Huge Galdones | ERIC KLEINBERG
Updated: August 12, 2013 7:30PM
Huge Galdones started out as that guy at the next table taking photos of his food just for kicks. Now, he’s the guy making a living out of taking photos of other people’s food.
In the three years he’s lived in Chicago, Galdones, 32, has become one of the city’s go-to shooters for all things food. He has photographed the Food and Wine Classic in Aspen for the past five years and Cochon 555, a traveling pig cooking competition for chefs, for four years. In one recent week’s span, he went to Aspen on assignment for Fiji Water; sweated it out at the Green City Market Chef’s BBQ in Chicago, then flew to Toronto for another pork-heavy event called the Hogtown Throwdown. The big, bald Filipino dude gets around.
Galdones hadn’t exactly planned on this as a career. He has a Ph.D. in pharmacology and therapeutics. He moved to Chicago from his hometown of Montreal for a post-doctoral fellowship at Northwestern. But food and photography were always in the background.
During grad school, Galdones worked in the kitchen at Joe Beef, the celebrated Montreal restaurant. When the owners asked him to shoot some of their food and his photos ended up in Food & Wine and Forbes magazines, Galdones took that as a sign that this food photography thing wasn’t a total lark.
His go-to spots after being on the road: “Hand down, number one, would be Fat Rice (2957 W. Diversey) for their XO noodles. I’m in love with those things. It’s the flavor and texture. When those noodles hit the wok, you get those crispy edges, and that XO sauce is spectacular. And I always crave Nightwood (2119 S. Halsted) for anything. I love the burger there.”
You can take the boy out of Montreal, but... : “I’ve been floored by how good the smoked meat at Fumare (131 N. Clinton, Chicago French Market) is. They do really good justice to the protein part of Montreal smoked meat. They use different bread, but the meat is just amazing. If you go there before service, before the meat has a chance to dry out, it’s the best there is. The Reno (2607 N. Milwaukee) bagel is not a Montreal bagel but it’s the closest thing to it. I love all their bagels. I haven’t found good poutine that I adore in Chicago, but I will go to BadHappy (939 N. Orleans). I’m very particular. Chefs here don’t do the fries justice.”
When the Filipino craving hits: “I would eat out at Filipino restaurants if my wife ate Filipino food. She doesn’t. That being said, I love the kare-kare (oxtail stew) at Isla Pilipina (2501 W. Lawrence). Uni-Mart (5845 N. Clark) has two things I always get. Their lumpia is how my mom makes it. It’s overfried. It reminds me of a family picnic. And then their chicharron bulaklak (fried pork mesentery). I think they use leaf lard from inside the stomach. It’s super, super fatty. I brought my parents there. They loved it. My father said he hadn’t seen it anywhere in Montreal. It took him back to his childhood. I’ve never seen him cry over food before. I’m not even joking.”
Trends to take a pass on: “People’s fascination with poutine I could do without, because [Chicago restaurants] just don’t do it right.
One trend I do like is this upswing of fried chicken. I welcome that with open arms. I like the fried chicken at Allium (120 E. Delaware, Four Seasons Hotel), and the one at Little Goat (820 W. Randolph) is pretty good.
“And I’m over cupcakes and doughnuts. Don’t get me wrong — I love doughnuts. But everyone’s doing it. Some do it well, but it’s become a little saturated.” Janet Rausa Fuller is a local free-lance writer.