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John B. Shields

Executive Chef

“We want to create memories. We want people walking away saying, I’m never going to forget that.” —Chef John Shields

Chef John Shields began his culinary training in the St. Louis area, attending culinary school and working in local restaurants. Shields spent two years serving as sous chef at the world-renowned Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago before continuing his career with Chef Grant Achatz at Alinea as sous chef in 2005. During his two years there, Alinea grew from an exciting upstart to one of the best restaurants in the world.

After leaving Alinea in 2008 to pursue the next step in his career, John (and his soon-to-be wife Karen Urie) turned down an offer to lead the opening of a Charlie Trotter restaurant in Las Vegas. Instead they took a bold chance on an opportunity to open a little-known restaurant in the countryside of Southwestern Virginia.

John and Karen moved to Chilhowie, Virginia, in 2008 and were given carte blanche to re-imagine the then-unknown Town House restaurant. Now able to craft their own vision, Chefs John and Karen rebuilt the Town House concept as a modern exploration of imaginative flavor and visual compositions that utilized the wide array of seasonal, locally grown, and foraged ingredients.

In Chilhowie, the Shields found their creative voices and their food quickly gained national attention. In June of 2009, The New York Times published a glowing article about Town House, which was instrumental in vaulting John and Karen to the top tier of chefs and restaurants in the United States. The growing public interest in the food at Town House led to John being named a 2010 “Best New Chef” by Food & Wine magazine as well as a James Beard Award Semi-Finalist in 2011.

After four successful years at Town House and Riverstead Inn, John and Karen decided to return to Chicago to open Smyth + The Loyalist. When not in the kitchen, the couple spends time with their two young daughters.