Chef and Owner, Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, XOCO, Frontera Fresco and Tortas Frontera, Cookbook Author and Television Host
Rick Bayless changed American perceptions of Mexican restaurant food by giving many their first taste of classics like mole and huitlacoche. His new book “More Mexican Everyday: Simple, Seasonal, Celebratory” focuses on home cooks, who he encourages to be less dependent on recipes. “That might sound like a strange way to describe a cookbook,” Bayless says, “but cooking well at home requires only confidence, an eye for good ingredients and a solid understanding of flavor.” Bayless hopes his book helps guide farmers’ market shoppers, which makes sense coming from a Green City Market board member.
Owner and Chef, One Off Hospitality
The restaurants of Paul Kahan (Blackbird, Dove’s Luncheonette, Nico Osteria, etc.) and his partners are always on the lips of Chicago’s fooderati. They’ve been in the news for so long that even Chicago’s grandmas and grandpas have heard of Kahan and his wildly successful One Off Hospitality restaurant group. The culinary prowess, sleek spaces and effusive service of his restaurants keep hungry Chicagoans coming back for more. He’s brainy, that one, having started out in tech, before realizing his true calling to the kitchen. We’re all glad he did.
Chef and Partner, Spiaggia, Cafe Spiaggia, Bar Toma, Terzo Piano, River Roast, and Mangia Wine Bar and Partner, The Purple Pig
Sure, Chicago has long had its neighborhood red-sauce joints, and thanks to chef Tony Mantuano, higher-end-yet-traditional Italian cuisine gained a foothold in the Windy City. He opened Spiaggia in 1984, after spending a year staging in some of Italy’s great restaurants. In a time when only French restaurants were considered worthy of distinction, Mantuano earned a Michelin star for his true-to-basics Italian fare that reflected a fine dining attention to detail. He has since opened restaurants across the city, including Terzo Piano at the Art Institute, Bar Toma and River Roast. He tells us his goals are “to affect every level of diner” and “really showcase Chicago and what we can do.”
David Manilow and Catherine DeOrio
Creator of “Check, Please!” and Host of “Check, Please!” and Executive Director of Kendall College Trust
When David Manilow got the idea for “Check, Please!” from a weekly dinner club with friends, he probably didn’t realize he’d be creating an Emmy-winning and pioneering food program that would still be going strong fifteen years later. Currently hosted by Catherine DeOrio, a respected food writer with her own culinary background, “Check, Please!” continues to be an accessible resource for Chicago food lovers. “[The show] is a great champion of restaurants, and not just ones with publicists,” says Cat. “It really opened up the landscape.” With suggestions for featured restaurants coming from the “everyday” guests, Cat notes that “people really trust it… we get to hear what the diners have to say.”
Food Reporter, Hungry Hound and The Feed Podcast
“When I first started out, I just had a broadcast background and a love for food,” says Steve Dolinsky, food reporter and twelve-time James Beard Award-winner says. Being a TV food reporter was a novel concept when he landed the gig of hosting “Good Eating” in 1995. Fast-forward twenty years, and there’s an entire network devoted to the profession he helped kickstart. Dolinsky has adapted with the times. In the early years, his job was simple. “I produced, reported and edited. I did one thing,” Dolinsky says. “Now, I edit, report, video, blog, I’m constantly reassessing my website, I do TV and radio, I started a podcast. I don’t do just one thing.” While his roles and talents have expanded, the fundamentals of reporting are in everything he does, keeping viewers, listeners, and readers entertained and informed.
Restaurateur, Acanto, The Gage and The Dawson
Just when the dust began to settle, Billy Lawless kicked it up again. In 2014, the Irishman had ironed out the kinks of The Dawson, his year-old, half-a-block restaurant in West Town whose chef had left a month in. He had successes like The Gage and Henri under his belt, but the latter, his formal French restaurant, wasn’t drawing the crowds he wanted. So Lawless rebooted it as a casual Italian space that he describes as more “an impulse than a special occasion restaurant.” Acanto has now tripled its bar business. Lawless—who started out as a pot scrubber in his father’s Galway restaurant—is now working out a lease for a new space, which he hinted may be on the river and fish-themed.
Partner, Bite Café, Beauty Bar, Longman & Eagle, Thalia Hall, Dusek’s, Punch House and The Promontory
Bruce Finkelman is one of those guys who makes all of us feel like we’re under-achievers. He has his fingers in so many pots, he ran out of fingers long ago. In addition to his many eating and drinking venues, he’s working with his partner Craig Golden on The National, a chef-driven market in Chicago’s business district scheduled to open December, 2015. It all started with the Empty Bottle, his self-described “cat-ridden hole in the wall,” one of only two Chicago venues to make the Rolling Stone list of nation’s twenty best rock clubs. All his bars and restaurants follow his simple maxim: “Create a place where you would want to be, and there are sure to be some others who will like it as well.”
Chef and Partner, Girl & the Goat and Little Goat
After Stephanie Izard won Bravo’s Top Chef competition, she went on to score a hugely successful deal with Boka Restaurant Group to open the Girl & the Goat, a sleek, dimly lit West Loop spot that’s been hot since Day One. Little Goat Diner followed, and in 2013, a James Beard Award. Her latest Chinese-inspired Duck Duck Goat is due in September. Man, this girl is BUSY, saying she owes it all to “my Olympic Champion Syndrome. Growing up doing sports and always wanting to win pushed me to work to be the best I can be in things I do.”
Vice President, Kendall School and Host, Let’s Dish, Live Well Network
When Christopher Koetke joined the Kendall School of Culinary Arts as a faculty member seventeen years ago, he didn’t expect to teach forever. “But I fell in love with teaching,” he remembers. “I love teaching our students, watching them turn their dreams into reality.” This passion has helped make him one of the most revered chefs and food educators in Chicago and internationally. In 2005, Koetke was at the forefront of the sustainability movement, leading Kendall’s program in sustainability, which he calls a “megatrend” that continues to shape the food industry. “We’re really proud of what we’ve done and humbled to know there’s lots more to do.” The restaurant industry is constantly changing, and with it Koetke’s curriculum. “This is a special environment,” he says, “that’s totally committed to the absolute highest level of education.”
Labriola Café, Labriola and Stan’s Donuts & Coffee
You know the name from the bread, right? Well, Rich Labriola is no longer into crusty carbs, saying “I left the bread business because I felt it had gotten much bigger than I had ever wanted.” He’s now a restaurateur, building on the proceeds from the sale of his bread business. There was Labriola Café in Oak Brook, and soon Labriola downtown—Italian-themed and headed by veteran chef John Caputo—on Grand near Michigan. “I’ve wanted to own an Italian restaurant from the time I was making pizza with my dad in his restaurant when I was ten years old.” Now that he’s solidly in the restaurant biz, there’s no stopping him: in the works is a new location for Stan’s Donuts & Coffee (the LA icon that Labriola brought to Wicker Park) and a new pizza concept coming to Oak Brook in the next month or so.