Co-owner, Longman & Eagle, Bite Café, Empty Bottle
He made his bones slinging sweaty bottles of PBR to young hipsters head-nodding to Andrew Bird et al. in a cave-like bar on Western. Now he slings premium bourbon, killer organ meats and upscale bar nosh to middle-aged hipsters in Logan Square and earned a Michelin star to boot.
Founder, Hum Spirits
Farm to bar movement, homemade bitters, making your own vermouth, making your own boutique spirits, there isn’t a single cocktail trend Adam Seger wasn’t out in front of. He was doing all this stuff at Nacional 27 even before the Violet Hour landed and Sable Kitchen & Bar launched. Nowadays, he’s traveling the country attempting to make his Chicago-invented cardamom-hibiscus-ginger-based rum liqueur a national phenomenon.
Chef/Owner, Meatyballs Mobile, El Ideas
Once, a high-end molecular gastronomist at Lockwood in the Palmer House hotel who got fired for tweeting about a “bong,” Foss is now determined to put his submarines stuffed with balls including “schweddy”—spicy Tunisian-style lamb and chicken meatballs—and “chocolate salty” in your face. In addition to his three Meatyballs trucks, Foss is about to launch a storefront operation called El Ideas which will be a supper club of sorts featuring an assortment of rotating themed meals.
A decade from now when we’ll hopefully have food trucks people can actually cook on, successful mobile chefs will likely look at Maroni as their George Washington. In February of 2010, he started a quest and wrote a business plan to get legislation off the ground allowing food trucks in the city. By July he was serving his Indian flatbread wrapped Naan-Wiches stuffed with wild boar belly and lobster all over the Loop from the belly of a truck. Many others followed. Many more will.
Chef/Owner, Hot Chocolate
Pastry chefs are growing more and more disposable. Many restaurants have done away with them altogether. As a result there are few household names in Chicago. Finding a pastry chef that thinks about temperature, texture and flavor and delivers sophisticated desserts that provoke and reward is near impossible. Segal is the exception.
Chef/Partner, MK, DMK Burger Bar, Fish Bar
There was a time a few years ago where all seemed quiet in the Kornick-sphere and we thought we would maybe have to prepare for a life without his signature French fries and truffle cream. Then last year Kornick, along with his partner David Morton, kicked the machine back into overdrive with a burger bar that not only served said frites, but some of the best sweet potato fries we ever had. Our favorite addition to the MK empire is the rich fat clam belly, refreshing ceviche, and loaded lobster roll-serving fish shack next door.
It’s one thing to get the ear of a politician, it’s quite another to have the stomach of the President. Obama, Daley, Rahm and Quinn—they’ve all made their pilgrimages to the Near West Side for pastrami and pie—it seems you can’t launch a campaign in this town these days without a little of Raskin’s nosh. For the rest of us, the poor unwashed masses, Raskin feeds the soul and reaffirms the Chicago in our hearts.
“Check Please!”/Lettuce Entertain You Wine Queen
We’ve seen little old Mexican dudes who have eaten a lot more chicken livers than foie gras stop dead in their tracks in a Pilsen grocery store and stare in awe like a 12-year-old girl spying Justin Bieber at a shopping mall when they’ve spotted Singh. She is the culinary darling for foodies and the McDonald’s-loving set alike. Despite her celebrity, she’s wicked smart on wine and one of the nicest people we know.
Chef/Partner, Vie and Perennial Virant
Everyone uses local seasonal product these days, but few cook like they’re on an episode of “Little House on the Prairie.” Stuffing sausages, canning preserves, pickling vegetables and foraging for mushrooms, Paul Virant is the one-room schoolhouse of old-school cooks. Unfortunately, he’s been working most of his magic in Western Springs. Thankfully, Rob Katz and Kevin Boehm of Boka Restaurant Group have tapped him for their renovation of Perennial—now Perennial Virant—where he works his seasonal magic across the street from Green City Market. Oh, and he has a forthcoming canning and preserving cookbook from Ten Speed Press too in case you want to get in touch with your inner pioneer.
Owner, Gunthorp Farms
Chickens, pigs, ducks… Way before it was a cliché to see a farmer’s name on a seasonal menu, Gunthorp Farms was often the only name you saw. Nowadays, from Blackbird in the West Loop to Vie in the western suburbs, if there’s meat on the menu, Gunthorp is almost always part of the equation.