Why He's Amazing: Because in a restaurant world that continues to trend toward casual, he's keeping fine luxurious dining alive and well in Chicago.
Culinary School: Self-taught
Background: Charlie Trotter's, Trio, Alinea, Avenues (Chicago); the French Laundry (Yountville, CA)
Quintessential Dish: Toro, trout roe and pomelo sections with basil, lime and coconut in a cylinder of ginger-flavored ice
Who Turned Him onto Cooking: His sixth-grade home economics teacher, Ruth Snider. The first day of class, they made pizzas using Pillsbury biscuit dough, spaghetti sauce and pepperoni.
On the Restaurant's Name: Cooking provided Duffy with a refuge during his difficult childhood, a kind of grace. (He has the word tattooed on his forearm.) Grace, he says, also "embodies the style of food we produce, meaning that it's elegant, it has refinement, there's a gentleness to it…I'm a very quiet chef. I like the kitchen to be quiet. It's what makes the restaurant move forward."
Mentors: "John P. Souza [the chef at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio] was the huge mentor in foundational cooking. He gave me a solid cooking foundation. Charlie Trotter gave me the discipline to work with farmers to search for the best ingredients, and Grant Achatz taught me the creative process of looking at food in a different way."
Technological Innovations: Duffy collaborated with the Chicago School of Mold Making on a special silicone canister that allows him freeze water into cylinders that are sturdy enough to go from kitchen to table but delicate enough to crack with a spoon.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.