Chicago Chefs Name Their All Time Chicago Chef Mt. Rushmore, Includes Stats, Graphs, Rankings, and all kinds of fun!
Surprised to see only ONE (!) mention of Rivk Tramonto and ZERO for Gale Gand. I never ate at Tru, but come on!
Mine - based on reputation and inspiration for most:
Charlie Trotter - duh
Jean Banchet - double duh
Rick Bayless - could upscale Mexican food in America truly exist without him?
Grant Achatz - the face of American molecular gastronomy
Honorable mentions - if anyone wants to chisel more faces..
Stephanie Izard - as a chef said, she made BOKA the success it is now - my personal pick for best chef whose food I've eaten. She is the best thing to happen to Chicago food of my writing era
Paul Kahan - my opinion of One Off's restaurants post Big Star isn't as impressive as what came before, but his mentorship and his push for farm to table made a bigger impact than any other chef. Plus, he planted the seeds to make Fulton Market/West Loop grow to become what it is.
Mindy Segal - trailblazer - a strong female presence in an era that had few.
Homeroom Cantu - this is as much a personal/sentimental pick as it is about merit. He took the piss out of the molecular gastronomy seriousness and truly became the "Willy Wonka" of Chicago's food scene. He was a friend. He took me seriously as a writer when few did. Meals at Moto may not have ever been front to back perfect, but they were always unlike anything I've ever written because he was unafraid to try, fail, regroup and come back perfected. I miss Omar deeply.
Just a few more...
Michael Carlson - imagine a biography of him and Schwa???
Chris Curren - made me like an egg - if you know me, that's huge.
Jimmy Bannos - when Heaven on Seven closed, it was a gut punch. My favorite place for a good meal. I got to become friends with Jimmy and his family. Rest in peace, George.
Tony Mantuano - another heavy hitter that was gracious with me and put Italian food on another level in Chicago.
Ryan Poli - Tavernita was a huge space (it's now Avec 2.0), it was flashy and meant to attract the beautiful people, but Poli was serious about the food. Another friend.
Martin Fosse - this guy owned Andersonville for a long time. His former restaurant in Wicker Park is where I met him and I adored that place.
Doug Sohn - After waiting in a long ass line to see The Doors at the McCormick theater (rip) when it was released, I vowed to never do so again. I broke that vow I don't know how many times to eat at Hot Doug's. Once I popped in just a bit before closing and it was the only short wait I ever had.
Fun exercise. Now I’ve got some new chefs to check out too. Thanks for asking us to join the party!
Great shout out to Dean Zanella - he made great local food in a non-flashy environment!