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Meal replacements

The chefs who laid the foundation for this food town are getting out of the game. Here’s who’s replacing them.

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When Suzy Crofton shuttered Crofton on Wells in June, the city didn�t just lose a restaurant, it lost one of its first�and few�women chef-restaurateurs.

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Unfortunately, women chef-owners are still a rarity. Ina Pinkney and Carrie Nahabedian, two chefs from Crofton�s generation, are still operating restaurants; as for the next generation, it looks as if it�s up to Mindy Segal (HotChocolate) and Kristine Subido (Pecking Order).

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Charlie Trotter will close his eponymous restaurant on August 17, the final day of his 25th year in business. For the majority of those 25 years, the chef was considered a fine-dining pioneer, the king of Chicago restaurants and Chicago�s food ambassador to the rest of the world.

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When it comes to being the pioneering Chicago chef known around the globe, Grant Achatz is Trotter�s obvious successor (some would say Achatz has already taken Trotter�s place). Runner-up: Um, nobody.

 (Photograph: Taylor Castle)
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Photograph: Taylor Castle

Erwin, the 18-year-old Lincoln Park restaurant helmed by Erwin Drechsler, closed on July 2. That restaurant was known for its burger, sure, but Drechsler was better known for getting in on the first wave of localvorism, and for nurturing the next generation of Chicago chefs.

 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
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Photograph: Martha Williams

Paul Kahan, one of Drechsler�s mentees, has mentored plenty of chefs himself. But perhaps truer to Dreschler�s neighborhood-restaurant ways is Lula Cafe�s Jason Hammel, another early local-foods convert.

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