Chef Jason Gorman is leaving Milwaukee to work with Kenosha native Tony Mantuano as executive chef at the Art Institute of Chicago. Mantuano is best known for his Spiaggia restaurant in Chicago.
The food operations at the museum are managed by Bon Appetit, a California based company.
Gorman, a Chicago native who came to prominence in Milwaukee with the launch of Dream Dance at Potawatomi Bingo Casino, before moving on to a position at The Iron Horse Hotel last fall, has been cooking in recent months for Peter Sandroni at La Merenda in Walker's Point, while searching for a suitable space for a new restaurant of his own.
"About a month and a half ago Tony Mantuano called me up and offered me the job at the Art Institute," says Gorman.
"Peter (Sandroni, La Merenda owner) has been great. He's been helping me out and I could have stayed there forever if I wanted to, but this was too good an opportunity to pass up."
Though he's been away from the Windy City for 29 years, the return will mark a homecoming for Gorman, whose mother still lives in Chicago. And the Art Institute location has special significance for Gorman and his mom, too.
"My mom was an art history student at the Art Institute (school)," says Gorman. "When I was about 4 years old she took me down there to show me the Monets. She'd been telling me all about the Claude Monets. When we got there it was packed and we couldn't get into the room. I don't remember this, but my mom said I started shouting, 'I want to see Claude! I want to see Claude.'
"I guess I'm going to get to see Claude."
In his new position, Gorman will run the dining operations on the first floor of the Art Institute and for all the events in the building. He's excited that Bon Appetit is committed to sourcing at least 20 percent of its ingredients locally.
Mantuano also has a separate restaurant, Terzo Piano, on the third floor of the museum's Modern Wing. Gorman will not work at Terzo Piano.
Friday will mark Gorman's final night in the kitchen at La Merenda and he begins his new job on Sept. 10. He'll commute for a few weeks before moving his family to Chicago.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.