2/14/2013 10:48:00 AM

Required Reading: "His Saving Grace"


The sacrifices of a chef is hardly alarming. A prerequisite to opening restaurants is give up everything - relationships, free time and sanity go out the window in the pursuit of perfection. In recent months, chef Curtis Duffy became a mascot for this pursuit by creating one of the most pivotal fine-dining establishments in Chicago. Grace earned national acclaim within minutes of opening its doors late last year. But how did he achieve greatness at age 37?

Warning, this is not a happy story. Sure, Duffy’s 11-year marriage collapsed under the demands of opening the West Loop restaurant, but that is just the most recent of a string of tragedies that pushed Duffy to become the chef he is today - one with an unyielding drive that he developed as a child. Kevin Pang of the Chicago Tribune wrote a heart-wrenching piece that details the turmoil of Duffy’s troubled past. The misguided youth used cooking as a means of escape. First, it was an escape from his parent’s violent relationship, and later as one from the pain of losing them in a murder-suicide.

We told you this was not a happy story. Luckily, it has a satisfying ending. Not only has Grace already earned a four-star review from the Tribune, but the restaurant allowed Duffy to give back to the figure who introduced him to the serenity of the kitchen during his turbulent adolescent years. His middle school teacher Ruth Snider, an adopted mother of sorts, dined at Grace on opening night. She ate during the evening’s last seating, so Duffy could address her personally once the last plates had cleared.

“You’ve given me something more than any amount of money can give…unconditional love and values of life,” Duffy told her after she completing her meal on opening night. “I could never repay you. But the ability to be able to give back to you what I do…cook for you…means more than anything.”

Read the whole story here, and have a box of tissues handy.

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