Chef Erick Williams joined the opening team at mk The Restaurant in 1998 and took over leadership of the kitchen in the fall 2008. Under his direction, the menu at mk has retained its farm-to-plate seasonal approach and has continued to receive accolades from local and national press. He is inspired every week at the farmers’ markets in Chicago and has formed lasting relationships with mk’s partner growers, among them the crews at Werp Farms, Nichols Farm, and Spence Farms.
Williams has been recognized for maintaining mk’s three-star review given by Chicago Tribune Food Critic Phil Vettel and received yet another award from the Tribune in 2014 as a chef that has left “the most indelible impressions” within the industry. Willam’s responsibilities cast a net beyond just the realm of the kitchen as he is also a partner alongside David Morton and Michael Kornick at DMK’s County BBQ. Throughout his culinary career, Williams has worked with renowned artist Theaster Gates on Feast: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary Art which was organized through the Smart Museum, cooked at the James Beard House in 2014, and was a co-host of the James Beard Dinner at mk with guest chefs Grant Achatz, Paul Kahan, Grant McPherson, and Mindy Segal, to name a few.
In addition to his numerous honors, Williams supports a number of charities within the restaurant community including the Charlie Trotter Education Foundation, Share Our Strength, the Green City Market, and the Anti-Cruelty Society.
Williams spends his spare time teaching and training at-risk youth and is a mentor to many; he believes in the value of education through cooking and strives to be an example for those in his community. He has worked with youth from Disney II Magnet School, Perspectives Charter School and adults from the Greater Chicago Food Depository, as well as fundraises for Sweet Water Foundation, which helps bring urban gardening and aquaponics to Chicago and Milwaukee area schools.
Williams sums up his feelings for cooking succinctly: “It was once said to me by my father that the search for equality is found through common ground, and sharing a meal is a universal expression of respect and dignity.”