Stephanie Izard is impulsive. Talented, ambitious and altogether impressive yes, but terribly impulsive. Ask the chef few questions about how she got from point A to point B, and you’ll quickly see that many of her turning points began with a whim: a weekend spent in the sunshine of a new city; a cook’s offhand remark that she couldn’t shake; a conversation with her husband, shared over leftovers. Izard has cultivated a mean set of instincts, and the grit to follow them to parts unknown. And in Chicago, one of the richest and most competitive restaurant markets in the country, those are traits that have served her well.
Izard was born in Chicago but her family moved to Connecticut when she was a baby, and it would take more than 20 years for her to find her way back. Her first restaurant job was at an Olive Garden, hostessing and waiting tables between classes at the University of Michigan. Eventually, she joined her sister out in Arizona where she enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu. “I found my people in culinary school. We’d go out after class and talk about food and chefs and Yan Can Cook,” she says. She worked at a restaurant in Scottsdale, and when it closed for renovations she decided to meet up with a friend in Chicago. “I’d never really experienced the city as an adult and I just loved it right away. We went to a Cubs game and wandered around street festivals outdoors. There were cute boys and nice people,” says Izard, who promptly quit her job in Arizona and asked her sister to mail her things to Illinois. “When you find a city that feels like the right fit, you just know.”