The migration of leaders from big cities to small towns

Fueled by the ability to work remotely as well as a desire for more space and lower taxes, people have left urban areas in droves to find greener pastures in the country’s smaller suburbs. In many cases, the country’s next big foodie destinations and most celebrated up-and-coming chefs are moving with them.

A growing number of top chefs are looking for opportunities in smaller markets across the country to open restaurants that are every bit as thoughtful, beautiful and unique as concepts in larger metropolitan areas. Chefs are following diners to fill a void for the caliber of restaurants people dream of in these areas, but they’re also driven by culture shifts in the industry, lower rents, less competition, more square footage for indoor/outdoor space and often because they also reside in these peripheral areas.

This approach has proven successful in The ordinary graceful, which opened in fall 2021 in historic St. Charles, Illinois, about an hour from Chicago. Owned by Megan and Chef Chris Curren, a husband-and-wife team who have worked in Chicago’s red-light districts for decades, the restaurant offers upscale design, top-notch hospitality and delicious food in the area. Upscale American restaurant located along the scenic Fox River, the Graceful Ordinary pays homage to the taverns of Colonial America, then known as “Ordinaries,” which served as the central hub of every town. a welcoming space for the community to gather and socialize.

Conceptualized by Chicago-based d+k architecture, The Graceful Ordinary’s stunning interior features design elements such as warm wood details, brass and black metals, hanging planter baskets, dark tones and earthy and sophisticated yet comfortable furnishings to create a modern take on the traditional style. American Tavern. Seating 120 people indoors and another 110 outdoors, The Graceful Ordinary provides the perfect setting for occasions ranging from after-work happy hours to family reunions, date nights, bridal showers and Moreover.

Executive Chef and Owner Chris Curren says, “It’s always been our goal to open our own space closer to home in the suburbs. Looking at St. Charles, we saw an opportunity to create a restaurant experience at the level we wanted, and saw that there was definitely a hole in the market for a dining concept with killer craft cocktails. So when we had the opportunity to create this concept in a downtown location overlooking the river, we jumped at the chance. »

At the helm of the kitchen, Chef Curren uses his extensive culinary expertise and classic fine dining techniques to present a menu of refined, rustic and approachable tavern fare, centered around the restaurant’s wood-burning fireplace. The Graceful Ordinary also offers a robust bar program, with an extensive wine list, inventive cocktails and a selection of locally brewed craft beers.

Events Manager and Owner Megan Curren explains, “We are focusing more on how we can interact with the community around us. We can build stronger relationships with our customers and with our community as a whole by getting involved with local charity groups, centers and schools. Being in a small town also means having a more easily accessible municipal government. It is much easier to work with them than large municipalities that have weeks or months of waiting for permits and inspections.

The Graceful Ordinary is joined by concepts such as wild roseFargo, North Dakota, Pier 6 Seafood and Oyster House, San Leon, TX, Earbuds by Rochelle Daniel in Flagstaff, AZ, and spots are popping up in Oklahoma City and Asheville.

Dean Neff and Lydia Clopton from Seabird, Wilmington, North Carolina honed her skills in some of the South’s most famous cuisines before coming to Wilmington. The duo met while working at chef Hugh Acheson’s award-winning restaurant. five ten in Athens, Georgia, then moved to Asheville, North Carolina, where Neff served as head chef for John Fleer’s new restaurant Rhubarb and Lydia to Chai Pani and chef Katie Button’s Nightbell opening crew, while also starting her own wedding cake business. In 2015, salt water lured them to the North Carolina coast where Neff opened Pin Point Restaurant in Wilmington as co-owner and chef, and Lydia wowed guests as pastry chef. During their tenure, southern life named PinPoint one of the “Best New Restaurants in the South”. In 2018, Lydia opened her own cafe and bakery – Love, Lydia – to rave reviews, before closing amid the pandemic in early 2021 to focus on their newborn and upcoming restaurant, Seabird, which has opened its doors in April 2021.

Before creating a culinary movement in the charming suburb of Oak Brook, Illinois, executive chef Ezequiel Dominquez of the historic Drake Oak Creek focused his culinary talents on Chicago. His nearly 20 years of experience began at Café Iberica in downtown Chicago, where he became executive chef after mastering the art of tapas. He joined The Drake Oak Brook as Executive Chef in 2014, where he now oversees all culinary aspects of the legendary estate, classic American cuisine and popular British tea in the legendary Colonial Room when COA opens 2023. where he will mix his Spanish influences with agave-infused cuisine.