DOWNERS GROVE – Downers Grove native Chris Turano competed on the Food Network TV show “Chef Wanted” this summer and won the top prize – an executive chef position at a high-end California resort.
Turano beat out three other chefs to earn the title of Chef de Cuisine at The Bistro, an oceanside restaurant at the Bacara Resort & Spa in Santa Barbara, Calif. The show aired Aug. 1.
The upscale restaurant serves an American Riviera menu, which he described as a mix of seafood and Italian-inspired dishes – an ideal fit for Turano, who grew up cooking Italian food with his Sicilian-born father.
Turano began taking cooking classes at the high school culinary program at Technology Center of DuPage in Addison as an elective through Downers Grove North High School. He graduated in 2001 and obtained his associate degree in culinary arts through College of DuPage. Within a few years he earned executive chef certification.
He said he and his wife, Mindy, were looking to make a change after working in a variety of Chicago-area restaurants since then, including roles as executive chef of Chicago Firehouse Restaurant and the Quadrangle Club at the University of Chicago. Turano also had a stint under Ted Cizma, Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chef of 2001.
“You have to put yourself out there and put yourself at risk,” he said. “We’re pretty psyched to start this stage of our life.”
He said when he entered the competition, he repeatedly told himself “it was mine to lose.”
“I don’t know when it really sunk in [that I’d won],” he said. “The best part was they had me call my wife on the show and break the news to her, and she just went crazy.”
The couple moved to Santa Barbara in June with their dog. Turano re-opened the restaurant under his leadership July 4. It had been closed for about a year for renovations.
“It’s definitely a little bit different than Chicago,” he said. “It’s funny to hear people here talk about how its cold outside and like every day it’s 72 degrees.
“The other day I saw a guy with a T-shirt, it said, ‘My life, your vacation.’ That’s kind of what it’s like out here because it’s always so nice.”