Nico Osteria’s chef de cuisine and 2015 James Beard Foundation “Best Chef: Great Lakes” nominee, Erling Wu-Bower’s focus and intensity has driven him to great creative heights in his pursuit of invoking the spirit of coastal Italy in the states. Wu-Bower started his culinary career under Chef Paul Kahan’s tutelage, and has worked with One Off ever since.
Cooking runs in Wu-Bower’s blood; his mother is an accomplished food writer and his father a food loving Cajun. He had little choice but to pursue a career in what he was taught and loved most—food. “I don’t know what else I’d do; cooking has been ingrained in my soul. There aren’t many people who get to go to work and practice their passion every day.” Family came first, but at an early age Wu-Bower found mentorship in acclaimed chef, and close family friend, Rick Bayless—it was Bayless who inspired his love of seafood, teaching him to expertly prepare fish.
After attending the University of Notre Dame as a philosophy student, Wu-Bower joined Chef Paul Kahan’s culinary team at avec as a cook. A few years later he opened The Publican as Sous Chef, and there under the careful watch of Brian Huston, learned what it meant to be a chef. Wu-Bower stayed with The Publican until it outgrew its space, crossing Green Street to help open Publican Quality Meats, where he served as Executive Sous Chef of both kitchens. Wu-Bower then returned to avec as Chef de Cuisine, where he embraced the restaurant’s core cuisine while making the menu his own. In 2013, Wu-Bower embarked on his biggest challenge to date, opening Nico Osteria. There, he combines his love of fresh seafood and ingredient-driven fare to produce a singularly memorable dining experience.
Portrait by: Derek Richmond