Speaking of the Cubs, Hot Doug's has been in Wrigley Field for two year, the Cubs made the NLCS and then won the whole thing. It can't be a coincidence, can it?
Sohn: Coincidence? Seriously? That's what the kids call "crazy talk!" There's an obvious cause-and-effect situation going on here. I defy anyone to prove otherwise!
Has collaborating with places like Piece and Wrigley Field offered a kind of middle ground between the time commitments of running your own place and being truly retired, or does it just make you miss owning your own place that much more?
Sohn: The former. There are certain aspects of owning Hot Doug's that I genuinely miss. Seeing and chatting with customers, the relationships/friendships I had with purveyors, easy access to the food, the paycheck. It's the other 80% that I do not miss. Owning any small business is physically and mentally draining. And as you get older, it's that much harder.
The collaborations provide a great creative outlet. The percentage of fun vs. work is definitely in my favor! The relative lack of day-to-day responsibility is incredibly desirable.
Very recently, you, along with the owners of Honey Butter Fried Chicken, put together A Taste for Change, a food tasting to promote justice and opportunities for impoverished communities in Chicago and beyond. Is this your way of giving back to the city you love in the best way you know how?
Sohn: Exactly. I do love Chicago. It's been my home for virtually all of my life and I still get excited visiting neighborhoods and Downtown. It certainly has its issues, but I feel confident that these are absolutely solvable.
One of the perks of having some type of notoriety, besides being able to clout one of the "penalty box" tables at Publican, is the ability to translate that into community good. Working with the Shriver Center (the organization behind A Taste for Change) or the Intonation Music Workshop (Intonation) is simply the right thing to do. There is no question that I feel a responsibility to pass on the good fortune that I was so lucky to receive from Hot Doug's. I ask very little of people: Don't litter, and do help those who are less fortunate than you.
Have you been to Hot "G" Dog yet? How does it feel to have your former chefs carrying the torch, at least somewhat?
Sohn: I have not been to Hot "G" Dog. I will say that I wish everyone there the best of luck and success. I know firsthand how tough a business it is.
What do you spend most of your time doing? Do you have any exciting projects in the pipeline that Chicago sausage lovers should be aware of?
Sohn: Most of my time is spent going to Cubs games, traveling, spending time with friends, cooking (I truly enjoy getting back into the kitchen - at home!), reading, writing, rarely having to be anywhere at a certain time. It's incredibly liberating and I highly recommend it to everyone.
I've also been trying to stave off the panic that will inevitably come with needing to provide an income. So far, that's going pretty well. The bourbon helps.
So, how do you take your bourbon?
Sohn: To clarify, I like Scotch, neat, in the winter, and bourbon, on the rocks, in the summer. Having said that, I'm also not a stickler to this rule. I'm happy to have a nice single malt on a toasty summer morning... I mean, evening.