Grace, the decorated restaurant that closed in December after Curtis Duffy walked out in the midst of a wave of discontent between the star chef and its owner, will be replaced this fall by a Japanese-French fine dining restaurant. Pastry chef Mari Katsumura, a Chicago native who most recently worked with Matthias Merges and Graham Elliot at Gideon Sweet in the West Loop — and whose resume includes stints at Michelin-starred restaurants like Entente, Blackbird, and Acadia — is working with former Grace owner Michael Olszewski on a new and unnamed restaurant slated for a fall opening at 652 W. Randolph Street.
Many Chicagoans may know Katsumura’s name from Yoshi’s Cafe, her parents’ beloved Lakeview restaurant. Her father, Yoshi Katsumura, died in August 2015 after founding the restaurant in 1982.
This new restaurant represents a bit of a return for Katsumura. Her first fine-dining job was at Grace. While Katsumura’s parents attempted to steer her away from the family business, she ultimately found comfort in restaurants. Thirty-six years after the restaurant opened, her mother Nobuko Katsumura continues to run Yoshi’s Cafe. The Katsumuras’ approach to hospitality and their Japanese heritage will heavily factor into the restaurant. Attempts to reach Mari Katsumura weren’t immediately successful.
Olszewski, Grace’s owner, vowed to open a new restaurant in the space shortly after the shutter and claimed chefs from around the world interested were interested. There’s still plenty of impressive kitchen equipment inside which Duffy and his staff used to make Grace one of the best restaurants in the world. When it closed, it was one of two restaurants in Chicago with a full three-star rating from Michelin. Alinea is the other.
A news release didn’t reveal Olszewski’s exact role in the new restaurant. Olszewski’s camp didn’t return a request for comment. They’ll reveal more details at a later date, according to a message sent out to the Tribune by a rep.
A blur of lawsuits followed Grace’s shutter with Duffy and GM Michael Muser contractually prohibited from opening a new restaurant in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs thanks to a non-compete clause. With all that’s happened, some in the industry question if a restaurant could sustain success inside the space. One of those people expressing doubts was Katsumura’s old chef at Entente, Brian Fisher. But perhaps Katsumura, with all her experience, is the ideal candidate. The news also reveals a rare opportunity for a woman of color to shine in the West Loop.
Stay tuned for more updates.