The executive chef at Oriole in Chicago discusses his culinary sensibility—and how he got his start in his mother’s kitchen. 

Hannah Walhout
June 12, 2017

Noah Sandoval, Executive Chef and owner of Oriole in Chicago, IL, learned to cook in a setting very different from his restaurant’s pristine kitchen. 

Growing up, says Noah, “I traveled a lot. My dad was in the navy. I was homeschooled when I was a kid, so I was just at home with my mom. I remember we had the Betty Crocker cookbooks and microwave cookbooks, so I would just hang out in the kitchen with her all day and make really bad food.”  

Curious about cooking outside of his mother’s kitchen, Noah started washing dishes at restaurants as a teenager. A series of promotions later—“making salads and also washing dishes”—eventually landed him stints at Chicago mainstays like Senza, Schwa and Spring before he opened his own restaurant in March of 2016. 

The dining experience at Oriole is one-of-a-kind. Says Noah, “It’s 28 seats, one menu, 18 courses. Very service-oriented…we only do, like, 40 people a night...it takes about 3 hours to eat. But it’s fun.”  

For Jordana Rothman, Food & Wine Restaurant Editor, a menu of this scale is suited to the chef’s innovative cooking: “his food at Oriole really toggles between Japanese traditions, and Italian traditions—and then just this sort of global sensibility that’s entirely his own.” 

What does that look like? Food & Wine found “hamachi with yuzu kosho topped with genmai, crispy puffs of grain; rye capellini with white truffle and yeast butter; a mid-meal bread course of exquisite sourdough, slathered with whipped butter, wheat berries and caraway,” and so much more. 

Noah eschews the idea of “fusion” cuisine—“I never do anything that’s, like, fusion—but I will put something that’s rooted in Japanese cuisine next to something that’s rooted in Spanish cuisine.” For the most part, “I like to keep ingredients together that come from the same regions,” he says, which is a “good guideline for how to do a really long menu. If you start going down the rabbit hole, you can put soy sauce on everything because it tastes good. You know, parameters are nice.”

For more on our latest class of BNCs, check out the rest of the Food & Wine Best New Chefs 2017.