In one of America's great restaurant cities, Paul Virant was connected. He toiled with giants in some of Chicago's most exciting restaurants, including Charlie Trotter's, Everest and Blackbird. But now he has his own restaurant, Vie, in a western suburb so far off the beaten path that Charlie Trotter, Jean Joho and Paul Kahan would need a compass and bloodhound to find it.
Sleepy Western Springs had never issued a liquor license before Virant arrived in town last year to open Vie. But this Norman Rockwell setting suits the 35-year-old chef and his food just fine. He grew up on a Missouri farm and Virant's menu reflects his respect for high-quality, artisanal ingredients.
His cooking, which he describes as seasonal contemporary American cuisine, is mature and uncomplicated. Virant's plates often have only two or three ingredients, yet he elevates them to another level.
Phil Vettel of the Chicago Tribune described Virant's ability to bring few and simple ingredients together as "magical." In May, Chicago magazine named the months-old Vie (which means "life" in French) as a Best New Restaurant. It also declared Virant Best New Chef. "Paul Virant's dazzling Vie in Western Springs seemed to materialize so fully formed it felt as if it had been around for years," Chicago editors wrote.
It's a joy to discover a chef so talented, so full of life.