Rising Star Chef Shawn McClain of Custom House Tavern - Biography

Chicago, IL

November 2011

Rising Star Restaurateur Shawn McClain is the executive chef and partner of Spring, Green Zebra, and Custom House—three of the most popular and trend-setting restaurants in Chicago, each with a distinct theme. McClain’s restaurants set the bar for the city’s upscale-casual dining, with, McClain says, “Great food, great service, and interesting wine, without pretension, in an urban setting.”

McClain is a San Diego native who found himself as a teenager in Ohio wanting to impress a girl who worked in a restaurant—and the rest is history. He graduated from the School of Culinary Arts at Kendall College in Evanston, Illinois, in 1990, and spent two years at The Boulevard in the Intercontinental with Chef Stephen Junta. In 1992 he opened Betise in Wilmette in 1992, and two years later left to open Trio in Evanston under Rick Tramonto and Gale Gand. He became a sous chef in January 1994, chef de cuisine in 1995, and took over full time soon after that.

McClain broke onto the national scene during his seven years at Trio; after consistent critical acclaim, he left to open Spring, an Asian and seafood-focused restaurant in Bucktown. In 2004, McClain opened his second restaurant, Green Zebra, a sleek vegetarian concept that brings vegetables to the center of the plate. In 2005, McClain swung the pendulum in the opposite direction and opened Custom House, a new American, meat-centric restaurant with a focus on artisan meats.