When he was 16, Skokie native Andrés Lara made a chocolate ganache cake to impress a girl. He didn’t get the girl, but he found his calling. Soon he moved on to the French Pastry School in Chicago and then to some of the finest kitchens in the world, including the famous El Bulli in Roses, Spain. Now Lara has landed at NoMI, where he favors herbs, fruits, and flowers to make his desserts "look alive." His latest nature-inspired stunner, called apricot pearl, involves a poached apricot, edible orchids, and tarragon dust—with a single chocolate shard. Just in case. Park Hyatt Chicago, 800 N. Michigan Ave.; 312-239-4030.

Photograph: Jimmy Fishbein