Chicago’s Very Own: Brian Duncan

For Brian Duncan, tasting a new wine is like a 5-year-old getting his first sugar rush.

“That thing that made you sort of hyperventilate over the first time you saw cotton candy and you said, OMG, my head is gonna explode!” he said.

The Morgan Park native, finds himself in a very small pool of African American owners in the food and wine industry.

So, for some, it’s a little surprising to learn he’s the co-founder, co-owner and wine director of Chicago Bin 36.

“Yea, I’m surprised that they’re surprised, but that’s their problem not mine,” Duncan said.

Duncan’s colorful character and sartorial style is his signature. And he has a profound and extensive knowledge of wine.

I’ve been able to educate people sometimes without them even knowing it,” he said.

Duncan says his joie de vivre comes from mom and dad.Chicago’s Very Own: Brian Duncan

“I was raised in a family that you could do or be anything that you wanted. I never had a life that felt like I had restriction on me,” Duncan said.

And, it was also mom and dad who taught him to appreciate the finer things in life.
“He was the first foodie. It was just the way that he’d shop for our weekly groceries, he would very carefully select everything that really stuck in my mind,” Duncan said.

“They would have sweet rolls they would warm the sweet rolls and put butter on em, we would just eat the sweet rolls,” said his friend George Boles Jr.

Brian lost his mom to breast cancer almost 30 years ago. He found a wine in the Napa Valley that he thought would be a perfect honor to her. It was also a way to give back.

Last year he initiated, Real Men Drink Pink in Chicago.

A campaign that helps fund a national organization for the early detection and prevention of breast and ovarian cancers.

“He’s definitely a person who gives back, his parents were the same way, when you talk about a village raising a child that was our block,” Boles said

Duncan runs a tight ship at Bin 36.

“You have to do that and you can tell when you’re in restaurants that don’t,” he said.

“He demands everything. He demands your full attention he demands that you educate yourself,” said Elizabeth Bolger. “He demands that you investigate other ways that things can be done. He just doesn’t settle.”

Bolger’s admiration for Duncan goes beyond that of a colleague. He’s became a mentor to her daughter, Olivia, who was about to go down the wrong path.

“He kind of a gave me a little push and helped me finish school,” Olivia said.

Now an employee at bin 36, Olivia says Duncan inspired her to believe in herself and realize she too can have success.

“If there’s something that you love an you wanna do, you can do it, you just have to set your mind to it,” Olivia said.

“There’s a lot going on in the world that we don’t need to enumerate on, being civil to one another is one of the most important things that we can do,” Duncan said.

Brian Duncan: He’s one of Chicago’s very own

12 comments

  • Melody (Schutz)

    Love it! It was good to see you, Brian, and the pictures of your Mom and Dad, as well as your story of how your Dad shopped for groceries (I remember this some how!), warmed my heart!!!! Loved your family…..love you! XO

    • Brian

      You are so sweet! I love those portraits of my folks. Micah did such a wonderful job putting it all together. She is such a PRO, and one of the sincerely nicest people I've met in media.
      Cheers!

  • Brian

    It is an incredibly humbling and profound privilege to be able to honor our parents. The depth of character our folks exhibited is a rarity today, but we had a front row seat to it on a daily basis. Let's continue to celebrate their lives and example.
    Brian

  • Mattie Hill-Gage

    This is such a beautiful report.It also brings back fond memories of the 1950's era.My parents were friends of your Grandmother and we would visit her in Morgan Park.I wish you much the best and Godspeed.

  • Trina Hamilton

    BRIAN YOU MAKE ALL THAT KNOW YOU PERSONALLY SO PROUD. CONTINUE TO MAKE THE LEGACEY OF INTIGRITY YOUR PARENTS INSTILLED IN ALL OF YOU LIVE. PAST IT ON AND THE BLESSING OF GOD UPON YOU AND BIN 36 ALWAYS……WHEN IN CHICAGO AGAIN WILL VISIT YOUR ESTABLISHMENT.

  • Ms. J. S. Butler

    This was the best bio of a real Chicagoan that I've seen for some time. The upbringing that you had, and so many of us of a certain generation seems to be a distant memory, if we watch the news too much. With your permission, I'd like to mention this great story on my website in the BHM series. And, I will make sure that my next celebration of life includes vino from your establishment. God bless.

  • Terry Rusin

    Brian, What a great reporting on you and your restaurant!! Bill and I had it sent to us down in TN – brings back great memories of great times we've spent at Bin 36. When back in Chicago – we'll for sure stop in!!

  • Ernie, Jr.

    Brian, of course the tribute to our amazing parents was my favorite part of this segment, but know that as your big brother, I remain insanely proud of all of your accomplishments and will continue to be one of your loudest cheerleaders!!! :-) Love, Ernie

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