By Elizabeth SanFilippo
Chicago has made its mark on the culinary world in no small part due to the constant inventiveness of the chefs around town. When people think of fine dining in Chicago, they consider the greats, such as Grant Achatz of Alinea or Rick Bayless of Topolobampo, to name a few. But the city is also built on rising stars who are looking to push the envelope, try new flavors and share their passion for all things food with their diners. Here are five of those up-and-coming chefs who are boldly heating up the culinary scene and worth keeping on your food radar.
Curtis Duffy at Grace
652 W Randolph Ave
Chicago, IL 60661
Chef Duffy made waves in the Chicago culinary world when he left two-star Michelin-rated Avenues in the Peninsula Hotel last year to start his own restaurant, Grace, which is scheduled to open in the West Loop around October 2012. With his new restaurant, the chef has big plans: he wants to have the best restaurant in the country, and that means achieving the coveted three Michelin stars. Though his food wouldn’t be called fusion, he does include a lot of international flavors as well as elegant, locally-sourced ingredients. With a background at other amazing restaurants — Charlie Trotter’s, Alinea and Trio — as well as a previous James Beard Award nomination, it’s only a matter of time before he’s achieved his dreams.
Carl Shelton at Boka Restaurant
1729 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60614
At just 27 years old, Chef Carl Shelton has already established himself as a force in Chicago’s culinary world. While he’s known for his foods at some of the best restaurants in Chicago, including Tru, he got his start down in Missouri working in family restaurants. In 2004, he moved to Chicago and studied at Le Cordon Bleu. Giuseppe Tentori also became his mentor and has said that Shelton cooks with passion. Shelton is determined to find the best ingredients, and as such, don’t be surprised to find him at farmer’s markets throughout the city.
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Joe Doren at The Peasantry
2723 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60614
With an education at New England Culinary Institute and a background at Blackbird and Sixteen, 26-year-old Joe Doren knows fine dining. After joining owner Alexander Brunacci at Franks N Dawgs, he also understands how to elevate street food to a whole new level. That’s exactly what he’s doing at Brunacci’s latest endeavor, The Peasantry. As the head chef, Doren is constantly innovating amazing dishes — think pork belly gyros and pickled cognac BBQ frog legs — by drawing inspiration from his hometown of Traverse City and just a pure desire to combine amazing flavors in one unexpected dish.
Lee Wolen at The Peninsula
108 E Superior St
Chicago, IL 60611
After leaving Chicago five years ago — with stints as a sous chef at both Butter and Moto — Lee Wolen is returning to the Windy City. He’s leaving New York’s prestigious three-star Michelin Eleven Madison Park and hopes are high for what Wolen will bring to the Lobby at The Peninsula. As Wolen has also previously staged at the infamous elBulli, expect great things from the new chef.
Cosmo Goss at Publican Quality Meats
825 W Fulton Market St
Chicago, IL 60607
Cosmo Goss got his start in the culinary world out West at Denver’s Johnson and Wales University program, but after meeting the infamous Paul Kahan, he set up roots in Chicago. Here, he’s helped get Publican Quality Meats off the ground in the West Loop as the head of charcuterie, which is just one reason he’s earned a spot on Zagat’s list of “30 Under 30: Chicago’s Hottest Up-And-Comers.” Goss is more than willing to share his knowledge with patrons too; in addition to chatting up customers at PQM, he often does demos around the city, such as at this year’s Taste of Chicago at the Dominick’s Cooking Corner.
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Elizabeth SanFilippo is a freelance writer, who enjoys trying new foods from all over the world. But her favorite city for culinary treats will always be Chicago. When not writing about food, she’s scribbling novels, and TV show reviews and recaps. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.