Growing up in Aurora, IL, Efrain Cuevas recalls never-ending backyard barbecues and garden time with the family pulling weeds and picking cucumbers. Garden-to-table meals (and the labor involved) were simply the norm, and they were definitely not a luxury, unless blisters and mosquito bites are considered luxurious. But it wasn't until Efrain left home for Champaign-Urbana, that he truly understood the value of the "slow food" he grew up with. Between tests and projects, Efrain descended into the kitchen, discovering the joy of perfecting recipes and cooking for friends. After graduation Efrain joined the workforce with a career in manufacturing and construction. In 2005, while working for a civil engineering firm in Berkeley, CA, Efrain was invited to a Ghetto Gourmet dinner party in Oakland as a kitchen volunteer. The devotion to the food and the resulting awe of the dinner guests left a marked impression on Efrain, so he continued volunteering with the cooks of the Ghetto Gourmet. In 2007 he moved back home to Chicago, no longer as an engineer, but as a cook, launching a community dining project focused on sourcing locally, cooking seasonally, and collaborating with local artists. Clandestino was born and a new dining experience had arrived in Chicago. When he's not planning the next underground dinner party, Efrain is cooking organic breakfast and lunch for students at The Academy for Global Citizenship, an innovative public school on the southwest side of Chicago.
Mariely started with Clandestino in 2009, as the wandering dishwasher, washing dishes in venues all over the city. She was no stranger to the kitchen either, being the head cook at home, preparing meals for her whole family every day after school. Mariely quickly assumed more cooking responsibilities at Clandestino dinner parties: making the pasta dough and rolling it out perfectly, breaking down chickens with minimal waste, and finishing the sauces before they were served to dinner guests. In 2011, Mariely graduated from North Grand High School, and as an alumnus of both Pro-Start and CCAP, she was awarded a full scholarship to culinary school. Mariely is on her way to earning her Bachelor's degree in Hospitality Management. Between class and homework, Mariely cooks at Clandestino events around Chicago.
Willie has been a supporter of Clandestino from it's early beginnings, but it wasn't until 2010, when Willie built 2 beehives on the South side of Chicago, that his connection with underground dining came full circle. As the sole honey supplier to the Clandestino Kitchen, Willie was increasingly curious how his honey was being used by the chefs and wanted to spend more time in the kitchen. Already a celebrated cook among his friends and family, Willie was a welcome addition to the team, bringing his mad BBQ and trash-talking skills to the Clandestino kitchen.
Vicki Fowler is an artist with a strong base steeped in performance art. She firmly believes in calling the kettle black, preaching while standing on a good kitchen pot, the power of food bringing us all together, using a ladle to shine a light on who we are, and the re-enactment of her Grandmothers’ chicken and dumpling recipe as a performative means to finding true love. Vicki first collaborated with Clandestino as a curating artist in 2007, quickly embracing the notion of response menu and art, she began curating dinner events in artist's studios all around Chicago. Vicki is the founder of what is now known as The Whole Artist Dinner Series, and continues to work with local artists, assembling unique, layered collaborative dinners in Chicago and elsewhere. Check out Vicki's portfolio at vickifowler.com