Libertyville chef hits big time on ABC reality show
Paul Caravelli, the executive chef at 545 North Bar & Grill in Libertyville, is a contestant on ABC's "The Taste." | Photo courtesy of 545 North Bar & Grill
Where to find Paul Caravelli
On TV: 7 p.m. Tuesdays on “The Taste” ABC 7
In person: 545 North Bar & Grill, 545 N. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville, (847) 247-8700
On the web: www,545north.com
Updated: February 5, 2013 12:48PM
LIBERTYVILLE — Paul Caravelli used to cook in people’s kitchens at parties. These days, he serves his dishes to a far more discerning crowd.
For the last nine months, he has been the executive chef at 545 North Bar & Grill in Libertyville. Now Caravelli is competing on a national cooking competition, “The Taste” on ABC.
Right before watching his national TV debut at his restaurant this month, Paul sat down to talk about how he got into cooking, what it was like to meet culinary celebrity Anthony Bourdain and much more.
Q: Have you always wanted to cook professionally?
A: I actually tried to be a hockey player. I tried out for some teams in the U.S. and Canada. I didn’t make it so I came home and said what should I do? I always liked to cook so I started going to school for it. I was only 18 and I had probably only cooked scrambled eggs and chicken breast at that point. Then some of the hockey teams actually called and said they wanted me to come out, but I said no, I want to work on being a chef. I used to regret that, but it has all paid off in the end.
Q: Who were your early inspirations in the kitchen?
A: My grandfather and my mom. My grandfather was a great cook and my mom still is. My grandfather, coming from the Italian side, had the secret sauce recipes. They used to call it gravy actually.
Q; How did you get on ABC’s “The Taste?”
A: A partner in the restaurant, her husband runs a talent agency and he was telling me, you’ve gotta apply for this. He kept saying I had what it took to be on TV. I remember I had a bad day and I swore a lot on the application, but three days later they called me to set up an audition. I was floored.
Q: What did you think of your chances?
A: I felt like there was no chance of me getting on the show. The process was so long. And then once I got on and I saw the competition, I thought “I’m (in trouble).”
Q: What was Anthony Bourdain like?
A: He’s a riot to be around in person. He’s very tall, very intimidating. Also, getting to be around all the other chefs was really something. It’s only starting to hit me now. It was humbling. There were some high skill levels there.
Q: Do you think your life is going to change now that you’re on a national show?
A: I’ve been told by the production company that a new chapter in my life is opening up and I should be open to any suggestions. That’s probably good advice for life in general.
Q; Cooking competition shows are so popular now. Are there any misconceptions about professional chefs that you would like to dispel?
A: We’re not all angry jerks. We’re not all French. And some chefs joke and dance and sing in the kitchen, like I do.
Q: What are your favorite types of dishes to cook?
A: Seafood, street food, Italian. The crab cake we have on the menu now is my ultimate version of the crab cake. I’ve been working on it for 13 years, coming up with new recipes. This is my favorite one thus far.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring chefs?
A: Don’t do it (laughs)! Be ready for a lot of hard work with no reward for a very long time.