Meet Raul Parada, Sous Chef at Big Grove Tavern. We joined him in the BGT kitchen and watch him make a delicious burger, and in addition, we also asked some questions to better get to know him. He is a man of few words, but his food creations speak volumes. Check out photos by the talented photographer, Veronica Mullen, and words by Parada himself in this edition of Chef Talks. 

Smile Politely: What is your name, restaurant, and position?

Raul Parada: Raul Parada, Sous Chef Big Grove Tavern. 

SP: Tell us a little about yourself: where are you from, and how and why did you become a chef?

Parada: Mexico City. I have been in Champaign 11 years. I started in restaurants as a dishwasher at Texas Road House. I worked at Jim Gould SteakHouse for five years and Destihl for three years. I joined Big Grove Tavern in 2014.

SP: How would you describe your (or your restaurant's) style?

Parada: Big Grove gives a good vibe. You can enjoy time with family, friends, your wife and kids. We have good food for all types of palates, whether you are vegan or want a burger. You can come in no matter what. We have a well thought out lunch and some elaborate dinner dishes. You can do business here or just share times with friends. Everyone is welcome.

SP: Do you source many of your ingredients from local Illinois farms?

Parada: Yes. We buy beef from local vendors like Gibson City Meats, produce from Blue Moon, cheese from Feather Ridge, and dairy from Kilgus. Our bar is stocked with beer and whiskey — lots from this region.

SP: What is your signature dish?

Parada: Brunch Huevos Rancheros: carne asada, eggs, crispy tortilla, salsa, rice, and beans. It's from the heart. Also, we have a great mushroom risotto. You can add steak, salmon or chicken if you want protein.

SP: What is your favorite knife? What type do you use?

Parada: All knives are the same knives. The knife does not make the Chef. The heart makes the difference. Love is the knife that cuts through the dish.The knife is a tool. Expensive or cheap.

SP: What is your favorite non-knife kitchen tool?

Parada: Workout equipment. I am a runner.

SP: What is your usual after-work drink?

Parada: Beer. I like Saison styles. A good cider. 

SP: What do you like to do on your days off?

Parada: Enjoy the day with my dog. Go for a walk. Go running. Relax.

All photos by local photographer, Veronica Mullen. Check out more of her work at VeronicMullen.com