The Biscuit Man is a contemporary American style counter service breakfast, lunch and dinner located inside the Long Room. Making biscuits from scratch is a passion of Zeeshan’s; when he started in 2015, they were underrepresented in Chicago especially in sandwich form.
Growing up in Albany Park, Chicago, chef Zeeshan Shah’s earliest memories take place in the kitchen, where he regularly prepared meals for the family with his grandmother. Although his career was born out of humble beginnings, this local talent has now climbed the ranks to work alongside some of the most notable culinary craftsmen in the city.
After receiving encouragement early on to pursue his passion for cooking, Shah got his first real break as a line cook at the beloved Chicago gastropub, Hopleaf, working with chef Ben Shaegren. Hopleaf’s extensive array of Belgian taps have always taken center stage, but it was here that Shah first learned how ‘pub grub’ could be elevated beyond traditional bar fare with fresh local ingredients.
Shah knew he had found his passion and enrolled in the culinary program at Kendall College, where he had the opportunity to work alongside industry innovators, such as French master chef Pierre Pollin, local chef & restaurateur Frank Chlumsky, and Laura Piper of the famed Mia Francesca and Gibsons restaurant groups. Upon graduation, Shah accepted an offer to work under Shawn McClain, the 2006 James Beard award winner for “Best Chef in the Midwest”, to launch the popular Chicago restaurant Custom House. Following his time with McClain, Shah took a position working with Chris Pandel, the 2010 Jean Banchet award winner for “Rising Chef”, launching one of Chicago’s most celebrated snout-to-tail eateries, The Bristol in Chicago’s bustling Bucktown neighborhood.
Here, Shah continued to perfect his skill of curing techniques, butchering and fresh sausage making, so it was only natural that he joined charcuterie master and Executive Chef Jared Van Camp to launch Old Town Social in 2009, where he served as chef de cuisine. Together, the duo crafted one of the most ambitious charcuterie programs in the entire country, and their fanatical attention to detail, passionate support of local farmers and everything-made-in-house credo first helped establish “bar food” as a serious culinary trend nationwide. It has since led to various accolades including: “Best Charcuterie” by Chicago Magazine “Best of Chicago Awards”, “2010’s Best Dining: Standouts from a Year’s Worth of Meals” by Pat Bruno of the Chicago Sun Times, “Best New Bar” in 2010 by Time Out “Eat Out Reader’s Choice awards”, and most recently in January 2013 “Best Bar Grub” in Chicago Magazine’s “Best Bar Issue”.
Right around 2014, Shah started teaming up with a mutual friend Yoshi Yamada and together the two formed what came to be known as Bombay Breakdown.
The duo started putting on a ticketed dinner series in a rented kitchen in River North, and still hold down a monthly pop-up a al carte version inside the Long Room. They’re currently working towards an independent restaurant in Logan Square.
In 2015, Shah found an opportunity to open up a breakfast and lunch counter called The Biscuit Man inside one of his favorite beer bars in Chicago- The Longroom. This new opportunity was different from previous ventures. Now, Shah was working in a shared space where the focus for 15 years had been spirits and maybe a late night sandwich shop which closed along the way. Instead of rebranding the Longroom as a bar and restaurant, it was determined Shah would enter as a Chef cooking breakfast and lunch while The Longroom would expand their options to include coffee and tea in addition to the existing menu. This shared opportunity provided Shah and The Longroom a new chance to attract new clientele without the rigor of having to completely rebrand each business. Additionally, through this avenue Shah began attracting guest chefs to provide periodic rotating menus for Sunday brunch.
In his spare time, Shah volunteers with organizations including Green City Market, Scleroderma, and Share our Strength, Shah can be found out and about enjoying food that other people make, biking around town, and frequenting local ethnic food stores in Chicago like Joong Boo, or Maharaja Sweets and Patel Brothers in Jackson Heights, NY.
He has some advice young folks looking to get into the business:
Learn to cook for yourself while ensuring you have other skills; don’t go to culinary school unless someone else is paying the bill; if something sounds too good to be true, it is.