Jason Hammel and
Amelea Tshilds

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

Biography »

Antoinette Bruno: Why did you start cooking? What or who inspired each of you to become chefs?
Amalea Tshilds: Both of my grandmothers were excellent cooks. We both come from Italian and Greek families.

AB: Did either of you attend culinary school?
Jason Hammel: No. I didn’t start cooking until grad school. I worked in kitchens to earn money. We’re self-taught.

AB: Who are your mentors?
AT: Alice Waters, Judy Rodgers. We learned from their books. We’ve never really worked for any great chefs. We have learned everything from reading.
AB: What are your favorite cookbooks?
AT & JH: French Laundry – it’s impeccable, it sets a standard of care for how all kitchens should be run. Zuni Café – it’s deep and passionate. Soul of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman – for how it connects with the French Laundry Cookbook and creates a culture.

AB: What is your philosophy on food and dining?
JH: We’re really into technique and the great ingredients of fine dining, but we like the casualness of a neighborhood setting.

AB: What are your favorite restaurants –off the beaten path – in Chicago?
AT: Tre Kronor for Swedish home-style food.

AB: What trends do you see emerging in the restaurant industry?

AT& JH: The Spanish trend. Some do it very well, some don’t really get it. Dabbling doesn’t work. Also the Mario [Batali] trend like Lupa for rustic Italian and Mediterranean, with a lot of wood-fired food. Simplicity of food is another trend, with ingredient-driven restaurants like Craft. Also preserved foods – fruits and vegetables being preserved using new technology.

AB: Where do you see yourselves in 5 -10 years?

AT& JH: We are debating, but we will probably branch out. We’re thinking about a new place, hopefully focused on dinner only – a small place, not fine dining, more casual.

Jason Hammel and Amalea Tshilds
LULA CAFÉ | Chicago

Lula Café, the loving creation of husband and wife team Amalea Tshilds and Jason Hammel, has quickly becoming the preferred spot for Chicago’s chef community. The couple met while working as cooks at Logan Beach, a beloved neighborhood café in Logan Square. Tshilds, a Chicago native who graduated from Bard College with a degree in painting, was supplementing her work as a musician and artist when she met her future husband and co-chef, a writer by training, with an English degree from Brown University. Together they renovated the 700-square-foot Logan storefront in 1999 and renamed it ‘Lula.’ Beginning with a simple menu of salads, pastas, roast chicken, and brunch fare, Lula has evolved as the couple developed their craft through years of practice and dedicated reading of master cookbooks from Elizabeth David, Alice Waters and Jacques Pepin. Over the years, Jason and Lea have formed strong relationships with nearly 30 Midwestern farmers and countless other purveyors of fine artisanal products country-wide, whose ingredients are showcased in their seasonal menus.


Rushing Waters Rainbow Trout with Sunchokes and Winter Radishes, Serrano Ham, and Saffron Butter
Chefs Jason Hammel and Amalea Tshilds of Lula Café – Chicago, IL
Adapted by StarChefs.com

Yield: 4 Servings


  • 6 sunchokes
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
    Saffron Butter:
  • 1 Tablespoon minced pickled shallots or onions
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon minced capers
  • 1 teaspoon chopped salt cured anchovy (rinse and pat dry first)
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 whole rainbow trout
  • 2 Tablespoons grape seed oil
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 2 ounces Serrano ham, thinly shaved
  • 1 Tablespoon picked chervil leaves
  • 2 teaspoons finely sliced chives
  • 2 black Spanish radishes, finely julienned
  • 4 French breakfast radishes, finely julienned
  • 2 Tablespoons micro-greens, preferably china rose radish or arugula


For Sunchokes:
Preheat oven to 375° F. Julienne sunchokes and toss with 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and salt. Wrap in a foil package and roast for 10-12 minutes or until al dente. Remove from foil and set on a tray to cool.

For Vinaigrette:
Combine pickled shallots, Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, parsley, capers, anchovy, and salt. Allow to stand 15 minutes. Whisk in olive oil in a steady stream. Season.

For Saffron Butter:
Heat shallots, saffron, white wine and white wine vinegar in small sauce pan. Reduce until dry. Add lemon juice to taste and heat. Whisk in butter 1 Tablespoon at a time until 8 Tablespoons are incorporated, melting completely before each addition. Season and set aside in a warm place.

For Trout:
Remove heads and split trout in half by cutting on either side of the backbone. Trim sides into neat rectangles, season and set aside.

Heat a nonstick or French iron skillet until just smoking. Add grape seed oil and place trout skin side down. Sauté until the skin is golden brown and crispy. Turn gently and cook briefly on flesh side. Add butter and quickly baste fish. Remove from heat and set on paper towel.

To Assemble and Serve:
Toss Serrano ham, chervil, chives, radishes and sunchokes with 2 Tablespoons of vinaigrette. Place half this mixture on the plate, top with 2 trout triangles per plate, setting both pieces skin side up and at opposing angles. Top with remaining ham-radish mixture and micro-greens. Drizzle saffron butter on trout and around plate. Drizzle vinaigrette on plate.

Wine Pairing:
Vineyard 8, Chardonnay, Spring Mountain, California 2002

   Published: November 2005