Chef Erling Wu-Bower has made quite an impression lately. Recently announced as heading the kitchen of Paul Kahan’s newest venture, an Italian eatery named Nico, his culinary career has been moving faster than the line during a Saturday night rush. He has been rising to each occasion without a flinch, leaving many interested to see what this young chef will do next.
Wu-Bower has had quite a run with One Off Hospitality, the restaurant group run by recent James Beard winner Paul Kahan. He worked under the eye of Chef Koren Grieveson at avec as that restaurant made its claim on the Chicago foodie scene with its Mediterranean-inspired small plates. He then moved over to The Publican and Publican Quality Meats as sous chef.
It was there that Wu-Bower began earning accolades of his own. His artful take on the charcuterie that The Publican and PQM are known for was heavily praised. The elevation of that program led to Bon Appetit interviews and a nod in Eater’s first ever Young Guns class, making Wu-Bower and the restaurants Chicago charcuterie stars.
In August 2012 Chef Grieveson parted ways with One Off Hospitality, and Wu-Bower was tapped as the new chef de cuisine for avec. Some nervousness surrounded this change, as many of the dishes under Grieveson had become beloved, if not iconic. Wu-Bower took the position with equal measures of respect and innovation, managing to make the menu his own without taking away elements that patrons of avec had come to expect. His take brought a freshness to the dishes, favoring seasonality and involving his staff in the creative process.
A year later, Chef Wu-Bower is about to start a new chapter of his culinary career. Nico will focus on simple, unpretentious Italian fare, including handmade pastas and a focus on seafood. Wu-Bower has been spending time in Philadelphia and Puglia to prepare. He will have a lot of competition in the Italian restaurant scene, but he has proven that he can distinguish himself in any cuisine. Wu-Bower’s take on this favorite will no doubt have mouths watering and reservations ringing.