Chef / Proprietor
Ryan McCaskey describes his style as “simultaneously contemporary and classic. The first half of my career was rooted in classical cuisine, technique-driven, the fundamentals. Recently, my focus shifted to subtlety, layering flavors and using contemporary techniques. But one doesn’t overshadow the other – they work in harmony, balancing out one another.”
After graduating from Kendall College (1996), Chef McCaskey accepted the position of chef de cuisine and pastry chef at Black Locust (Fish Creek, Wisconsin). While at the helm, the restaurant was named one of the top three restaurants in the state by the Milwaukee Journal. Ryan then opted to return to Chicago, working as chef de cuisine at Vivere and then at the acclaimed Rushmore. when Rushmore closed unexpectedly (due to a fire), he took some time off, staging at the four-star Trio under Grant Achatz and Tru under Rick Tramonto, as well as working at les Deux Gras, Rhapsody, and Allen’s.
He next worked as Executive Chef at the Moroccan Tizi Melloul. When Rushmore reopened, McCaskey returned as executive chef. In 2007, he was offered the position as executive chef at the four-star Courtright’s.
In 2010, McCaskey began plans for Acadia. Acadia opened in late 2011 and has since garnered accolades from both local and national sources. The most noteworthy accolades since opening have been a Michelin star after just nine months, (retained 2013, 2014, 2015), Two Michelin stars in 2016 (retained for 2017), and 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 Five- Star ratings from AAA. Other awards have been Best New Restaurant–Jean Banchet Awards, 2013, and semi-finalist nominations for Best Chef. Great Lakes by the James Beard Foundation.
Bar Program Director
A beverage professional with a propensity for the culinary arts: Michael Simon brings together a diverse, formidable, and authentic skill-set to a very crowded field. In the “early days” (mid 2000’s), he cut his teeth captaining at some of Chicago’s premier fine-dining restaurant. Falling in love with business, feeling an innate bond to its high-energy and overall madness, he unoriginally esteemed to be a restaurateur… one day.
Developing a strong understanding / passion for all things culinary, Michael made a point to stage in every kitchen he captained at that they’d allow. Insatiable for knowledge, he began to study wine, eventually leading to formal training from the Court Of Master Sommeliers methodology. These two hobbies-turned-obsessions would eventually shape his career in the decade to come.
In 2009, he found his first true mentor in Chef Graham Elliott Bowles. Starting as a captain at Chef Graham Elliott’s eponymous restaurant, he worked tirelessly, promoted many times over from wine-steward, all the way to general manager & beverage director. The following year he lead the team to their first michelin star, galvanizing a dining room that would eventually earn two. It was here Michael had the chance to go beyond the traditional confines of sommelier work via experimental tasting menu pairings. Aside from wine, he would manipulate spirits / beer, anything using the “sommelier brain” insofar as the science of food-pairings goes. Finally, the confluence of culinary-meets-beverage began to truly manifest in his body of work. Now it was time to focus solely on beverage; in cocktails, Michael had found a niche where he could essentially “cook” in a way that allowed his sommelier talents to flourish in a much more satisfyingly creative manner.
He made the tough choice to leave Graham Elliott in 2011 to immerse himself creating bar programs. Later that year, he would meet his greatest collaborating partner in Chef Ryan McCaskey as he was about to open his groundbreaking fine- dining restaurant ACADIA. Michael signed on as opening bar director, helping ACADIA to one of the most critically-lauded and successful openings in recent Chicago history. Ultimately Chef McCaskey’s relentless pursuit of excellence truly provided the venue for Michael to reach new heights, redefining the breadth & scope of what a bar program can strive for.
Before returning to ACADIA (now a proud recipient of two Michelin stars) as beverage director in 2016, Michael took on many marquee projects between consulting and full-on residency to further advance his experience in beverage. Such venues include QUI in Austin (under former Top Chef & JBF winner Paul Qui), Carriage House (former Esquire Best New Restaurant), Celeste (Top-10 High Volume Cocktail Bars via Tales Of The Cocktail), the Wit Hotel, The Blanchard (2015 Chicago Magazine Restaurant of the Year). These days, Michael continues to collaborate with Chef McCaskey, opening Acadia House Provisions in Stonington, Maine in 2019. He resides in Chicago’s west loop with his lovely wife Renee, and beautiful baby Rhys Raiden.
Michael’s work has been featured in: The Chicago Tribune, Timeout Chicago, Chicago Magazine, CS, Serious Eats, Tasting Table, Bon Appetit, Mandarin Quarterly, VH1 Morning Buzz w/Carrie Keagan, PLATE Magazine, Texas Monthly, and much more!