Chicago's Overshadowed Chef Finally Gets His 15 Minutes

A big mover behind the development of the city's meat packing district, Paul Kahan is in charge of a growing collection of restaurants.

Micheline Maynard

When asked to name the top chefs in Chicago, avid foodies across the country can easily rattle off a list of names.

There's Rick Bayless, the master of Mexican cooking; Grant Achatz, whose restaurant, Alinea, is considered by some to be America's best; and Stephanie Izard, owner of Girl and the Goat, and the only female winner of Top Chef.

But to a Chicagoan, any such list has to include another name: Paul Kahan, who oversees a collection of restaurants, ranging from The Publican to Blackbird to Big Star, that are packed every night with locals and tourists.

2012 is clearly Kahan's moment. Last month, Chicago magazine named him one of the 100 most powerful people in the city, a group headed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. This week, Kahan received his third nomination as the country's Chef of the Year by the James Beard Award Foundation, while his upscale cocktail bar, The Violet Hour, was nominated for best bar program.

The recognition comes just as Kahan and his partners in One Off Hospitality have opened their newest venture, Publican Quality Meats, a butcher/bakery/café, that may be the dearest to his heart.

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