Executive Chef/Partner Paul Kahan has become the nationally recognizable face of Chicago chefs. Passionately seasonal, unconventionally creative and dedicated to the inspiration of classical cuisine, Kahan has received international acclaim for Blackbird, avec, The Publican, Big Star, Publican Quality Meats and most recently Nico Osteria. Awarded Outstanding Chef by the James Beard Foundation in 2013 and Best Chef of the Midwest in 2004, Kahan has earned the praise of many who claim him to be one of America’s most influential working chefs.
A Chicagoan through and through, Kahan grew up around food. His father owned a delicatessen and a smokehouse, and “when I wanted to make a buck,” says Kahan. “I would help my dad take the fish out of the brine, hang them on the racks and wheel them into the smokehouse.”
After a brief post-college stint as a computer scientist, Kahan took a job in the kitchen of Erwin Drechsler’s Metropolis. It was in Dreschler’s kitchen where Kahan realized his true calling. Over the course of 15 years at Metropolis and Erwin, Kahan developed relationships with Midwestern farmers—leaving a permanent mark on his culinary outlook. He further honed his craft at Topolobampo under the tutelage of the award-winning chef Rick Bayless.
In 1999, shortly after Blackbird opened, Food & Wine placed Kahan on their Best New Chefs list, recognizing his highly individual approach to cooking and the talent that Chicago diners have celebrated for years. Despite accolades and adoration, Kahan’s biggest accomplishment remains his work as a mentor for young chefs. As Kahan puts it, “I have won my awards, what I love is cooking and teaching. If somebody has a great creative vision or a great mind for food, I want to learn from them.” He works to foster empowerment, providing the resources necessary to grow, both as a chef and person.
Kahan is an ardent supporter of Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for pediatric cancer research, as well as Pilot Light, an organization dedicated to enhancing school children’s perception of food through hands-on education. Paul Kahan is a devoted husband to his wife Mary, an ardent music lover and bike aficionado.