Andrew Zimmerman, executive chef at Michelin-starred Sepia in Chicago, graduated first in his class from the International Culinary Center (ICC), then The French Culinary Institute, in 2000. With dreams of becoming a professional musician, Zimmerman spent much of his 20s working in restaurants to support his musical career. He soon realized, however, that he loved working in kitchens more than performing at clubs and began pursuing a career as a professional chef.
After graduating from ICC’s Professional Culinary Arts program, Zimmerman moved to Chicago, where he met restaurateur Terry Alexander. Alexander was so impressed by Zimmerman’s skills that he hired him as executive chef at MOD and opening chef for Del Toro. In 2008, Zimmerman met Sepia owner Emmanuel Nony, who offered him the executive chef position the following year. Sepia was awarded a Michelin star in 2011, a rating which it has maintained each year since. Michelin stars were introduced in the U.S. in 2006 by the prestigious Michelin Guide, and are considered the hallmark of fine dining around the world. As of 2016, ICC graduates have earned a total of 104 Michelin Stars (137 including ICC deans).
Zimmerman was a James Beard Foundation Award finalist for “Best Chef: Great Lakes” from 2012–2015, and was chosen as StarChefs’ 2011 “Rising Star Chef.” He was also nominated for the Jean Banchet Awards’ “Chef of the Year” title in 2011, 2012 and 2013, and won “Restaurant of the Year” for Sepia in 2012. Known for his dedication to community involvement, Zimmerman won Plate magazine’s “Humanitarian of the Year” award in 2012 and was invited by the State Department Chief of Protocol to join the American Chef Corps, which uses food as a diplomatic tool for bringing people together and transcending cultural boundaries.