Top Chicago Chefs – Paul Virant – Vie

Paul Virant grew up in St. Louis and made his way back to the Midwest after earning a degree in Nutrition from Wesleyan University and attending the Culinary Institute of America. He spent some time at March in New York after culinary school, and then had a brief stint in Oahu. He planned to move home, but finding that St. Louis did not have the dining scene he was looking for, Virant headed to Chicago.

After putting in time at some of Chicago’s top restaurants, Virant opened Vie in 2004. Virant says he takes a traditional Midwestern approach to cooking at the restaurant, best described as seasonal contemporary American.

In addition to traditional meat and fish, gnocchi is one of the menu’s mainstays and changes preparations seasonally and ranges from sweet potato to ricotta. Virant’s most recent preparation is served as Yukon gold potato gnocchi, wild mushrooms, herbs and parmigiano-reggiano.

The restaurant also incorporates preservation techniques into the menu, including pickling sauerkraut, preserving jams, and curing meats and fish, all of which is done on-site. Virant says these items are integrated into the menu during non-growing seasons in order to provide fresh accents, like pickled ramps made during the spring, which appeared on the summer menu atop a Dungeness crab cake.

Virant boasts that Vie is one of few restaurants in the city that truly makes everything. In addition to the pickles and preserves, Vie makes its own bread. Virant uses a sourdough starter that has been in his family for 40 years.

Virant sums up the restaurant in saying: “We’re creative but I don’t think the flavor combinations are unusual. It’s just straightforward, well prepared food.”

Paul Virant was named Best New Chef 2007 by Food & Wine Magazine and Best New Chef by Chicago Magazine in 2005. Vie was awarded three stars by Phil Vettel of the Chicago Tribune in 2005.  For more information, please visit Vie’s website.

? March 2008

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