Since opening Vie, his flagship restaurant in Western Springs, Illinois, in 2004, Chef Paul Virant has risen to nationwide acclaim for his contemporary Midwestern cuisine that emphasizes canned and preserved ingredients. His philosophy of local, seasonal eating stems from techniques he learned on his family’s farm in Missouri.
In 2012, Virant released The Preservation Kitchen: The Craft of Making and Cooking with Pickles, Preserves, and Aigre-Doux, the first canning manual and cookbook authored by a critically acclaimed chef that creatively combines the technical aspects of canning with a chef’s expertise on flavor.
Virant opened Vistro in Hinsdale, Illinois, in 2014. Vistro focuses on approachable, seasonal food and drinks, and serves as a staple in the community for friends and families. Virant is the former partner and executive chef of Boka Restaurant Group’s Perennial Virant (2011 to 2016) in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.
In 2017, Virant launched Jar Sessions, a locally produced, small-batch line of pickled and preserved products, collaborating with Midwest farmers to create the Jar Sessions collection of farm-to-fork products.
In late 2019, Virant opened Gaijin, Chicago’s first okonomiyaki restaurant, offering both Hiroshima and Osaka styles of the savory Japanese pancake. A self-described gaijin, or “outsider” in Japanese, Virant playfully embraces this perspective and honors traditional preparations and techniques, as well as his well-known passion for pickling and preserving. Located in Chicago’s West Loop and designed to deliver a lively and interactive culinary experience, Gaijin’s 60-seat space is anchored by a custom 12-foot griddle and chef’s counter and offers individual Hiroshima teppan griddles for table service.
Virant’s accolades include 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2011 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. He also has competed on Food Network’s “Iron Chef America.” Vie earned a Michelin star in 2011.
Virant graduated with a degree in nutrition from West Virginia Wesleyan College and then attended The Culinary Institute of America 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. Two years later, he moved to Chicago and worked at some of the nation’s most famed restaurants, including Charlie Trotter’s, Ambria, Everest and Blackbird.