After opening 40 restaurants over the last 30 years, James Beard Foundation Award-winning restaurateur Kevin Boehm has established himself as one of the world’s foremost hospitality visionaries. Kevin, along with his partner Rob Katz, has built a restaurant group based on great chefs, inspired design, and enlightened hospitality.
Born in 1970, Kevin grew up in Springfield, Illinois, and told his mother at age 10 that he wanted to open his own restaurant one day.
After attending the University of Illinois for two nonconsecutive years, he dropped out and moved to the Florida Panhandle to start working in restaurants and embark on a self-directed on-the-job hospitality education. After enduring homelessness, fist fights, and six months working at an amusement park, he wrote an embellished resumé that landed him a coveted captain position at Beach House Restaurant. Within a few years, he’d squirreled away enough money to open a six-table restaurant in 1993 in Seaside, Florida, the picture-perfect location where Peter Weir’s The Truman Show, starring Jim Carrey, was filmed. In 1995, he opened Indigo Wine Bar in the same town, and helped cater for the movie’s dailies screenings.
Restaurants in Springfield, Illinois, and Nashville, Tennessee followed. By age 30, Boehm had opened and sold four restaurants.
In 2002, Boehm partnered with Rob Katz to form what in time became Boka Restaurant Group. Eventually, they would open 36 places in less than 20 years. The group’s many accolades and accomplishments include 18 James Beard Award nominations, two Food & Wine Best New Chefs, 13 consecutive Michelin Guide stars for Boka, and 6 Boka Restaurant Group restaurants on Chicago Tribune’s Top 50 list.
Boehm, along with Katz, won Restaurateurs of the year from TimeOut Chicago in 2010, the Chicago Tribune in 2011, and The Illinois Restaurant Association in 2017, and were Eater National’s Empire Builders of the year in 2012. They have been James Beard Finalists for Best Restaurateur in America 2016-2019, winning the award in 2019, and New City Chicago ranked them #1 in 2017 in its annual list of the 50 most powerful influencers on the Chicago dining scene.
In addition to Boka Restaurant Group, in 2020 Boehm co-founded Bian, a private club with a foundation in wellness. Forbes called it “the ultimate wellness destination.”
As a writer he has had pieces published in Esquire, Plate, The Chicago Sun Times, and McSweeneys, and he is a contributing writer for Fast Company. His first book, “The Bottomless Cup,” comes out on Abrams Press in 2025.
Kevin has been a featured or keynote speaker for the National Restaurant Show, MUFSO, Miami Food& Wine, New York City Wine & Food Festival, The Illinois Restaurant Association, Kellogg School of Management, University of Illinois, ChicagoGourmet, Asheville Independent Restaurant Show, Hearst, Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, The Welcome Conference at Lincoln Center, & Welcome Chicago.
He has given the commencement address at both Culinary Institute of America & Kendall College.
He currently sits on the board of the Illinois Restaurant Association, Open Table, 826 CHI, and Easter Seals.
Kevin lives in Chicago and frequently spends time in Los Angeles and New York City, where Boka Restaurant Group has opened restaurants in recent years.