GREW UP IN: Deerfield LIVES IN: Bucktown AGE: 39 CLAIM TO FAME: As host and creator of the podcast “Beyond the Plate,” Kaplan airs fascinating stories from hospitality-industry personalities. He’s also Rachael Ray’s VP of culinary operations and director/cofounder of her Yum-o! nonprofit, which empowers kids and families to develop healthy relationships with food. FOOD FAM: Kaplan’s dad worked on the wholesale side of Vienna Beef and his mom was the chef at home. “I was always standing on the chair next to the stove watching [her] cook,” says Kaplan. Fast-forward to 2002 when he got his culinary degree from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in New York, followed by a BA in hospitality management from Florida International University. CHANCE ENCOUNTER: While in Florida Kaplan scored a gig at South Beach Wine & Food Festival producing celebrity chef demos. One was life-changing. Wearing a food-inspired shirt he’d created (it was yellow with the word “polenta”) Kaplan picked up Rachael Ray in a golf cart. “She saw me and said, ‘Hey, cool shirt … where’d you get that?’” And later: “So if I give you $50,000 can you start a T-shirt business? Here’s my info keep in touch.” She ended up wearing one of the shirts on the cover of her inaugural Rachael Ray magazine and he landed a job as associate producer on her show. NICKNAME GAME: “Rachael really made it stick,” Kaplan says of the name everyone calls him: “Kappy.” ON AIR: He moved back to Chicago with a full plate then started conducting chef interviews in front of culinary students for education purposes at Le Cordon Bleu. Taking cues from two high school buddies with popular podcasts, wrestler Scott Colton on the “Art of Wrestling” and songwriter Ross Golan from “And the Writer Is…,” Kaplan launched “Beyond the Plate.” MAIN DISH: Notable Chicago chefs Rick Bayless and Tony Mantuano have been featured on his show. This season he dishes with food-tangential celebs like Alicia Silverstone, Tiffani Thiessen, and Neil Patrick Harris. “Nobody knows the amount of philanthropy they do,” says Kaplan. “I wanted to tell that story.” DOUBLE TROUBLE: Home life looks a little different these days as Kappy and his wife, Katy, recently welcomed twins, Leo and Ella. “As soon as you think you get the hang of a certain thing [like raising kids], that thing is done,” he admits. ORDER UP: When Kaplan isn’t juggling work and kids, he’s eating out. Favorite spots include Floriole, Boka, Bento Box, Athenian Room, and Buffalo Joe’s in Evanston for the chicken wings.
New episodes of “Beyond the Plate” drop weekly. Download or subscribe free in iTunes.
Photo by Lisa Hinsberger