In the early 2010s, Illinois transplant Kirsten Steele was working in medical administration.
“The clear next step was hospitality,” jokes Steele, who still cannot believe her transition from the office to the kitchen was 10 years ago.
And it all happened on a whim.
“My sister Marissa and I loved the original Chestnut, which some folks may remember from its prior location where Buck & Rider Arcadia sits today,” says Steele. “In 2013, when we found out the owner was planning to close the concept, something just told us to take a chance and offer to buy it.”
That leap of faith changed the course of Steele’s life forever. While she initially worked with her sister and continued on in her administrative career, Steele soon became Chestnut’s sole owner and a full-time chef and restauranter.
“While I had no formal training, I did have the love of food and desire to learn,” says Steele. “I also grew up in an Asian household, where my mom and grandmother were accomplished home chefs.”
Steele first reopened Chestnut across the street from the original location, slowly developing her own menus while keeping some of the long-time customers’ favorites. Then in 2020, she relocated to a 3,000-square-foot space at 44th Street and Osborn.
Today, as she celebrates a decade in the restaurant business and overcoming the challenges of COVID-19 and its associated obstacles, Steele has things humming at Chestnut, both in the restaurant and via its in-house events and Valley-wide catering division.
“We focus on mouthwatering breakfasts, as well as ample fresh salads, bowls, and sandwiches, plus we have a popular bar menu that includes elevated takes on gastropub favorites—think bacon popcorn, leek-topped flatbread, and flash-fried fried Brussels topped with crispy prosciutto and Parmigiano Reggiano—as well as ever-changing seasonal cocktails,” says Steele. “And, of course, we still have ample baked goods as Chestnut has always had.”