It’s been three years since StarChefs released a list of Chicago rising star chefs, and it’s pretty fun to look back at their 2015 list. It included chefs who would go on to Beard Awards, Michelin stars, and glamorous restaurant openings over the following three years, so I guess that means these experts knew what they were talking about. That’s why, if you’re a restaurant nerd, it’s probably a good idea to keep an eye on their brand new 2018 list of rising stars in Chicago.
The new list is a really fun mix of big names and some chefs and culinary artists you might not have heard of yet. Given the StarChefs track record, you’ll probably be hearing about these folks more and more in the coming years. The team interviewed more than 125 different people to narrow down to this list of 19 chefs, artisans, bartenders and restaurant designers.
In the chef category, Oriole’s Noah Sandoval is probably the most prominent entry, followed by Jimmy Papadopoulos of the year’s prettiest restaurant, Bellemore. Brian Ahern of Boeufhaus is representing the only steak place on the list, along with Julie Warpinski of Big Star, Ryan Pfeiffer of Blackbird, and Pete Coenen, who is listed as the chef of Land & Sea Dept., but you probably know his work as executive chef of Cherry Circle Room at the Chicago Athletic Association, where he serves the best beef tartare in the city of Chicago. Coenen isn’t the only Cherry Circle Room employee to get recognized; Andrew Algren is on the best sommeliers list, along with Leslie Lamont of Leña Brava.
While the chefs are kind of the stars of this show, the other categories are just as jam-packed with talent. Jonathan Zaragoza of Birrieria Zaragoza takes the best “Community Chef” title, Leigh Omilinsky of Nico Osteria shines in the pastry category (along with Emily Spurlin of Bad Hunter and Amanda Shepard of Lula Cafe). A few of your favorite fast-casual spots got some love as well, with Donna Lee of Brown Bag Seafood Co. taking home best “concept" and Michael Ciapciak of Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits walking away with the restaurateur award. Kevin Beary of Three Dots & a Dash and Kristina Magro of Prairie School were recognized in the bartending category.