Chicago is rich with top-class restaurants serving some of the best foods you will ever eat. It is not any magic that allows the chefs in this city to turn even the pizza or a steak so mouth-watering. More like their years of effort and training did the charm.
In case you didn’t know, Chicago is primarily known for its food, alongside the architecture and some other stuff I am reluctant to discuss. I digress. My today’s article will include five of the best chefs in Chicago that shape up the cooking custom in the place.
Jo A. Kaucher- Owner of the Well-Known Vegetarian Diner
Chef Jo Kaucher runs the Chicago Diner, one of the most renowned vegetarian eateries in Chicago. She and her partner, Hornick, opened the place in 1983. According to them, they had to face hardship, hatred, and harsh words during some of the earlier years of running the diner.
But they endured it all. They planned to make it a vintage-decorated diner serving all types of vegetarian dishes. Basically, for any meat dish there, Kaucher tried to make a veggie version of it and make it tasty.
Jo A. Kaucher owns the restaurant, Chicago Diner. It had lots of stories and ups and downs throughout the years. Some popular dishes here are Home Fries (replacing French fries), Veggie Burgers, Vegan Milkshake, Vegetarian Gravy, etc.
- Chicago Diner got the title- ‘Five of the Best Places in the World to Grab a Vegan Meal’ from Everyone is Vegan in 2017.
- In 2015, the diner won ‘The 10 Best Breakfast Sandwiches in Chicago’ from The Chicagoist.
- ‘Best Vegan-Friendly Restaurants in Chicago’ from CBS Best of Chicago in 2014.
Rick Bayless- Mexican Magic in Chicago Restaurants
If you are in the mood for some Mexican cuisine, the Frontera Grill, XOCO, and Topolobampo are some places you must visit. And all these first-class Mexican restaurants are run by Rick Bayless, born in Oklahoma. He studied at the University of Oklahoma and the University of Michigan.
He hosted the PBS series Mexico: One Plate at a Time, making him a celebrity among commoners and chefs throughout the continent and world. Rick Bayless got One Michelin Star. In addition, he owns other restaurants outside Chicago, including three Red O eateries in California and another one in Florida, namely Frontera Cocina.
Rick Bayless has many restaurants, and all of them can serve you the Mexican flavor you wish for. Some of them are the Topolobampo (with one Michelin Star), XOCO, Frontera Grill, Tortazo, Tortas Frontera, and Bar Sotano in Chicago. Many of them got awards, and though I couldn’t visit them all, the ones I did, satisfied me greatly.
- Rick Bayless got the Best New Chef of 1988 award from Food & Wine.
- He got the Best American Chef: Midwest in 1991 from James Beard Foundation. He also gained six other awards from them.
- Julia Child Foundation granted him the Julia Child Award for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts.
Grant Achatz- Winner of So Many Awards
I always find it beautiful how some of the best chefs started their journey from the bottom, and Grant Achatz seems like one of them. First, he had to enhance his culinary skills under the guidance of his parents and later managed to attend the Culinary Institute of America.
Achatz became a Sous Chef in the French Laundry. He also worked in Charlie Trotter’s and Trio in the past, the latter of which is in Chicago. Troi has won five stars from Mobil Travel Guide so far. But the current restaurant he manages is Alinea opened in 2005.
Also, I should mention that he beat state-4 squamous cell carcinoma of the mouth on December 18, 2007.
Achatz’s current restaurant is the one and only Alinea. It won the Best Restaurant in America from Gourmet in 2006. It also got many other titles.
- Alinea got three Michelin Stars in 2011 and from 2013 to 2017 consecutively.
- Achatz was dubbed the Best New Chef by Food & Wine in 2002.
- He and his eatery have won numerous Jean Banchet Awards and James Beard Awards throughout the years.
Tony Mantuano- Respected by Celebrities and Big Names
The respectable chef Tony Mantuano doesn’t just stay in his restaurant but also runs many programs and events. He is an expert in Italian cuisine, and Spiaggia in Chicago used to be proof of this. In addition, he also manages the hospitality part of The Joseph, a hotel located in Nashville. Mantuano apparently has a partnership with The Pizzuti Companies.
I liked his quote- ‘The most important ingredient is the one you leave out.’ Fun fact- Barack Obama called him his favorite chef. Moreover, he was also named the Subtle Master by Chicago Tribune.
Tony Mantuano ran the Italian restaurant Spiaggia. The Italian theme of the place was to the point and not too overboard. The deliciousness of the cuisine served here was reliable and satisfactory. Unfortunately, the restaurant was closed after 37 years of opening. I am eager to see what he does next.
Awards and Honors-
- Mantuano was a nominee of the James Beard Foundation a total of 12 times for the Best Chef: Midwest.
- Moreover, he also won the Good Eating Award from Chicago Tribune.
Cookbook I Recommend-
Stephanie Izard- Iron Chef Gauntlet Champion
I was indeed curious about Chef Stephanie Izard when I heard that she went from being a competitor in the Top Chef Duels to being a guest judge on it. Izard is well-known for her TV appearance, as well as her restaurants in Chicago. Moreover, she also has diners in Los Angeles.
But Top Chef wasn’t the only place she participated in. Her other competition was the Iron Chef Gauntlet, where she won as the champion!
Her major culinary study was from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts Scottsdale. In 2001, she came to Chicago. Before opening her own restaurant, she worked at Vong, Spring, and La Tache.
Restaurants You Should Visit-
Stephanie Izard has three restaurants in Chicago. They are- Girl and the Goat, Little Goat, and Duck Duck Goat.
She had another restaurant named Scylla before, which is closed now.
Awards and Achievements-
- Girl and the Goat was entitled ‘America’s Best New Restaurant’ by Saveur magazine.
- The same eatery was also nominated for Best New Restaurant in 2011 by James Beard Foundation.
- She got the title ‘Best New Chef’ by Food & Wine in 2011.
- She was also the first female winner of Top Chef in its fourth season.
As the city of foods and drinks, Chicago doesn’t disappoint. With names like Stephanie Izard or Rick Bayless, you will never run out of good places to grab a bite. So if you happen to be visiting near any of the restaurants owned by the above chefs, be sure not to miss the opportunity. Your belly will thank you.