For 33 years “The Breakfast Queen” has been a part of Chicago’s food scene. And, even though her restaurant will be closing its doors at the end of the year, Ina Pinkney’s legacy will live on with her new cookbook, Taste Memories: Recipes for Life and Breakfast.
“Feeding generations of Chicagoans has been an honor. You are my family so I’m leaving my recipes to you,” says Ina. Part cookbook, part memoir and with more than a hint of business advice for young entrepreneurs, the book tells how the native New Yorker cooked her way “from Brooklyn to breakfast” and the lessons she learned along the way.
Ina’s first venture into the food business was in 1980 when she opened Dessert Kitchen, baking for private customers, restaurants and caterers. In 1991, she opened Ina’s Kitchen on Webster Avenue in Lincoln Park and then moved to her current location on Randolph Street in 2001.
“When I came to Chicago in 1977, I didn’t know anyone and wasn’t sure what to do with my life,” said Ina. “Who knew that baking my first cake at 37 and starting a surprise birthday cake delivery service would lead to this wonderful life!”
Ina’s success reached far beyond the kitchen, as she regularly stirred the pot of politics and convention in Chicago.
She ran as a write-in candidate for mayor of Chicago in 2007 and again for “short-order” senator in 2010. In 2005, she helped organize an insurgence of restaurant owners in support of a smoking ban in Chicago.
Most recently, she was a finalist to host “Check, Please!,” Chicago’s celebrated restaurant review series on public television.
In addition to developing the menus and being ever present in the restaurant to greet and socialize with patrons, Ina credits the success of her restaurant to the dedication of her talented and loyal staff. As the restaurant prepares to close its doors on December 31, Ina and her management team are working with other restaurants in the city to help the staff find new employment opportunities.
And, Ina won’t be completely hanging up her apron. Although there are no firm plans for next year, she will continue her recipe development, consulting and ‘Think Tank’ work for food service companies. “I’m sure I’ll still be cooking.... and stirring up trouble... I just won’t be getting up as early to do it,” says Ina.
Ina’s is located at 1235 West Randolph Street in Chicago’s West Loop. Taste Memories: Recipes for Life and Breakfast is available at Ina’s, at the breakfastqueen.com web site and at Women and Children First bookstore in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood. You can also visit Ina’s website for menus, recipes and cooking tips, and to view current and previous newsletters.