An Interview with John Calihan

We have a special treat this week on the blog: an interview with the owner and CEO of Calihan Catering and Gallery 1028, John Calihan. This past Sunday, John received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Catering Executives Club of Chicago. The G1028 and Calihan Catering teams are proud to have shared this special evening with John and his family, as we know first hand the dedication and excellence he always brings to his work. Without further ado, let’s get to the interview!


Gallery 1028: Why catering? How did you get started in the business?

John Calihan: Simply put, I didn’t want to be a lawyer. I was working at McCormick Place in public relations, and I was in charge of all the guests visiting the city and started creating the itinerary for the clients. I asked the question, what were they eating before and after visiting McCormick Place? From there I tried to create a menu that was different from what they were eating the day before and after. Also, my mother didn't cook much, so we went out to dinner A LOT. I truly developed a passion for food.


G1028: What do you think you would be doing if you weren’t in the catering business?

JC: I have no idea. I greatly appreciate the museum scene in Chicago. With that being said, I would love to be a docent in a museum.


G1028: What are some tips and tricks for planning a successful event menu?

JC: Variety.


G1028: Do you have a favorite event that you have been part of? If so, what is it?

JC: I was a part of a birthday party, thrown by Oprah, for Maya Angelou on a private key in Key West. That was a wonderful event on all levels. I even had the opportunity to meet Coretta Scott King.


G1028: What is your all time favorite dish that Calihan Catering makes?

JC: Caesar Salad. I could eat cardboard with our Caesar salad dressing, it is that delicious.


G1028: What is your favorite thing about Gallery 1028?

JC: The raw space is terrific, and can be transformed into any style of event.


G1028: What do you think sets Calihan Catering above all the other caterers in the Chicago area?

JC: We listen to our clients. I think that's one of the biggest things that sets us apart. We aren't afraid to start from scratch on each event, and you can't be afraid to do that in this industry.


G1028: What does winning the Catering Executive Club’s Lifetime Achievement Award mean to you? Was this award something you were expecting, or is this a total shock to you?

JC: I was totally surprised. And, although I have known the members of CEC since I got into catering in the 1970’s this honor was totally unexpected.



G1028: How long have you been a part of the Catering Executives Club?

JC: My dear friend and colleague Judy Dorini Glassberg introduced me to CEC, and I have been a member for around 40 years.


G1028: What is one of the best memories you have had while being a part of the Catering Executives Club?

JC: Having [my son] Nash become a member on the board.


The Gallery 1028 and Calihan Catering teams are honored to work with John to build upon the tradition of contemporary cuisine and fine entertaining that his work embodies. Congratulations again to John Calihan on this much deserved award!

Calihan Blog Staff