Chef Charles Webb,
Crafting Meals for the Best and Brightest
of Chicago and the World
Charles Webb wants to tell you a story. Not just the kind of story you hear being spun on any humdrum episode of Chef’s Table. Charles wants you to know the intricate life story of the food you’re about to eat, and why the meal prepared by the team at Chef C.W. is unlike any you have ever experienced. But food and travel are just a vehicle that will entice you to take this adventure with him, opening up avenues to culture, community and art from some thirty-two cities around the world.
A lifelong entrepreneur, Charles got his professional start working on Wall Street. Sure, culinary jobs put him through university, but the financial world was where you could score a hefty paycheck if you played your cards right. That particular worldview came crashing down on 9/11. As he stood at the corner of Prince and Wooster in shock and awe for two hours, Charles had an awakening: if the world was ending, he didn’t want to feel like he wasted his life doing something he didn’t outright love.
Thus began his journey of 92 jobs spanning nine countries, and even international waters. To hear Charles tell it, one can’t help but imagine an old suitcase covered in stickers from around the globe. “I was living on a mega-yacht, working for one of the largest private art collectors in the world,” he says. “Then I was living in the south of France, and then with a family in Majorca.” One day, Charles decided to leave for Barcelona, thinking he was only going to stay for a few days, and then deciding to move there. It’s a common thread with Charles, he is a man who lets his gut instinct pull him in the right direction, often surprising and upending his initial plans. Eventually he found himself back home in Chicago, with high expectations of becoming an executive chef at one of the city’s many high-end restaurants.
There was only one problem: nobody took him seriously. It happened in part, he says, because he wasn’t comfortable telling his story the way he needed. After job 92 came and went, it looked more and more like Chicago was not the place for Charles. He was getting ready to pack up his knives and work for a family overseas when a close friend came to him with some advice: “You can take your knives and go cook for somebody else, or you can use the entrepreneurial spirit that you have inside of you…and the business acumen that you’ve acquired…and you can go and start building it out on your own.”
A decade later, Chef C.W. caters everything from the grandest ballroom events, to the smallest private dinners. No matter the size, every dish prepared by Charles Webb and his team comprises a complex story. Every ingredient has a specific reason for being on your plate, and Charles is more than happy to explain why. From knowing the exact diet of a piece of salmon, to personally obtaining a jar of spices from a villager in Barcelona, Charles ensures his diners are not only getting one of the best food experiences of their lives, they’re learning more about the world alongside him. Charles’ worldview now boils down to one word: community. And nothing brings a community together like food.
There is a deep sincerity in the way Charles Webb conducts himself and his business. It’s the kind of sincerity that cuts through the modern tendency for cynicism. “I’m not hiring people to wear black shirts, black pants, and put some food in front of you. My people are very well chosen because they have great energy.” Energy is one of the many key details setting Chef C.W. apart from the competition. It is a group of storytellers eager to share their expertise in a way that makes every diner feel important, and leaving with stuffed minds as well as stuffed bellies. To eat a meal curated by the Chef C.W. team is to feel like being brought into the folds of a special global family, hungry to teach each other what they’ve learned about the world through their choice of ingredients.
Charles has recently created a new video series, Chef on Tour, where he travels the world creating unique culinary experiences and partnering with international brands who share his devotion to creating global communities. Head over to ChefCharlesWebb.com to watch the first episodes now!
Photography by Tyree Green and Victoria Peterson
Text by Eric Grant