Chef Susan Goss makes her mark in food, business, and the city of Chicago
Chef Susan Goss is the quintessential independent restaurateur—community-minded, cool under pressure, and anything but cookie cutter.
As co-owner of Chicago’s West Town Tavern, Goss works in the neighborhood where she lives. Clearly she has a love affair going with the locale, which she shares with her business partner, husband, and confidant of almost 40 years, Drew Goss.
“I have total trust in my partner and that lets me concentrate on what is happening in the kitchen,” says Goss, who met Drew in 1973 while both were still in high school.
Goss has a contagious enthusiasm, low-key manner, and passionate fascination with all things food, an outlook she developed as a child. Today, in addition to cooking at the restaurant five days a week, she is a food blogger, cookbook author, and teacher.
“Susan is one of the most solid, talented chefs and restaurateurs I've had the pleasure of working with,” says a Chicago-based foodservice marketing consultant and publicist, Brent Frei. “She's not only one of my favorite chefs in the nation, she's one of my favorite people. She gives to a fault, sharing her wisdom and elevating the careers of others.”
Before coming to the Second City, the Gosses owned Something Different: Carryout Cuisine, Something Different Restaurant, and Snax, a Global Tapas Bar, in Indianapolis. Since the beginning, Susan Goss ran the kitchen and Drew did everything else, including front-of-the-house duties.
“We both just fell in love with this business. We loved being in the center of things and really appreciate that it is different every night.”
The duo enjoyed the independence of running their own business, just like their parents before them. “My parents taught me how to be self-sufficient, and my in-laws taught me that I could do anything that I put my mind to,” says Goss, who is 55.
After selling their Indiana businesses, the couple headed to neighboring Illinois and a larger culinary stage. “In my hometown of Indianapolis there was a bit of a mistrust of an independent restaurant,” Goss says. “Luckily Chicago is not like that.”
After moving to Chicago in 1993, the Gosses captured the public’s attention in a big way when they opened Zinfandel Restaurant in the city’s River North area. The restaurant celebrated America’s regional cooking with such diverse offerings as Cajun, California Mission, Low Country, and Pennsylvania Dutch. “Every month we presented a new menu from a different region,” Goss says. “The styles of food really went with the seasons. In the dead of summer we did food from warmer climates.”