2011 Chicago Rising Star Chef Andrew Zimmerman is a product of New York City in the 80s: his childhood was fueled by a culinary barrage of Indian kormas and Thai noodles slurped alongside his father, and driven by a youthful ambition to become a rock star. To support his dream, Zimmerman worked in kitchens. Meanwhile, the modest finances of pre-stardom encouraged him to cook at home. After realizing his own budding kitchen talent, and to see if he could make it as a cook, Zimmerman put his rock n’ roll dreams on the back burner, taking a full-time gig as a sous chef.
Zimmerman went to work at 2Senza, in Red Bank, New Jersey, where he toiled for three years under his mentor, Chef Renato Sommelia. Having risen to his self-posed cook challenge, this one-time, would-be rocker went on to graduate first in his class at the French Culinary Institute in New York. In 2003, Chicago’s burgeoning culinary mega-culture drew the young chef to the Midwest, where he accepted a position at the Park Hyatt Chicago alongside Chef Sandro Gamba. In 2004, Zimmerman met restaurateur Terry Alexander, who hired him as Executive Chef at MOD, and after his stint at MOD, the duo opened the widely-acclaimed del Toro.
Zimmerman later returned to the Park Hyatt as the chef de cuisine at NoMI, under Chef Christophe David. In 2008, he was introduced to Emmanuel Nony, and the next year, Nony offered Zimmerman the executive chef position at Sepia. At this West Loop restaurant, this rock star chef integrates modern American and traditional European influences into dishes that blend complex textures and flavors with and clean, elegant presentations—sort of like a tight riff on a classic melody.