“When I was a kid, I was lucky enough that a couple of my uncles were chefs. We would have family gatherings and my uncles would come over and teach me little tricks...” says Bill Montagne, chef de cuisine of Nico Osteria in Chicago.
Cooking alongside relatives who had worked in restaurants like the Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, Montagne’s passion for cooking began at home.
Throughout high school, he eagerly worked as a dishwasher and would arrive to work early to help the cooks as much as he could.
His real break, Montagne attributes to his mentor, Chef Roland Liccioni at Les Nomades, before attending the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vermont.
“He was definitely very much from the old school. He was actually born in Vietnam, spent a lot of his cooking career in France and then came to America. And really got me into kind of the craft of cooking and the process of it,” says Montagne, Zagat’s annual 30 Under 30 honor (2012).
After graduating, Montagne moved to New York City, where he spent four years perfecting his skills as sous chef at the three-star Michelin, Relais & Châteaux, Le Bernardin, under the guidance of world-renowned Chef Eric Ripert.
Then in 2016, Montagne opened his own casual seafood restaurant, Snaggletooth, where he received the 2017 Jean Banchet Award for “Rising Chef of the Year” with co-founder and Chef Jennifer Kim.
Not stopping there, he later joined Nico Osteria in 2017, where he has been able to continue honing his expertise in seafood, creating delicious riffs on classic coastal Italian dishes.
Montagne’s ingredient-driven style of cooking and passion for highlighting the focal point of his dishes has earned him a consecutive Jean Banchet Award, this time for “Best Chef de Cuisine” of 2018.
With many influential people in his life, Montagne stresses that one of the most important things for an aspiring chef is to build relationships with chefs who are willing to take you under their wing.
Paying it forward, Montagne passes along his knowledge and passion for cooking to his sous chefs and cooks.
Learn more about Chef Bill Montagne and how Nico Osteria brings seasonality and a welcoming environment to Chicago by watching the video above!