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What's cooking at the monastery?

Erica Hall just retired as the monastery chef after 34 years. Jason Treadway is just two months into his new role as chef. We decided to talk with each of them about their love of cooking.


What was your favorite food as a child?

I grew up in Baltimore until I was nine. During that time you could eat the seafood right out of the bay…. We would steam the crabs at my grandmother’s. With crabs you want to eat them when…their freshest.

What is your favorite food now?

Right now I’m interested in trying out all the local flavors of Chicago. Their pizza and hot dogs, kind of Americana meets the influences of the immigrants that brought them here. It’s not a specific meal, just seeing what the city has to offer.

What do you like to prepare at the monastery?

Cashew and Date Curry with Jasmine Coconut Rice, along with pea, potato, and cauliflower.

I love Ayurvedic cooking from India.... They have been looking at health through cooking for centuries. Ideally, my favorite meal would be something that everybody liked the most and it would be healthy…. something healthy and that tastes good at the same time. In Ayurvedic cooking tradition, it’s about balance of color, balance of flavors, balance of proteins. I like how they do their spices in India…. Here, traditionally, you’ll see chefs adding spices to sauces. But [in India] they put it directly into the pan…to crack open the seed and essential oils so you get a lot of nice smells and flavors out of them. It’s not about me and what I want to make, it’s finding out what my customers and clients want.

What do you look forward to the most as a new chef?

Learning about Catholicism and the traditions of the Sisters. I also have some garden space [at the monastery]…. I went back to school a couple years ago and I started a garden club. I had a lot of success and fun with it. I also like to do this thing called “Guerilla Gardening,” where you garden in spaces that are…neglected. I like to plant sunflower seeds there.

Anything else you'd like to share with our readers?

I get thanked a lot here and I’ve been trying to come up with creative ways to say “you’re welcome.” But I think the Sisters are the ones here to be thanked. They are inspiring minds and helping people.... I just want them to continue doing the great job they are doing. I’m happy to be here.


What was your favorite food as a child?

That was in Belize. You know, in Belize everything is nice and fresh.... We would have roast turkey, rice and beans, potato salad. We are good at that. A lot of fresh fish.

I used to cater in Belize, for the banks, for the police station, department stores, people with birthdays, for the Methodist Church, the Anglican Church, and for the Catholic Church, for both political parties.... I do it for everybody!

What is your favorite food now?

I do everything at home. I make meats, meat pies, coconut tarts, a whole lot!

What did you like to prepare at the monastery?

Everything! I like a whole lot of things. There are a lot of meals and a lot of desserts I like to prepare, like my pineapple upside down cake...rum cake at Christmas.... I'm a person who loves to feed people so I try my best.

What do you look forward to doing now that you are retired?

I work at the soup kitchen on Tuesdays at the United Methodist Church. It is a group of people who started it. It's all by donations. At Thanksgiving we do Christmas they get ham. It's really a nice group: retired housewives, school children.... I also do wedding cakes. I'm a workaholic!

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