Hot foods: Celebrity chef Stephanie Izard cooks up a storm at Girl and the Goat
BY MATTHEW SCHWERHA For Sun-Times Media
And a dash of that: Stephanie Izard sprinkles in just the right amount of an additional ingredient to make the perfect dish at Girl and the Goat restaurant in Chicago.| Matt Schwerha ~ For Sun-Times Media
Stephanie Izard has risen to the top of an industry where people tend to have the image of a man with a floppy hat and a goofy mustache as being the norm.
Izard, owner and chef at Girl & the Goat in the West Loop — and soon to be Little Goat right down the street — set her eyes on being a businesswoman with her career, but thought she would end up in a cubicle and not on the line.
“I thought I would get into business school and go work in an office somewhere,” Izard said about her decision to go to the University of Michigan, where she earned a degree in sociology. “I thought I was supposed to be a businesswoman, which I have ended up being anyways. My dad suggested I go to culinary school, so I did.”
Upon entering culinary school, Izard, who credits her mother and father’s fondness for cooking and culture as what led her to become a chef, assumed the completion of her courses would land her a job as a chef.
“When I went to culinary school I thought you graduate and become a chef,” said Izard, who is 35. “That’s not true. You graduate and make salads for eight dollars an hour. I went to culinary school in Arizona and my first job was at a resort and I was in the banquet kitchen making giant platters of fruit.”
After working at a restaurant on Camelback Mountain, Izard, who was born in Evanston, decided to head east to see some friends in the Midwest when the restaurant closed for renovations.
“I was headed this way to visit some friends from college,” Izard said. “I had stopped in Chicago and was going to be here for four days and then go to Ann Arbor to see people. After being here for four days I didn’t leave.”
Eventually, Izard opened Scylla, a restaurant in Bucktown, which was touted as one of the best restaurants in the country.
Izard closed Scylla, which she described as a “100-year-old house that was falling apart” and with her partners sought opportunities for a new venture.
That is when “Top Chef” came calling, and she became the recognizable face she is today as the television series’ first female winner.
“Since being on ‘Top Chef’ I’ve gotten Facebook messages and emails from young women saying what I’ve done is inspirational to them and that’s great if I can inspire any women to get into the field.”
Girl & the Goat, which gets its name from Izard’s last name also being the name of a mountain goat that lives in the Pyrenees Mountains, is a fun, casual atmosphere with food from local farmers.
Little Goat, which will open in mid-November, is a diner that was born out of necessity.
“When we first opened [Girl & the Goat] the prep area was very small,” Izard said. “We are moving our whole bread program across the street and we are going to turn it into its own bread shop and bakery.”
The other component of Little Goat will be what Izard calls “a straight-up diner,” which will feature breakfast all day, patty melts and burgers.
With her success, Izard, who has a cookbook called “Girl in the Kitchen” — and is working on a second “Girl & the Goat Cookbook” — said she doesn’t want to be recognized as just being a good female chef.
“I would like people to perceive me as being a good chef,” Izard said. “Not as being good for a female chef.”