chef-name: Andrew Zimmerman

Since taking the culinary lead at Sepia in 2009, Chef Andrew Zimmerman has garnered national acclaim for his inventive American cuisine. His creative direction in the kitchen has earned the Chicago restaurant a Michelin star since 2011. Zimmerman was invited to cook at the James Beard House in New York City in 2010. He’s received a James Beard Foundation Award nomination for “Best Chef: Great Lakes” in 2012 and 2013, and picked him as a 2011 Rising Star Chef. For the 2012 Jean Banchet Awards, he was nominated as “Chef of the Year,” and Sepia won as “Restaurant of the Year” in 2013. “I’m cooking food that speaks to me, and I’m so honored that it’s resonating with others, too,” he says. “My cooking style is all about balance of textures, global flavors, and seasonality.”

In his 20s, while following a life-long dream to become a musician, Zimmerman supported himself by working in restaurants in New York City. When he realized he enjoyed being in the kitchen more than the clubs, Zimmerman began to pursue a career as a professional cook. He worked as sous chef for three years under Renato Sommella, whom he cites as one of his strongest culinary mentors. He then enrolled in the prestigious French Culinary Institute in New York City, graduating first in his class in 2000. Zimmerman made the move to Chicago in 2003 to assume a chef position at the Park Hyatt Chicago. In 2004, he met restaurateur Terry Alexander, who was impressed with his capabilities and hired him as executive chef at MOD and opening chef for del Toro. Zimmerman returned to the Park Hyatt as chef de cuisine at its restaurant, NoMI, working with Chef Christophe David. In 2008, he was introduced to Sepia Owner Emmanuel Nony, and the following year, Nony offered Zimmerman the executive chef position at Sepia.

Zimmerman continues to participate in a number of high-profile culinary events, including the national Cochon 555 tour in 2011; Cochon Heritage Fire in Napa, CA, in 2011 and 2012; Food & Wine’s Entertaining Showcase in 2011 and 2012; and the Charleston Wine + Food Festival in Charleston, SC, in 2013. In September 2012, Zimmerman successfully defeated Iron Chef Marc Forgione on Food Network’s “Iron Chef America” in Battle Cream Cheese.

In addition to the culinary recognition, the chef has been honored for his community involvement, receiving the 2012 “Humanitarian of the Year” award from Plate magazine. He was also invited by State Department Chief of Protocol Capricia Penavic Marshall to join the newly formed American Chef Corps to serve the country in a diplomatic capacity. Zimmerman joins the ranks of other nationally renowned chefs to showcase American cuisine to other nations, enhance formal diplomacy, and cultivate cultural understanding.

Zimmerman and his wife, Lindsey, a clothing designer, live in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood with their young daughter. When not working, he can be found traveling with his family—and finding culinary inspiration all along the way.