After graduating with a degree in nutrition from West Virginia Wesleyan College, Paul Virant enrolled at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York. Following culinary school, he joined March in New York where he further refined his skills under the tutelage of chefs Wayne Nish and Hilary Gregg. A move to Chicago two years later marked a turning point in his career as he worked at some of the nation’s most famed restaurants, including Charlie Trotter’s, Ambria, Everest and Blackbird.
In 2004, a desire to return to his roots led to his opening of Vie in Western Springs, Illinois, a nearby suburb of Chicago. Utilizing his methods of canning and preserving, Chef Paul serves up his contemporary American cuisine with a focus on the ingredients – their origin, production and quality.
“I wanted to create an extension of my home, where people can come and enjoy good food and drink in the company of people they care about. My goal is to be a small part of my guests’ enjoyment of every morsel and drop of life.”
Since opening his flagship restaurant Vie, Chef Paul has risen to nationwide acclaim for his contemporary Midwestern cuisine that emphasizes innovative canned and preserved ingredients. His philosophy of local, seasonal eating stems from techniques he learned on his family’s farm in Missouri that continue to spark his creativity today.
In addition to Michelin-starred Vie, he brings his culinary prowess to the city’s Lincoln Park neighborhood as partner and executive chef of Boka Restaurant Group’s Perennial Virant, which he opened in 2011, followed by the J. Parker, the rooftop lounge and bar, both located at Hotel Lincoln.
In 2012, Virant’s award-winning fare culminated in the release of his first cookbook, The Preservation Kitchen: The Craft of Making and Cooking with Pickles, Preserves, and Aigre-Doux, offering the first canning manual and cookbook authored by a Michelin-starred chef that creatively combines the technical aspects of canning with a chef’s expertise on flavor.
In 2014, Chef Virant opened his third restaurant, Vistro, in Hinsdale, Illinois. The rustic, bistro-style restaurant focuses on approachable, seasonal food and drinks, and serves as a staple in the community for friends and family.
Virant’s accolades include: 2015, 2014 and 2013 finalist nominations for the James Beard Foundation Award’s Best Chef: Great Lakes, 2007 Best New Chef by Food & Wine, 2007 Jean Banchet Award for Culinary Excellence as Top Celebrity Chef, and 2005 Best New Chef by Chicago magazine in 2005. He has also competed on Food Network’s “Iron Chef America.” Vie earned its Michelin star in 2011.