Jason Hammel and
Amelea Tshilds

2537 N. Kedzie Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 489-9554

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Jason Hammel and Amalea Tshilds
LULA CAFÉ | Chicago

Amalea Tshilds was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1968. Her Greek grandparents owned a restaurant called The Betsy Ross in Wilkes-Barre, where she fondly remembers the handmade chocolates. Tshilds graduated from Bard College in 1990 with a degree in painting. In the ‘90s she worked as a musician and artist in Chicago and as a cook at various cafes, one of which was the beloved Logan Beach in an outlying Chicago neighborhood called Logan Square. It was there, in that space, where she met future husband and co-chef Jason Hammel. Together they renovated the 700-square-foot storefront and renamed it ‘Lula,’ forging new careers as professional cooks. Tshilds is currently a member of the Paulina Hollers and plays music regularly at Chicago clubs.

Jason Hammel was born in New Haven, Connecticut in 1972. His Neapolitan grandparents owned a restaurant in Cheshire where he remembers spinning stools and fountains of endless milk. He graduated from Brown University in English and received a MA from Illinois State University. In the late ‘90s he worked as a writer in Chicago and as a cook at various restaurants. It was in this period that he met future wife and co-chef Amalea Tshilds with whom he began Lula.

Lula began simply—a menu of salads, pastas, roast chicken, and brunch—and allowed for Jason and Amalea to develop their craft through years of practice. Their mentors were the cookbooks of Elizabeth David, Alice Waters and Jacques Pepin. With self taught chefs and a willingness to cook against categorization, the menu at Lula grew into a kind of humble maturity. The restaurant became the weekend favorite of Chicago chefs, and informal meetings with some of the city’s more respected cooks began over brunch. It was then that the chefs’ interest in sourcing local organic ingredients was realized. Now regulars at the greenmarkets and supporters of a host of sustainable agriculture causes, Jason and Lea have formed strong relationships with nearly 30 Midwestern farmers and countless other purveyors of fine artisanal products country-wide. It was in the dedication of these farmers that Jason and Lea found an inspiration for their own increasingly passionate craft. Ideas blossomed, preparations were refined, and a separate dinner menu was created apart from the cafe menu of earlier years.

Today Lula serves breakfast and lunch that is casual, simple yet sophisticated, with ingredients like handmade sausages, fresh farm eggs, and porridges made from cornmeal ground at a local mill. While at night the food is more intricate and formal, there is never a loss of the accessibility and youthfulness with which Lula was begun. Jason and Lea have been featured on NPR’s “This American Life,” in The New York Times, and in the Chicago press where it consistently ranks high among its peers. StarsChefs.com’s Rising Stars award is the first national honor for the chefs.

   Published: November 2005