Zoë Schor brings an eclectic yet approachable perspective to every element in her first restaurant, Split-Rail. “I’m really motivated by the opportunity to share Split-Rail’s playful and nostalgic New American concept with the community. The restaurant is both a neighborhood and destination spot, ideal for weekly visits as well as special occasions,” she says. A resident of Chicago’s West Town neighborhood, Schor could think of no better place to set up shop, launching Split-Rail on Chicago Avenue in the spring of 2017.
The shared plates menu, comprised of reinvented childhood favorites evoking nostalgia and contemporary American dishes, stems from Schor’s family-focused philosophy. “Going out to eat is about spending time with people, sharing food and experiences,” she explains. “People are the most important component, and I want all of our guests and our whole team to feel at home here.”
While she originally hails from Boston, Schor spent much of her upbringing with her father in Chicago. The Windy City, and her father’s affinity for cuisine, served as her initial inspirations towards a culinary career. Often cooking together, Schor’s father shared flavors rooted in his multiethnic upbringing as well as techniques he picked up during summers spent cooking at his own father’s Long Island restaurant. “My father had a deep appreciation for food from a young age, and he really imparted that on me,” Schor says. “He encouraged me to be adventurous with my food and my cooking, and that ideal guides my approach to this day.”
After earning a degree in 2007 from the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City, Schor moved to Los Angeles and scored her first post-grad job on the line of the opening team at Tom Colicchio’s Craft in Century City. This experience afforded her the opportunity to further hone in on technique and work alongside influential Los Angeles chefs.
While serving as executive sous chef at Todd English’s Beso in Hollywood, Schor met Chef Katie Hagen-Whelchel, to whom she credits her spike in culinary confidence. “Chef Katie was very influential for me, toughening me up and forming me into the chef I am today. She’s a great example of a strong female chef who made me feel like I had more possibilities,” Schor says. Her potential in the kitchen grew from there, bringing her to Thomas Keller’s Bouchon as chef de partie, and later, to the helm of The Darkroom, an American bar, restaurant, and nightclub on L.A.’s Melrose Avenue.
Schor’s culinary journey came full circle in 2012 , as she relocated to Chicago for the role of opening executive chef for Ada Street, an arts-driven concept from DMK Restaurants. Her culinary prowess earned numerous accolades including “Best New Restaurant” from Chicago Magazine in 2012 and consecutive Bib Gourmand Awards from the Michelin, alongside personal praise from the City of Chicago, which bestowed her with the “Outstanding Woman Award” in the field of culinary arts in 2015 . Working with DMK Restaurants’ founders Michael Kornick and David Morton taught Schor how to better work with people, how to make her guests and team feel at home, and how to run her own business. After more than three years at Ada Street, Schor longed to fulfill a vision of her own, and began developing the Split-Rail concept in 2016, with its debut in spring 2017.