Paul speaking at MOWC fundraiser in Hinsdale hosted by chair Veeral Sheth. Photo: Kyle Flubacker Photography

Paul Virant – Food heals and sustains us

Paul Virant is Executive Chef of Vie Restaurant in Western Springs. Paul’s accolades include 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2011 finalist nominations for the James Beard Foundation Award’s Best Chef: Great Lakes; 2007 Best New Chef by Food & Wine; 2007 Jean Banchet Award for Culinary Excellence as Top Celebrity Chef; and 2005 Best New Chef by Chicago magazine. He also has competed on Food Network’s “Iron Chef America.” Vie earned a Michelin star in 2011.

An excerpt from Phil Vettel’s most recent review this month as part of his “Top 50 Chicago Restaurants” list “…..Virant’s sophisticated, contemporary restaurant and his market-driven, exemplary menu. I’d visit just to sit at the bar (and I have); the cocktails at Vie are as good as I’ve had anywhere (and I get around).”

“I opened Vie in 2004 and was immediately recruited by Chandra Ram, who was a friend and ran Celebrity Chef for many years.  It is hard to say no to Chandra and I have been a participant ever since.

My wife is a physician and together we have always had a focus on children and the elderly, specifically around health and wellness.  Meals on Wheels Chicago of providing meals to homebound seniors and people with disabilities resonated with me as a chef. At its heart, the Celebrity Chef Ball is about community.  The community of people who come together to celebrate good food.  The community of chefs who leave their restaurants on a Friday night to prepare memorable meals.  And the community reaching out to serve those who suffer from hunger and loneliness.

I remember my first Celebrity Chef Ball. I clearly did not figure on what the traffic would be from the suburbs to Chicago.  I arrived just in time, with my fellow chefs already working on Plan B in case I didn’t show up.  There is a lot of comradery and that is why you see so many chefs wanting to participate year after year.

In the end, food heals and sustains us.  The ability to share food with someone is at the heart of what makes us human.  For people who are homebound, having a nutritious meal delivered to you by a warm and friendly driver is the highlight of the day.  We should never underestimate the healing power of presence.  Presence at a spectacular event.  Presence when you are working with people you truly like. And the small quiet moment of presence when you hand someone a meal and ask them how they are doing.” 

In August 2014, Paul expanded his culinary empire with Vistro in Hinsdale. Vistro focuses on seasonal food and drinks, staying true to Chef Virant’s philosophy of showcasing products from the Midwest.

PAUL’S RECIPE : Pan-seared halibut basted with butter, served over spinach and gribiche

Shallot Vinaigrette

Yield:  2cups

6 ea shallot minced (1 c)

½ c champagne vinegar

2 T honey

1 T Dijon

½ c EVOO

½ c vegetable oil

-combine shallots, vinegar, Dijon, honey in a mixing bowl

-whisk in oil, season and reserve

For 2 halibut:

2 6oz portion halibut

Veg oil


1/4c vinaigrette with 2 chopped eggs and 1T ea chopped parsley and chives



Seasonal veg (3c raw, cleaned spinach)

-preheat a large black steel pan with veg oil

-season fish and pan-roast the halibut until just cooked through, baste with butter towards the end of the cooking process

-wilt the spinach in evoo, season and divide onto 2 plates

-place fish on top

-dress with gribiche, serve

Please join us at Meals on Wheels Chicago’s 30th Anniversary Celebrity Chef Ball on November 9, 2018