Declared the winner (and Fan Favorite) of Top Chef, season four, in 2008, and the first woman to win the series, Stephanie Izard went from being a local Chicago favorite to a nationally recognized chef. She’d closed her restaurant, Scylla, the year before, but, with the boost from Top Chef, and with Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz of the BOKA Restaurant Group, she launched her award-winning Girl & the Goat in 2010.
Right out of the gate, Girl & the Goat started racking up the plaudits for Izard’s inventive dishes, such as diver scallops with sweet curry; braised beef tongue with salsa verde; and yes, goat (including goat liver mousse, goat carpaccio, and goat empanadas). Saveur magazine called it America’s Best New Restaurant, it was nominated for a James Beard Best New Restaurant award in 2011, and Izard was named a Food & Wine magazine Best New Chef. And in 2013, she won the Beard Foundation’s Best Chef/Great Lakes award.
The Little Goat, Izard’s second spot, is a diner with a bakery (Little Goat Bread) on the side, and serves up diner classics as well as less usual suspects like brandade and pork belly (together); a Korean burger with kimchi, bacon, and spicy mayo; and drinks that range from Schlitz beer to an “Old Tart” bourbon cocktail. Izard’s 2011 cookbook, Girl in the Kitchen: How a Top Chef Cooks, Thinks, Shops, Eats and Drinks collects some of the Goat’s best recipes.
Born in Evanston, Illinois, Izard grew up in Connecticut and went to the University of Michigan to earn a degree in sociology before turning to cooking full-time—she graduated from Le Cordon Bleu culinary program at the Scottsdale Culinary Institute. After a stint at the Camelback Inn & Spa, in Arizona, Izard returned to Chicago in 2001, where she worked in Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s kitchen (Vong), and at Spring before becoming sous chef at French restaurant La Tache.
Izard’s sense of humor and love for experimentation (and fun junk food) even shone through in the cake baked for her and husband Gary Valentine for their 2013 wedding. Pastry chef Mathew Rice whipped up a cake topped with peanut butter and chocolate-covered Cheez-Its, Izard’s favorite snack.