Paul Kahan


Paul Kahan

Age: 51

Occupation: Restaurateur

This food genie (Blackbird, Avec, Publican, Big Star) doesn’t just launch trends, he creates tidal waves. No one carries more weight on the local culinary scene right now than this chef, who knows what Chicagoans want to eat next and delivers it first. He spoke to Chicago on January 17.

Who is the first person you call with a new idea?

It’s really a huge group effort, but I would be a whimpering pile of nothing without Donnie [Madia] and Terry [Alexander, two of his four managing partners in the restaurant group One Off].

What is the one thing you will never do again?

I would never design a kitchen on my own again. I did it for Blackbird and Avec and the Publican. Beyond that, we brought in a professional kitchen designer, and it made a world of difference.

After Nico Osteria, what now?

I bought a three-story brick-and-timber building on Lake Street. I will have an office for the first time; I will probably never be there. The first floor will be a full-scale commercial bakery for our restaurants and others. And we took another space right along the el tracks, like a sister to Big Star. About 40 seats. It will be Mexican, but slightly different in style [from Big Star].

Interview by Penny Pollack
Photo: Bob Stefko