Steve Dolinsky, the award-winning food critic who's been covering the eat beat with gusto for more than 25 years in Chicago, is stepping down as the "Hungry Hound" at ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7.
His final reviews will air February 19 and 20, according to Jennifer Graves, vice president and news director of ABC 7.
"Steve is leaving ABC 7 to focus on his own food-related projects," Graves wrote in an internal memo Thursday. "Please join me in wishing Steve every success as he pursues his passions and builds on this work. His plans include expanding his food and restaurant coverage to other cities and developing a service to curate culinary talent for food halls and music festivals around the country."
The effect of COVID-19 restrictions on restaurants no doubt figured in the determination not to renew Dolinsky's contract after 17 years at ABC 7. But the decision was mutual, Dolinsky said, and the timing coincided with plans to expand his consulting work while creating content for other platforms.
"I am committed to continue my support of the fascinating and ever-changing Chicago food scene, especially the small, independent restaurants and food artisans I have so passionately championed over the past two decades," he wrote on social media.
A native of St. Cloud, Minnesota, and a graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Dolinsky, 52, worked for stations in Escanaba, Michigan, and Davenport, Iowa, before joining CLTV, the former Tribune Broadcasting news channel, as a general assignment reporter in 1992. He began hosting and producing the food show “Good Eating” for CLTV in 1995.
In 2003 he brought his “Hungry Hound” reports to ABC 7, along the way winning more than a dozen James Beard Awards, the food industry's top honors. In 2018 he wrote his first book, Pizza City USA: 101 Reasons Why Chicago is America’s Greatest Pizza Town.
"I am excited for the many possibilities — lending my name to projects and brands I’m passionate about, working with restaurants and chefs I admire, and curating the talent for real estate developers, food halls and music festivals around the country," Dolinsky wrote. "That doesn’t mean it’s easy to say goodbye.
"Working at ABC 7 has been the best professional experience of my life. Everyone is a consummate pro, working as a team unlike any shop I’ve had the pleasure of working at. I’ll miss the camaraderie of the newsroom."
Here is the text of Graves’s memo:
I’d like to share some news today about our “Hungry Hound” Steve Dolinsky. Steve is leaving ABC 7 to focus on his own food-related projects.
Steve’s served up his mouth-watering reports here for 17 years and is known as one of Chicago’s foremost authorities on food. Steve’s an exceptional journalist, generous colleague and winner of 13 prestigious James Beard Awards, including one for his work here at ABC 7.
What you may not know is that Steve’s entrepreneurial spirit has led to an impressive portfolio of projects outside of 190 N. He’s written a highly-praised book, “Pizza City USA,” and has an updated edition coming in September. He has launched a pizza tour business and a pizza podcast. He also organizes and leads virtual food and drink events and curates specialized culinary experiences.
Please join me in wishing Steve every success as he pursues his passions and builds on this work. His plans include expanding his food and restaurant coverage to other cities and developing a service to curate culinary talent for food halls and music festivals around the country.
Steve is on vacation this week. He will return to contribute stories the first three weeks in February, with his final pieces running on February 19 and 20.
I know we are all longing for the ability to gather. When circumstances allow, we’ll have a pizza party to thank Steve and celebrate his new ventures. He will choose the pizza, of course.
Thursday’s comment of the day: Chuck Canning: This is big news. Congratulations, Greg Kot! It is really reassuring to hear a great journalist has not only landed on his feet - but is moving on to bigger and better. Wishing the same for all the other Trib refugees. I am already registered at The Coda Collection and am looking forward to hearing, seeing and otherwise engaging with their content.