Chicago celebrities return home

We don't begrudge talented Chicagoans for seeking success on the coasts (okay, maybe a little-we're looking at you Oprah), but we're also not surprised some of them have returned to ply their talents here.

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From left to right: Timothy Douglas, Michael Taus, Jason Bitner and Ron De Jesus

From left to right: Timothy Douglas, Michael Taus, Jason Bitner and Ron De Jesus Illustration by John Ueland


Timothy Douglas, theater director
Douglas is relocating from New York to become Remy Bumppo Theatre Company’s new artistic director (he officially takes over July 1). But it’s not his first go-round in Chicago. Douglas, 49, began his theater career here, working as an actor from 1988 to 1991. He started directing in Los Angeles, when his plans to be a movie star didn’t work out. “L.A. was having none of it,” he says with a laugh.
THE DRAW When he heard about Remy Bumppo’s opening he leaped because “I need my urban vibe, which I get here,” he says. He also praises the interconnected spirit of Chicago’s theater community. “The community here is a large one, but I have this sense that I’m connected to the whole thing, and that there is a center to it.” —Kris Vire

Michael Kornick, chef/owner mk and DMK Burger Bar
The Highland Park native headed to New York in the mid-’80s for kitchen experience before working in New Orleans, Southeast Asia and Boston. He made his way back to Chicago to develop Marché and Red Light with Jerry Kleiner’s restaurant group in 1993, and he’s now chef-owner of two hot Chicago spots—thanks in part, he says, to the city’s strong support for local businesses.
THE DRAW “There’s been a lot of energy behind a litany of hotels in the past 15 years, and Broadway in Chicago, the Joffrey, Lyric Opera and the Symphony: That brings a lot of cultural attention to the city, and that supports the restaurants,” Kornick says. Among the other major perks here: “I’ve been to 20 major ballparks—Wrigley’s the best.” —Martina Sheehan

Jason Bitner, magazine editor, author, film producer
Bitner has his hands in every imaginable creative endeavor: He’s cocreator of FOUND Magazine and creator of Dirty Found; he’s the mind behind mix-tape project Cassette From My Ex (also a book) and, most recently, he produced the doc LaPorte, Indiana (based on his book of the same name). His thirst for new projects and the inspiration that fuels them would seem a perfect fit for tireless New York, but, Bitner says, “After the birth of our daughter last year, my wife and I were thrilled to return to Chicago to be closer with family and old friends.”
THE DRAW “People here tend to be really supportive of each others’ projects… as opposed to New York’s ‘everyone-for-themselves-except-when-there’s-something-in-it-for-me’ approach. Sorry, New York!” —Martina Sheehan

Ron De Jesus, dancer/choreographer
Bucktown native and former Hubbard Street dancer De Jesus recently moved back after working on Broadway and living in New York for nearly a decade. “I’m a Chicagoan at heart and found I was longing for my Midwest mojo on a daily basis,” he says, adding he’ll be happy to be living near family again. He’ll contribute to the dance community here by launching the Ron De Jesus Dance Project, which he describes as “a fusion of contemporary and classical movement.”
THE DRAW The architecture and the people. “I find it ironic and timely that our town will host the Dance/USA 2011 Annual Conference in July,” just in time for his return. Plus, “This year’s theme is ‘Be the Architect of Your Future,’” which echoes his love of Chicago architecture. —Catherine Tully

Michael Taus, chef/owner Zealous
A native Chicagoan, Taus has tried his talents on both coasts: He trained at New York’s Culinary Institute of America before heading into the kitchen at Manhattan’s River Café; later, he worked at Patina in L.A. In 1990, the chef returned to Chicago to work for Charlie Trotter.
THE DRAW “I wanted to come back and eventually open my own restaurant. In New York it’s so expensive to open a restaurant. And I loved it here; my family’s here,” Taus says. “I missed Chicago’s Mexican food, too. I couldn’t find a good taqueria in L.A. Plus, we have awesome people. Us Midwesterners are always there to help; in New York and L.A. that just doesn’t happen.”

Brian McBride, recently retired soccer pro
McBride had a lengthy career in both U.S. and European soccer, and as a U.S. national team player. A striker, he played in Milwaukee, Columbus and Germany and starred for English club Fulham from 2004–2008. Despite his popularity in the U.K., the 2008 U.S. Olympic team captain chose to return to the Chicago Fire for three seasons before retiring.
THE DRAW The former Illinois state high-school champ says his kids are the No. 1 reason he moved back to Chicago. “My wife and I are both from Arlington Heights. We loved how our childhood was and we wanted our children to have the same thing. On top of that is the food, the sports, the ability to get into the city, have the city life, but also get away from it pretty easily, too.”


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