Rey Villalobos has been an innovative member of Chicago’s culinary community, serving as chef de cuisine to celebrated tastemaker Art Smith for more than a decade, and recently Villalobos has carried his talent and passion to Chicago restaurant group, Ideology Entertainment. Villalobos utilizes his strong skill set, developed as chef de cuisine at Table Fifty-two, to implement the culinary and restaurant philosophy for a growing culinary team of 12 chef and 80 cooks across four restaurants as Ideology Entertainment corporate executive chef.
Growing up on the southeast side of Chicago, Villalobos has been immersed in the restaurant industry his whole life. Learning from his mother in the kitchen, he turned his family’s tradition into a career. Villalobos attended Washburne Culinary Institute, and while working through school he gained experience with La Rabida Children’s Hospital and The Art Institute of Chicago/Bon Appetit Group. In 2005 he started working as a test chef with the Chicago Tribune under food journalist and test kitchen director Donna Pierce. While continuing his culinary experience, Villalobos started his position as private sous chef for chef Art Smith in 2005. For the next ten years, he had the prestigious opportunity to cook for a host of entertainers, political and religious figures through Smith’s underground dinner series.
In 2005, Table Fifty-two was born out of Villalobos’ desire to find a permanent home for Smith’s famous underground dinner series. As chef de cuisine of Table Fifty-two he prepared a Southern-inspired menu that focused on fresh, seasonal ingredients. After nearly a decade, Chef Art Smith partnered with hospitality veteran, Ideology Entertainment for a fresh focused reconcept of the former Table Fifty-two space. Upon completion of the project, Villalobos was revered as a natural choice for corporate executive chef of the entire Ideology family, now overseeing Chicago q, La Storia Ristorante, Blue Door Farm Stand and Blue Door Kitchen & Garden.
Today, Villalobos is able to use his love of cooking to create inspiring creations for four different restaurants and contribute to the conceptual development for all current and future projects. His current role allows him to shine as a mentor, not only imparting kitchen techniques but recognizing each individual’s creative vision and how it can be translated onto a plates, continuously developing fellow Ideology Entertainment chefs.