Back of the House

Meet A Chef Named Sous

Nathan Sears at Vie.
Nathan Sears at Vie. Photo: Michael Gebert

Sous chef. Like “executive producer” or “Governor of Illinois,” it’s a title that hides as much as it reveals about who really has the power and does the work. This week, Time Out Chicago takes a break from talking name chefs to salute six of the no-name (or at least much, much less often named) chefs who keep six of our biggest-name restaurants going. And in the process, it reveals that the best sous chefs have all found ways to complement their bosses and make themselves indispensable.

Nathan Sears is the mad scientist of charcuterie and the sounding board for Paul Virant’s menu ideas at Vie. Jan Rickerl of The Girl and the Goat seems to be the detail man for Stephanie Izard’s big picture. Yoni Levy of Old Town Social apparently knows his boss Jared Van Camp so well, they communicate mainly by telepathy. And Sara Nguyen seems to be bonded to her Sprout boss Dale Levitski because they went through it all together. The piece offers some good insight into the way kitchens really work, although there’s one sobering note that goes unmentioned: none of the sous profiled are over 35, not surprising given the references to “120-hour weeks” and regular dive bar stops. Being a sous in this caliber of restaurant is apparently largely an up-or-out proposition.

Seconds, Anyone? [TOC]

Meet A Chef Named Sous