Meet the Chef
Executive Chef | Chris Barron
As the son of a working single mother, Chris Barron learned to cook at a young age as a matter of necessity, helping his busy mom with everything from shopping to meal planning and preparation. His interest in cooking led him to the restaurant business; he began working in the dining rooms of various Chicago restaurants as a teen, but he was always attracted to the energy and buzz of the kitchen. Barron found the creativity of transforming the raw product into beautiful dishes exciting, and knew he needed to switch gears from front of the house and move into cooking full time.
Barron left Chicago for California in the late 1980s, working in the kitchens at top hotels such as the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills and the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco. He honed his craft in San Francisco while working under award-winning chef Gary Danko at the Ritz-Carlton and Restaurant Gary Danko and under chef Jeremiah Tower at the legendary Stars Cafe. These chefs taught him to appreciate California’s casual style of combining locally- sourced produce, meat and seafood to create an elegant but simple meal. Barron says, “The casual style of California means you don’t have to wear a three-piece suit to enjoy an incredible meal. I try to bring that philosophy with me wherever I am. I believe in simple clean flavors. Preparing local products with simple sophistication makes for a great combination on the plate.”
When he returned to Chicago in the mid-1990s, Barron worked under chef Patrick Robertson at One Sixtyblue in the West Loop and spent over a decade working for Jerry Kleiner and Howard Davis at KDK Restaurants Inc. He served as longtime sous chef under chef Paul Wildermuth, opening famed restaurants Red Light in the West Loop and Opera in the South Loop, and he learned traditional Asian cooking philosophy and technique from chef Arun Sampativitat while working at Red Light. Barron also clocked kitchen time at Room 21 in the South Loop and was hand-picked by Kleiner to serve as executive chef at Park 52 in Hyde Park. After his departure from KDK in 2007, Barron held positions at Market in the West Loop, Stax Café in Little Italy, Francesca’s Forno in Wicker Park and Prasino in Rosemont.
Barron accepted the position as executive chef at Southport & Irving (SIP) in late 2013. In addition to his duties as top toque, Barron collaborated on general operations with owner Vivek Sehgal after SIP’s opening consulting team (Tom and Geri Foley) departed to concentrate on their own venture, Broadway Cellars. Barron has been slowly tweaking the menu since his arrival at SIP, imparting his seasonal sensibilities and clean style to the globally-influenced American menu. Barron’s premiere dinner menu launched in late April 2014 and he plans to launch a fresh brunch menu in mid-May to coincide with beverage director Ardit Dizdari’s warm-weather cocktail lineup and general manager/sommelier Anna Krajnik’s spring wine list.