Meet Heidi Coudal
Heidi is the owner and Culinary Director of Big Delicious Planet, a catering company she co-founded in 1994 with her sister, Ellen. Big Delicious Planet also has a busy cafe, the Canteen, in the front of their catering kitchen, and an urban farm next to the kitchen. The urban farm has 50 raised beds of organic vegetables, fruits, and herbs, as well as two beehives. Big Delicious Planet is a 4 Star Certified Green Restaurant, the first catering company in the country to be ranked at the highest level, and was named “Greenest Caterer in America.”
Heidi grew up in an Air Force family, and moved ten times by the time she graduated from college. Favorite place she lived: Athens, Greece. Least favorite place she lived: she’s too polite to mention it. She’s happy she’s stayed put for the last 19 years in Chicago's DePaul neighborhood where she lives with her husband, Jim, the and their three kids.
If you had to change careers, what would you want to do?
I’d like Anthony Bourdain's job - traveling, exploring and eating my way around the world. When I travel I love to poke my head into kitchens, whether it’s a restaurant, a street vendor or someone’s home kitchen. I like to observe the work being done, the product being used, the flow of the kitchen, the pecking order, how they do it, and how they clean up.
What do you geek out about?
Scrabble. I love the tactical game of Scrabble. Early in our marriage, my husband and I played Scrabble all the time and we were so competitive and geeky that we kept a Scrabble journal with the games, the words played, the points earned and the winner of the games. It’s totally geeky to look back and remember a play that clinched a game, but I have done that. I memorize as many 2 letter words (and 4 letter words) in order to maximize my points. I love getting bingos. I love blocking my opponents. I’m a competitive player, but a lot of it comes down to the draw of tiles and who goes first. I’m happy my kids love to play it with me.
What scares you?
The gap of time that is widening since my mom, Mitzi, died of breast cancer in 2000 at the age of 57. When I think about the many years that have passed, I imagine a younger version of myself tightly holding my mom’s hand and trying not to let go. I feel her slowly slipping away, her hand losing mine, and I try with all my might to hold on. I don’t want to lose the vivid image of her face or the sound of her voice that has been ingrained in my mind, but over time the image I have of her is becoming blurry and and the sound of her voice is fading.
If we came over for dinner what would you prepare for us?
I really enjoy entertaining and having people over to our house for dinner. Seafood paella tends to be my go-to dish. It’s pretty easy to prepare and I can stir it and watch it cook in my big copper paella pan while I’m talking and drinking a nice glass of wine. The result is a beautiful, colorful dinner.
How long do you think you’d survive the zombie apocalypse? Why?
I would totally survive the zombie apocalypse because I’m always prepared and have emergency supplies within reach. I also have a knack for coming up with very creative plans and ideas to get by, to outwit and to outlast. Take that zombies!
What do you know for sure?
I know that my husband and I have three amazing, intelligent and compassionate kids (Isabelle, Grace and Spencer), and we can’t take all the credit for their awesomeness. They went to a wonderful Montessori school (Near North Montessori) from the time they were babies through 8th grade, and I’ll give the Montessori philosophy and the teachers at least half the credit for the people they have become.
What do you think about when you’re alone?
That rarely happens, but when it does I think “where is everyone?”
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. - Mark Twain
A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou. - Omar Khayyam
Photo Credit: Jamie Kelter Davis Photography