Executive Chef/Partner: La Sirena Clandestina, El Che Bar
Recalling the sneak-away beachside joints of Coastal Brazil, Executive Chef/Partner John Manion took the plunge to open La Sirena Cladestina in the summer of 2012. A 20-year veteran of the restaurant scene, Manion drew ideas for the menu and concept at La Sirena from growing up in Brazil and his subsequent travels to South America and the Caribbean. Detroit-raised Manion and his family moved to São Paulo, Brazil, when he was just 8 years old. He spent the next five years soaking in the culture and food of a place that was very far from home. Manion always felt most comfortable in restaurant kitchens, where he’d worked since age 15 with his first job; however, he went on to study English and political science at Marquette University in Milwaukee and took a job at a public relations firm in Washington, DC, after college.
After a short time, he felt compelled to pursue his love of cooking full-time, so he moved to Chicago to attend the College of Culinary Arts at Kendall College. While in school, he trained under Chef Dean Zanella at Grappa, and he landed the opening chef position at Lowcountry restaurant Savannah’s after earning his culinary certificate. The chef was lured back to the Nuevo Latino realm, assuming the role at Churrascos and not long after that, as executive chef of legendary Latino restaurant Mas, at which he spent the next nine years of his career. He then worked as executive chef at Branch 27 for a year before focusing on opening La Sirena, which has since gone on to earn recognition as a Jean Banchet “Best Neighborhood Restaurant” in 2015. In 2016, Manion opened El Che Bar in Chicago’s West Loop, an encore to La Sirena Clandestina, which represents a love letter to his travels in Argentina interpreted through the Buenos Aires tradition of live flame cooking.
In 2017, John Manion was nominated for “Chef of the Year” in The 2017 Jean Banchet Awards for Culinary Excellence and was noted as a “Master of the Flame” by Chicago Tribune’s Phil Vettel in the “Critic’s Choice Dining Awards.” Chef Manion’s passion for flavors born of South American influence animates the spirited dishes and sultry ambiance of the 100-seat restaurant and has earned a coveted three-star rating from the Chicago Tribune.