Chef Matthias Merges
Chef Matthias Merges
Photo © Matthias Merges

Pig's tail ramen, short rib potpie, bucatini carbonara: Is there any style of cooking this Chicago chef can't master?

It's hard enough for a chef to open one great restaurant. Chicago's Matthias Merges has launched three in three years—one Japanese, one American and one Mediterranean. Though he was born in New Jersey and spent 14 years as executive chef at Charlie Trotter's, Merges has a preternatural knack for Japanese-accented cooking. At Yusho, his one rule is that he won't serve sushi; instead, he makes things like crispy pig's tail ramen. At his deluxe bar, Billy Sunday, he puts short rib potpie and other American dishes on the menu alongside bottled cocktails. And at A10, he celebrates Italy and France with recipes like bucatini carbonara topped with a 60-minute egg. Next up for Merges: a Yusho in Las Vegas and a beer-and-sausage restaurant in the Pacific Northwest. "I'm always trying to go outside my fine-dining comfort zone," he says.

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