WICKER PARK — The shuttered Prasino restaurant left a dark, empty gap on a busy Division street corridor. Now, though, a popular and revered chef has signed a lease to open a new eatery there this winter.
While in the former Prasino, 1846 W. Division St., on Wednesday, Micheal Taus, who started his career 26 years ago working under chef Charlie Trotter, said he is loving the warm reception he has received from neighbors.
"Neighbors keep coming up to me and shaking my hand," Taus said.
Taus previously owned Zealous, a fine dining restaurant that started in Elmhurst in 1993 and relocated to Chicago before closing at the end of 2012. Locally, Taus also formerly worked at DuChamp at 2118 N. Damen Ave. in Bucktown, which closed in 2012.
Chicago Magazine, which first reported the news of Taus' still-yet unnamed entry into Wicker Park on Wednesday, calls Taus "the Zealot himself."
Indeed, Taus is working to expand enthusiasm for food and cooking. Taus hopes to begin working with LaSalle II Magnet School, located nearby at 1148 N. Honore St., and said he chatted with the LaSalle II principal Wednesday.
"We were talking about a healthy-eating class and will do a class on teaching kids to eat healthy, making food delicious and fun," Taus said.
Taus, who is a board member of the Trotter Project, a charity effort centered around culinary arts education, said a big part of his career has been giving back through scholarships and that he is hoping to offer a lot of apprenticeships at the new restaurant.
Taus said the he is still putting the concept together for the new restaurant and does not have many details, save for making the new venture "more casual than Zealous."
Taus, a River North resident, praised Prasino's former owners for their design and construction of the restaurant, noting the use of reclaimed materials and "being mindful of light" with sustainable green lighting.
"I looked at a lot of spaces and being a chef, I walked in the kitchen and said, 'I'm home,'" Taus said.
Prasino closed on Aug. 18 just after its third anniversary. Its former executive chef Jared Case had predicted the location would "be very easy for a new operator to come in; it's ready to go, ready to rock."
Taus called Prasino's kitchen "beautiful" and said he also wanted a big bar area. He recently signed a lease, is currently in the design phase and hopes to open his new restaurant in December or January, he said.
As for employees, he said that now that the word in the industry has gotten out of his plan to open, "People are texting me all week, heard I am working again. They believe in my vision, being part of a team."
Taus grew up in west suburban Riverside and went to Riverside-Brookfield High School. He said he began cooking at age 10.
"Everything is about eating and cooking. I could not have been anything but a chef," Taus said.
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