When you meet Chef Paul Virant, you first notice his intensity and focus, complemented by his genuine warmth and geniality. Learning more about his background, it becomes quickly evident that this dynamic young chef is living and sharing his life’s passion every time he steps into the kitchen.
Food has played an integral role in shaping Virant. His earliest childhood memories are dominated by family traditions such as baking pies and sourdough bread interspersed with weekly visits to the local smokehouse and farmers market. Virant has always been driven by his natural curiosity for food, cooking and the outdoors. As a young boy growing up in Missouri, he foraged for mushrooms with his siblings, preserved fruits and pickled vegetables with his grandmothers and visited local wineries with his parents. All of this instilled a deep-rooted respect for seasonality and tradition, ultimately shaping him as a chef.
After graduating from Wesleyan College with a degree in Nutrition and working in several local kitchens, Virant enrolled in The Culinary Institute of America. While pursuing his culinary degree, he was drawn to the Cascade Mountain Winery where he first put his wine knowledge to the test in the vineyards and then honed his culinary skills in the kitchen. Culinary degree in hand, Virant left the Hudson Valley and moved to Manhattan where he worked under Wayne Nish and Hilary Gregg at March. Two years later, Virant returned to the heartland to work at Charlie Trotter’s and later Ambria. After a brief stint in Honolulu opening Padovani’s Bistro and Wine Bar, Virant made his final return to Chicago. There, he joined the culinary team at Everest, followed by the top toque position at Outpost. Before opening Vie, Virant worked at Blackbird.
Virant’s cuisine reflects the seasons, local harvests and the world becoming a smaller place. The menu supports local family farms while at the same time, it takes advantage of the increased availability of specialty foods from across the globe. Best described as Seasonal Contemporary American cuisine, the menu is strongly influenced by Western European cultures and rustic fare. Virant’s ultimate mission is to use high-quality, fresh ingredients for every component on the plate.
Vie, appropriately named after the French word for life, reflects many of the personal beliefs and experiences that Chef/Owner Paul Virant has collected throughout his life’s journey. Fulfilling a life-long dream to own his own restaurant, Virant looks at Vie as an expression of himself and his passion: “I wanted to create an extension of my home, where people can come and enjoy good food and drink in the company of people whom they care about. My goal is to help them enjoy every morsel and drop of life.”