EAT THIS CITY whisks us to 15 fascinating eateries in a different city each week. This week, we visit the Windy City of Chicago with cool breeze Chef Carrie Nahabedian!
KNOW THIS: Chicago is not new to the national food scene. The city has birthed some of the best restaurants in the country. In the ’80s and ’90s, Euro-decadence reigned — as a result, French technique is still ingrained in the city’s food DNA. In recent years, the house-made and artisan movements have had a huge impact on the Chi’s food culture, too. In a city where winter is very, very long, the idea of preserving food through pickling, canning, or making jams is just solid logic.
Meet Chef Carrie Nahabedian. This Chicago native has enough stories to fill a deep dish. Right out of the gate, she worked at the city’s high end restaurants. She fondly recalls this grand food scene of the 1980s, heavily influenced by the “French Mafia.” After paying her dues, Nahabedian left Chicago to become the Executive Chef of the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, and fell in love with California—the farms, the weather, and the diversity of the land. Cali looked like it had a hold on her, but she came home to open Naha in 2000. Turns out you can take the girl out of Chicago… but not for too long.
Nahabedian comes from a large Armenian family and works with her cousin (Michael Nahabedian) and two sisters. Naha’s Mediterranean-influenced food showcases her Armenian roots, and has earned her a James Beard Award (2008 Best Chef Great Lakes Region), and four-consecutive Michelin stars. The team behind Naha has since opened Brindille in 2013, with refined Parisian fare.
Chef Carrie says that she still feels the camaraderie of her kitchen upbringing in the ’80s, but now it’s tied to a young, vibrant and more diverse scene. The food community is strong, and they all have each other’s backs. She says everyone feels it if someone goes under — so the thing to do is to rep for one another.