Edit Module Sam Toia | Chicago magazine
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Sam Toia

President and CEO, Illinois Restaurant Association

Age: 53

Photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune

Chefs and restaurateurs grab most of the attention, but this politically connected, under-the-radar power broker is the engine driving Chicago’s thriving foodie industry. Last year was a four-star one for Toia: He successfully lobbied to bring back happy hour in Illinois (multiple attempts since the late ’80s had failed); helped restore state funding to Choose Chicago, the city’s tourism bureau; and was instrumental in making Chicago Gourmet one of the nation’s top culinary events and in bringing the James Beard Awards here (sorry, New York).

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