Missy Robbins, Executive Chef, Spiaggia, Chicago, IL

Missy Robbins, Executive Chef, Spiaggia, Chicago, IL

The reputations of some restaurants are larger than life: Any young chef good enough to land a gig at one of them can put a big, fat, gold star on his or her resume. Spiaggia, Chicago's landmark Italian restaurant, is one such place.

Chef/partner Tony Mantuano, last year named "Best Chef" in the Midwest by the James Beard Foundation, has long had the pick of the litter, and he picked Missy Robbins to be his executive chef.

A graduate of Georgetown University and Peter Kump's New York School of Cooking, Robbins landed a job in N.Y.C. at March Restaurant, cooking for Wayne Nish. She also cooked with Anne Rosenzweig at Arcadia and The Lobster Club and ran the kitchen at SoHo Grand Hotel.

That kind of New York experience is like money in the bank, but what caught Mantuano's eye was Robbins' decision to travel and cook throughout Northern Italy for several months. "Missy has a passion for all things Italian," says Mantuano. "She really understands authentic Italian cooking, and we're now at a point where we can finish each other's thoughts and ideas about dishes. It's this sort of passion that has made Spiaggia thrive for 21 years."