'Chicago's Best' Host Ted Brunson 'Somewhat Liberated' After Resignation
Brunson, 44, gave his notice in May after three-plus years and 103 episodes in which he visited more than 300 Chicago area restaurants. In 2011, he won a Chicago/Midwest Emmy for "Outstanding Performance of Host" for the show, which airs on WGN and CLTV.
In his first public comments other than the 80-second YouTube video in which he announced his resignation, Brunson, of Oak Park, told DNAinfo.com Chicago on Sunday the resignation was bittersweet.
"'Chicago's Best' gave me a great opportunity to get my name out there to show people what I've wanted to do for years," said Brunson, who has worked for 23 years in television, including on-air stints on Comcast SportsNet Chicago, Speed TV and ESPN.
"But the fact is when you work for a corporation like the Tribune Company, as much as I respect the Tribune Company, I'd like to have a little more control of what I do, and I'd like to make a little more money."
Jordan Arseneau, the show's chief photographer and editor, said after Brunson auditioned for "Chicago's Best," the producers completely changed its concept.
"It's not going to be the same without him," said Arseneau, 32, of Homewood. "Everyone is kind of sad, I would say. It's just not as fun as it used to be, because if you ever met Ted in person, he's the same person you see on TV.
"But even if Ted isn't around, we still have to do a show," he said.
Arseneau said "Chicago's Best" already has taped three segments with prospective hosts — all men — although he doesn't know when they will air, or when a permanent replacement will be named.
"If we get a good fan response, then that's who we will ask to be a permanent host," Arseneau said. "Whoever it is, he's got some big shoes to fill."
“This was Ted’s decision and we wish him the best," said a WGN spokesperson.
Brittney Payton, the daughter of Chicago Bears legend Walter Payton, is the other host. Sunday's "Chicago's Best" was a compilation of some of Brittney Payton's favorite segments, with Brunson not included.
"The show will go on. A lot of people love Brittney," said the show's lead editor, Mike Janowski, 58, of Oak Park. "And I think it's a good opportunity for Ted to look beyond the confines of WGN. He could certainly get pigeonholed as the smart-ass guy who eats too much. I think he's more talented than that."
Brunson said he spoke with Payton before he gave his two-week notice.
"She was a little upset to hear I was leaving, but she was always very supportive," Brunson said. "We weren't on the show much together at the same time, but when we were, we always had a lot of fun. I completely respect her and care for her family. They're humble royalty."
Brunson said his website — teddybrunson.com — should be operational by the end of this week. He plans to air segments where he visits restaurants and profiles their best and most unique dishes on his website and YouTube. He said fans also can continue to follow him on his Facebook and Twitter pages.
Brunson said he will open a restaurant with his girlfriend, Kate Jadwisiak, in Oak Park. The concept would consist of upscale bar food with craft beers with a "really interesting twist," Brunson said.
"People who do follow me seem to be very excited about what I'm going to do next," Brunson said.