Starting as a humble dishwasher at a small Italian eatery in her teenage years, and working her way to the front-of-house of legendary restaurant Alinea, Chef Iliana Regan is famous for her delicate dishes focused intensely on the natural bounty of the Midwest region (and her tattoos).
She opened her restaurant Elizabeth, named for her late sister, in Chicago in 2012 and in the following year she won her first Michelin star. Prior to opening Elizabeth, Chef Regan had built a substantial reputation for herself through her underground restaurant projects where she developed and perfected the dishes that would ultimately become part of her Elizabeth menu.
The items on that menu are commonly described as “new-gatherer cuisine,” which is an homage to Chef Regan’s unique focus on gathering and foraging for her ingredients. Known as the ‘foraging chef’, Regan describes the practice as “an art, involving an acute level of curiosity and patience. It involves immersing oneself in the rawness of nature, embracing the principles of simple living.” Elizabeth Restaurant even organizes foraging excursions wherein the participants are led on a little adventure by Chef Regan herself, searching for mushrooms and other edible treasures of the forest.
One of her favorite dishes that she created for Elizabeth is the “salad sponge”, an arugula sponge topped with little sorbets, fresh herbs, and honey.
Despite her ability and growing success, Chef Regan embodies simplicity not just in her cuisine, but even in herself. When asked to share something interesting about herself, Chef responded “I’m really, really quite boring. I don’t know anything interesting about myself that people don’t already know.”