CHARLIE MCKENNA - chef/owner

When he opened Lillie’s Q in 2010, Chef Charlie McKenna brought award-winning competition BBQ and timeless Southern cooking to the city of big shoulders. McKenna and Lillie’s Q have garnered critical praise and awards from both local Chicago and national media – including being named “Best New BBQ Restaurant in the Country” by Food & Wine magazine.

Florida State University alum, McKenna graduated from New York’s Culinary Institute of America in 2000, and cooked under legendary chef Norman Van Aken in Florida, before becoming a sous chef at two of Chicago’s four-star fine-dining landmarks: Tru and Avenues in the Peninsula Hotel. During that time, McKenna also won numerous awards on the competition BBQ circuit including a first place wins at Memphis In May in 2007 and 2016 – which is widely regarded as the world championship of BBQ.

Opening Lillie’s Q (named for his South Carolinian grandmother, Lillie, and his father, Quito) allowed McKenna to return to his BBQ roots – slow smoking pork shoulder, tri tip, baby back ribs, hot links, and chicken in custom-built smokers over peach wood. McKenna later opened additional locations in Chicago, Florida, and California. 

In August 2015, McKenna expanded the Lillie’s Q brand in a new space by offering Lillie’s Q and LQ Chicken Shack in the United Center with the launch of Chicago’s Plate, an innovative dining program curated by the arena, Levy Restaurant Group, the Chicago Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks. Lillie’s Q and LQ Chicken Shack are available in the concourse and club level of the United Center alongside some of Chicago’s favorite producers and culinary hot spots.

McKenna has traveled across the U.S. and Australia for food, wine, and entertainment events including SXSW in Austin, South Beach Wine & Food Festival in Miami, Meatstock in Melbourne, and cooking at the James Beard House in New York. He has been a guest on countless national media outlets such as The Rachael Ray Show, Windy City Live, and Rick Bayless’ Feed Podcast. He has cooked for both large scale and intimate private events for numerous global brands, celebrities, and athletes.