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5 Stellar Spots to Eat in Chicago, In keeping with Michelin-Starred Chef John Shields

5 Stellar Spots to Eat in Chicago, In keeping with Michelin-Starred Chef John Shields

Only two Chicago restaurants have three Michelin stars: Grant Achatz’s Alinea and now, John Shields’ and Karen Urie Shields’ Smyth. Smyth received its third star in November for the chefs’ “sheer creativity” and “utterly unique” dishes. John actually worked at Alinea as a sous chef nearly 20 years ago, but Alinea Smyth is not. Smyth is informal, warm, earthy. The restaurant is inspired by the time John and Karen spent in Southwest Virginia, where they escaped to after their time working in kitchens in Chicago, and where they grounded themselves in nature and drew inspiration for years to come. 

John, the executive chef, and Karen, the pastry chef, returned to Chicago and launched Smyth and the Loyalist, its downstairs brasserie, in the West Loop in 2017. Six weeks after opening, Smyth received its first Michelin star. In 2018, the restaurant was awarded two stars, and maintained those until 2023, when Smyth finally got its third.

While John says he certainly feels pressure now that he has three stars—all eyes will be on them—he also feels more free. Their style of cooking is off-beat, focusing more on emotion and memory than tricks, and Michelin rewarded them for that.

“We were able to do it kind of our way, and they [Michelin] believed in us,” he said. “Our staying power is, I think, in the creativity. The creativity comes from constant work. It sounds cliché, but it’s curiosity and trying to get better and wanting to learn constantly, which means you got to try new things all the time. You keep learning and you keep evolving. With what we’ve done thus far, there’s no reason to stop now.”

John says he has big plans for the new year—something else planned for Chicago or maybe elsewhere. “I’ve got a few pots on the burners right now,” he says.

The busy chef and father of two young daughters admits he doesn’t get out much anymore, but these are the places he still makes time for in the Windy City.

Source: Robb Report

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