One of the things that makes Chicago Food Planet food tasting and cultural walking tours unique is the fantastic personalities that lead our groups every day. We’d love to sit you all down for a cup of coffee with every single one of our tour guides — they’re just that great — but the scheduling might get tricky. Let’s start with some quick interviews and see how it goes. Deal?
Name: Gina Ussel
Tour: Bucktown/Wicker Park
This is Gina’s third season as a Chicago Food Planet tour guide, but she also gave campus tours to prospective students in college (she’s a natural!)
Chicago Food Planet: What’s your favorite stop on your tour?
Gina: I probably frequent Sultan’s Market the most. But if iCream ever agreed to name my favorite combination (burnt sugar and almond extracts, with toffee topping) “The Tour Guide,” I might change my answer.
CFP: What’s your first strong memory of food?
Gina: Hating cooked peas! I used to smash them on my high-chair tray, and when I was older I’d sneak them outside and throw them in the neighbors’ backyard. I still won’t eat them on their own, but I can tolerate them as an ingredient.
CFP: What’s your favorite dish to cook?
Gina: Rachael Ray’s Chili Sweet Potato Hash. I substitute chicken-apple sausage for the breakfast sausage and serve it with homemade guacamole and salsa. It’s like heaven in my mouth.
CFP: What’s your favorite part about living in Chicago?
Gina: I love eating and drinking outside…and that I don’t have to have a car to get places. And the art and theater scene is accessible on any budget!
CFP: After Chicago Food Planet tours, what’s the SECOND thing you recommend to out-of-town Chicago visitors?
Gina: Get off Michigan Avenue and State Street — head to a neighborhood and check out some non-chain restaurants and boutique shops. (Bonus tip: Don’t come in the winter, and eat outside whenever you can.)
In addition to her work as a Chicago Food Planet tour guide, Gina is also a makeup artist and jewelry artist. Check out some of her gorgeous handmade pieces on her website, g.Lorin Jewelry. Oh…and Gina just got engaged! Congratulations!