Meet the famous faces running the kitchens in some of Chicago’s top restaurants. Our city is home to many of the best and brightest culinary stars, from Top Chef winners and contestants to Michelin-starred and James Beard Award-winning chefs. Check out this guide to Chicago’s celebrity chefs and the restaurants where you can taste their celebrated cuisine for yourself.
Chicago chef Rick Bayless won the James Beard Award for National Chef of the Year in 1995 and hasn’t slowed down since. In the past three decades, he’s made a lasting mark on Chicago’s culinary scene. His two signature restaurants, Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, specialize in modern interpretations of traditional Mexican food, along with tortas and churros at casual spot Xoco and mezcal-focused Bar Sotano. After several cookbooks and twelve seasons of a national TV show (Mexico — One Plate at a Time on PBS), Rick continues to bring new flavors home to Chicago.
You might know her from Top Chef, where she was named the series’ first female winner in 2008. Since then, she’s been busy accumulating more accolades for her slew of acclaimed Chicago restaurants. Her flagship restaurant Girl & the Goat has been one of the hottest tables in town since it opened in 2011. The restaurant and chef have since been honored with several prestigious James Beard nominations and a win for “Best Chef: Great Lakes.” Izard’s diverse roster of restaurants includes “reasonably authentic” Chinese spot Duck Duck Goat, lush Peruvian-inspired rooftop Cabra, and upscale diner Little Goat.
There’s probably no greater star chef practicing modernist cuisine in the world today than Grant Achatz. His Chicago restaurant, Alinea, serves a one-of-a-kind tasting menu complete with multi-sensory and interactive elements. A culinary mecca to many, it’s frequently ranked among the best restaurants in the world and a long-time holder of three prestigious Michelin stars.
The Alinea Group’s cocktail lounge Aviary is an equally innovative addition to the Chicago dining scene. Their West Loop restaurant Next, winner of the James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant and a Michelin star, features a new themed dining experience several times a year. Roister, a more casual spot, focuses on hearth-made dishes with global flavors. And in the same building, St. Clair Supper Club draws inspiration from its surroundings (Chicago’s former meat-packing district) for a menu that’s a carnivore’s dream.
A late-round finalist on season nine of Top Chef, Beverly Kim has developed her own signature style of Korean cuisine. That style is on display at Parachute, the award-winning restaurant in Avondale that Beverly runs with her husband, Johnny Clark. The menu showcases a wide range of traditional Korean dishes, served in an intimate 40-seat space. In 2019, Beverly and Johnny won the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Great Lakes.
A Chicago native, Erick Williams has made a lasting mark on his city’s food scene. His first venture, Virtue Restaurant & Bar in the historic Hyde Park neighborhood, showcases Williams’ talent for refined, soulful cuisine. The spot opened to immediate national acclaim and earned him the prestigious Best Chef: Great Lakes title at the James Beard Awards. His other restaurants include casual Mustard Seed Kitchen and Daisy’s Po-Boy and Tavern.
The multi-award-winning restauranteur is a man of many talents. His accolades include James Beard nods for Outstanding Chef and Best Chef of the Midwest, plus numerous recognitions from Food & Wine Magazine, Conde Nast Traveler, Michelin Guide, and more. Paul has helmed the kitchen at many of the city’s most beloved institutions, including avec, Big Star, The Publican, Publican Quality Meats, and Dove’s Luncheonette.
This Texas transplant moved to Chicago in 2005 to work under the legendary Tony Mantuano at Spiaggia. She quickly rose through the ranks to Chef di Cucina, and has been making her mark on the local culinary community ever since. Nationally, she’s known for being a fan favorite as a finalist on Top Chef.
Critics have been heaping accolades onto her West Loop restaurant, Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio, since it opened in 2015. It was recognized as one of “America’s Best Restaurants” by Food & Wine and a top 50 finalist on Bon Appetit’s “Best New Restaurants” list. In 2017, Sarah received her first James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Great Lakes.
Thai & Danielle Dang
Thai Dang is bringing an authentic taste of Vietnam to Chicago. HaiSous Vietnamese Kitchen, his hit restaurant in the Pilsen neighborhood, is all about flavors and recipes from Dang’s childhood in Vietnam. His masterful execution and modern vision have earned him plenty of acclaim — HaiSous was a semifinalist for the James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant and a recipient of a Michelin Bib Gourmand. He runs HaiSous with his wife and director of operations, Danielle Dang. The couple also opened an all-day Vietnamese cafe and coffee bar, Cá Phe Dá, right next door.
Anna and David Posey
Elske is a labor of love for husband-and-wife duo David and Anna Posey. The restaurant, whose name means “love” in Danish, has received a coveted Michelin star for its high-quality cuisine and the #2 spot on Bon Appetit‘s list of Best New Restaurants. The pair also earned James Beard Award nominations for Best Chef: Great Lakes Region. Not bad for their first restaurant together.
The instant accolades might have something to do with the fact that the couple previously worked in some of Chicago’s best kitchens. David served as the former chef of Blackbird and Anna was the pastry chef at Publican. At Elske, a clean and modern space in the West Loop, the Poseys serve their perfectly executed, Danish-inspired cuisine. Get the nine-course tasting menu or choose from the a la carte menu — you’ll taste the love in everything you order.
Chef Curtis Duffy’s prestigious resume and reputation make him a familiar name for many fanatical foodies. Having worked in the famous kitchens of Grace, Charlie Trotter’s, The French Laundry, and Alinea, he’s spent years honing his craft in some of the city’s most acclaimed kitchens. His new venture, Ever, is already highly acclaimed by chefs and critics alike. The fine dining spot, which features tasting menus focused on seafood, grains, and vegetables, has earned the chef two Michelin stars. You can also stop by After, the adjoining cocktail bar for upscale bar bites and an otherworldly vibe.
For a little sweetness on your Chicago top chef tour, stop by Mindy’s Bakery. Mindy, a winner of the James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef, is known for her out-of-this-world pastries and desserts, but the savory bites at her beloved Wicker Park bakery are also not to be missed.
And if you still have openings in your fine-dining agenda, check out more of Chicago’s top chefs and rising stars: