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After graduating from Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island, Karen Urie Shields moved to Chicago where she worked as sous pastry chef for two years at TRU under James Beard Award-winning Pastry Chef, Gale Gand. Urie Shields gained incredible experience working under Gand and eventually moved to Charlie Trotter’s where she rose through the ranks to become head pastry chef of the renowned restaurant.
At Trotter’s, she met Chef John Shields, who would soon become her husband. They both turned down an offer to lead the opening of a Charlie Trotter restaurant in Las Vegas and instead embarked on a journey to rural Virginia to re-imagine the then-unknown Town House restaurant. Now able to craft their own vision, chefs John and Karen rebuilt the Town House concept as a modern exploration of imaginative flavor and visual compositions that utilized the wide array of seasonal, locally grown and foraged ingredients.
At Town House and second concept Riverstead Inn, the Shields found their creative voices and their food quickly gained national attention. In June of 2009, The New York Times published a glowing article about Town House, which was instrumental in vaulting the couple to the top tier of chefs and restaurants in the United States. Public interest in her work continued to grow and in 2010 Chef Karen was named by Star Chefs as a winner of the “DC Area Rising Star Award.”
After four successful years at Town House and Riverstead Inn, Chefs John and Karen decided to return to Chicago to open Smyth and The Loyalist. The West Loop dual-concept restaurant—Smyth features innovative, seasonally driven multi-course menus, while The Loyalist downstairs is an innovative lounge with one of the city’s best burgers—quickly received widespread acclaim, including 4 stars from the Chicago Tribune and a ‘Best New Restaurant’ nod from Chicago magazine. After only opening for a few months, Smyth received its first Michelin star, and in 2017, Smyth was elevated to two Michelin stars.
When not in the kitchen, Karen and John spend time with their two young daughters and at The Farm, the 20-acre Bourbonnais farm that grows produce exclusively for Smyth and The Loyalist.