Lula has been at the forefront of the farm-to-table movement in the Midwest, but growing up in New Haven, Connecticut, Hammel aspired to be a writer, not a chef. After graduating in 1994 with a degree in English, he traveled to Italy, where an accidental stay across the street from Florence’s central market foresaw his career as a chef dedicated to seasonality.

Hammel has developed a reputation as a conscientious leader and a progressive voice in the restaurant community. As a member of the Independent Restaurant Association, he worked to lobby for federal assistance for the restaurant industry during the pandemic. In 2017 the Museum of Contemporary Art named Chef Hammel as executive chef/culinary curator for the museum’s new restaurant, Marisol, in the heart of downtown Chicago. At Marisol, Hammel continues to prioritize seasonality and freshness, along with an enlivened aesthetic vision. Lula and Marisol have both been featured in the press, including on on NPR’s “This American Life” and in The New York Times. Lula was named #3 best restaurant in Chicago by Chicago Magazine and both restaurants have been awarded the prestigious Bib Gourmand honor by the Michelin Guide. Hammel himself has been named a StarChefs Rising Star, the Jean Banchet 2019 Chef of the Year, and was a three-time finalist for the James Beard Awards for Best Chef: Great Lakes.

Today Hammel splits his time between Lula, Marisol, and the non-profit food education group Pilot Light, which he co-founded in 2010. Pilot Light develops classroom lessons that weave food and nutrition into everyday subjects like English, math, social studies, and science, today reaching more than 10,000 students. Through his work in education and in the kitchen at Lula, Chef Hammel seeks to bring community, creativity, and nourishment back to the table.