For eleven years, Restaurant R’evolution executive chef Rick Tramonto was executive chef and founding partner at Chicago’s world-renowned, four-star, fine dining restaurant Tru, in partnership with restaurateur Rich Melman, chairman of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, and pastry chef Gale Gand. Tramonto is also culinary director of Tramonto Cuisine, Inc., which developed Tramonto’s Steak & Seafood and Osteria di Tramonto.
A Rochester, NY, native, Tramonto grew up in a traditional blue-collar Italian family. In 1977, due to a family crisis and his struggles in school, Tramonto dropped out of high school and entered the workforce to help support his family. His first full-time job was with Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers. After two years he left to become grill/sauté cook at the Scotch ‘N Sirloin, followed by a stint at the Strathallen Hotel where he had his first experience with classical French technique under the tutelage of Chef Greg Broman. Young and ambitious, Tramonto moved to New York in the early 1980s, working at the legendary Tavern on the Green. From there, he joined Chef Alfred Portale as a line cook at Gotham Bar & Grill and was part of the brigade awarded three stars by The New York Times. He also worked under Chef Gerard Pangaud at Aurora. In the late 1980s, Tramonto was brought to Chicago by Richard Melman to work at his popular restaurants Avanzare and Scoozi!, as well as several other Lettuce Entertain You establishments. After a stint at Charlie Trotter’s, Tramonto received a call from London-based restaurateur Bob Payton, whose company operated American-concept restaurants throughout the U.K. and Europe. Payton asked Tramonto to transform the cuisine at his award-winning country-house hotel, Stapleford Park, in Leicestershire. Tramonto accepted the opportunity to live and work in England, France, and Spain, and Stapleford Park was awarded the Michelin Guide’s coveted Red “M.” Tramonto then worked with Payton to reopen the famous Criterion Brasserie in Piccadilly Circus, London, and apprenticed with some of the world’s greatest chefs including Pierre Gagnaire, Anton Mosimann, Michel Guerard, Raymond Blanc and Alain Chapel.
Returning to Chicago in the early 1990s, Tramonto, along with culinary partner Gale Gand and Henry Adaniya, opened the nationally acclaimed fine dining restaurant Trio in Evanston, Ill. The restaurant was an immediate triumph, earning Tramonto four-star ratings from the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and Chicago Magazine, as well as Food & Wine’s Best New Chef. Tramonto and Gand went on to launch Brasserie T, publish their first cookbooks and appear on Food Network. The two reunited with Rich Melman and Lettuce Entertain You in 2000 to open the award-winning Chicago landmark restaurant Tru, again attaining a trio of four-star reviews as well as a Michelin Guide Red “M” and a four-star Mobil rating. Tramonto received the James Beard Best Chef Midwest award in 2002. In 2005, he opened Osteria di Tramonto, Tramonto’s Steak & Seafood and RT Sushi Bar & Lounge in the Westin Hotel in Wheeling, Ill.
In 2010, Tramonto announced his business partnership with Chef John Folse and the formation of the new restaurant development company, Home on the Range: Folse Tramonto Restaurant Development, LLC. The partners launched their first joint restaurant, Restaurant R’evolution, at the Royal Sonesta Hotel New Orleans in the city’s renowned French Quarter in June 2012. Restaurant R’evolution offers modern, imaginative reinterpretations of classic Cajun and Creole cuisine. In November 2014 Folse and Tramonto opened their second joint venture, Seafood R’evolution, in Ridgeland, MS, a bedroom community of the metro Jackson area.
Tramonto is an accomplished author with eight titles to his credit: his memoir, Scars of a Chef, was published in March 2011. His cookbooks include: Steak with Friends; Osteria; Fantastico!; Tru; Amuse-Bouche; Butter Sugar Flour Eggs (nominated for the 2000 James Beard Award for Best Cookbook in the Baking and Desserts category); American Brasserie (finalist for the Julia Child Cookbook Award).
Because of the respect he has earned in the culinary world, Tramonto has won numerous awards including: James Beard Award –Best Chef Midwest; James Beard Award –Best Service (Tru); Wine Spectator Grand Award (Tru); Best Chef in Food & Wine magazine (Trio); four-star reviews in Chicago Tribune; four-star reviews in Chicago Magazine; Best New Restaurant in New Orleans Magazine (Restaurant R’evolution).
Tramonto has a long history of television work as well, appearing on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “Today,” “CBS This Morning,” “Simply Ming,” and “Iron Chef America.” He was a judge on Bravo’s hit reality show “Top Chef” and a contestant on Season 2 of “Top Chef Masters.” Tramonto has been featured in publications including USA Today, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and People magazine as well as Bon Appétit, Wine Spectator, and Conde Nast Traveler.
Tramonto is a regular at food and wine events nationwide including Pebble Beach Food & Wine, the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival, and the Aspen Food & Wine Classic. He is active in his church and supports a number of charities including Feed the Children and Angel Tree.
AWARDS AND ACCOLADES
Chef Rick Tramonto
- Chef John Folse Culinary Institute, Distinguished Visiting Chef Award, 2004
- Nation’s Restaurant News, Fine Dining Hall of Fame Award, 2004
- Restaurants & Institutions magazine, IVY Award, 2003
- Relais & Chateaux Relais‐Gourmand
- James Beard Award, Amex Best Chef Midwest Category, 2002
- James Beard Award Nomination, Amex Best Chef Midwest Category, 2001
- James Beard Award Nomination, Best Chef in the Midwest, 1997
- Robert Mondavi Award for Culinary Excellence; Rising Star Chefs Award, 1994
- Food & Wine magazine, Top 10 Best New Chefs, 1994
- Michelin Red ʺM,ʺ 1991
- The James Beard Foundation, Outstanding Service Award, 2007
- Four‐star Mobil
- Five‐diamond AAA
- DiRōNA (Distinguished Restaurants of North America) Award, 2004
- The James Beard Foundation, Outstanding Service Award nomination, 2004
- Wine Spectator, Grand Award, Outstanding Restaurant Wine Lists, 2004
- Wine Spectator, “Best Of” Award 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003
- Relais & Chateaux Relais‐Gourmand
- American Academy of Hospitality Sciences Award, 2002
- The James Beard Foundation, Best New Restaurant nomination, 2000
- Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun‐Times and Chicago Magazine, four‐star reviews
- Zagat Survey, most popular Chicago restaurant