After clinching the Top Chef title during Bravo! TV's Season 4 and winning the viewer's choice popularity award, Stephanie Izard collaborated with the Boka Restaurant Group in Chicago to open Girl & the Goat. At her gastropub meets cool cocktail party space, designed by 555 International, Izard concentrates on local, Midwestern foods as well as hearty meats like roasted pig face and sweetbreads that pair well with the lineup of craft beers on draft. Izard also demonstrates her delicate hand with seafood and vegetables, a skill she honed at her former restaurant, Scylla. FE&S caught up with the celebrity chef to find out what got her to where she is today.
FE&S: Who was the person that influenced your career most?
Stephanie Izard: Every chef I worked for influenced my career in one way or another. It's hard not to be impacted by chefs who taught you the ins and outs of their kitchens.
FE&S: If you were not working in foodservice, what would you be doing?
Stephanie Izard: Scuba instructor — that is my retirement plan anyway, so stay tuned.
FE&S: What type of charitable activities are you involved in?
Stephanie Izard: I work with Common Threads, Share our Strength, National Cerebral Palsy and many more. I enjoy working with charities focused primarily on children or those with disabilities. (Common Threads is a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching low-income children to cook wholesome and affordable meals while celebrating our cultural differences. The advisory board consists of a number of acclaimed Chicago chefs, including Izard. Art Smith, Oprah Winfrey's former personal chef and the current owner of Table Fifty-Two in Chicago and Art + Soul in Washington D.C., is one of Common Threads' co-founders.)
FE&S: Certainly the restaurant keeps you busy but do you leave time for any interesting hobbies?
Stephanie Izard: Hobbies? Well, before the restaurant I used to have many. I love scuba diving and swimming. I was a competitive swimmer growing up and still love it as much as I did back then.
FE&S: What was your first job in foodservice?
Stephanie Izard: Before being a waitress at Olive Garden I worked in my dorm cafeteria at the University of Michigan. I still sing the Olive Garden Happy Birthday song to my staff sometimes. They get a kick out of it.