Mount Prospect restaurateur keeps tradition going in Crystal Lake

When Chef Chris Barth opened his second Retro Bistro in Crystal Lake on June 15, he at first didn't realize the significance of the day.

It happened to be when he and two partners opened the first Retro Bistro in 1990 in Mount Prospect.

This time, it was just Barth and his wife, with the help of video calling that connects them to both restaurants to keep things operating smoothly, he said.

"When you're a family-owned business, things are very different from a corporate-owned restaurant," Barth said. "If we had been corporate owned, we may have closed our doors years ago, but we hung in there," said Barth, 49, of Mount Prospect." I'm proud to be an independent, family-owned business. It distinguishes us from one fast-food restaurant after another or corporate-owned restaurants."

Family also influenced how Barth learned to cook, which has led to a lifelong career in restaurants.

He and his twin brother, Tyler, were raised in Barrington, where his family loved to entertain. His mother also loved watching all the cooking shows on TV and trying new recipes. It became a major influence on Barth, who learned how to make stuffed shells, beef Wellington and other dishes that most 10- to 12-year-olds didn't cook.

"My mom would just love to get out the cookbook and try new things," he said. "I just loved it."

While his brother went on to become owner of Illinois

See Kukec on Page 2

Blower Inc., a Cary-based maker of industrial fans and blowers, Barth worked at a variety of restaurants until he got what he considered his first real job at D&J Bistro in Lake Zurich. That's where he met Dominique Legeai, a French-trained chef, and Mastato Szuki, a French-trained Japanese chef.

Barth, who also trained in Paris, was of Polish descent and they all learned from each other.

But at the tender age of 22, Barth partnered with Legeai and Szuki to open Retro Bistro in Mount Prospect in 1990.

"They were wonderful mentors to me," he said.

And it proved fateful. Barth met his future wife, Lorraine, through her parents, who owned D&J Bistro.

Lorraine, like Barth, had graduated from Kendall College and loved restaurants. They married and raise a son and daughter.

About 18 years ago, Barth bought out his partners at the Mount Prospect restaurant and became the full owner with his wife because he "loved the look and feel of high-end cuisine served in a casual way," he said.

He and Lorraine, 44, also enjoyed trips to France to research food trends and realized how simply prepared foods, from farm-to-table, were the best way to go.

Now that his son C.J., 22, and his daughter, Nicollete, 15, are involved in the restaurant, Barth feels they have a good outlook to carry on his legacy. Lorraine mostly manages the restaurant in Mount Prospect w

while Chris Barth focuses on Crystal Lake. Each restaurant has about 20 employees.

"There's no better feeling than making people happy. and I'm addicted to that. That's why I do this."

<h3 class="briefHead">Fast Tracks</h3>

Michael B. Hagen of Northfield is the new senior vice president of commercial lending based at the Signature Bank corporate headquarters in Rosemont. ... Ne'Keisha Stepney has been appointed as dean for business and career technologies at Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove. ... Gordon L. Miller is the new leasing director for the southeast region at InvenTrust Properties Corp. in Oak Brook.

Robert "Rob" M. Tarkoff, president and CEO of Lithium Technologies, has been elected to the board of directors for Hoffman Estates-based CDK Global Inc. ... Phil Johnson of Naperville and the former president, CFO and COO of Incapital LLC, becomes the new CEO of wealth management firm Sentinus in Oak Brook. He replaces CEO Scott Reynolds, who will become executive chairman.

Kurt Webb, the new general manager of Woodfield Mall, arrives this week from California to oversee the Schaumburg shopping mall with nearly 300 stores and restaurants. He replaced David Gott, who was the first general manager of Woodfield after Simon Property Group acquired the mall in January 2013. ... Chintan Mistry, chief medical director at Dreyer Medical Center in Aurora, presented a certificate of recognition to Ed Young of Aurora for his 22 years serving as a volunteer greeter at Dreyer.

Dennis Santare, vice president of sales and marketing for Aircraft Propeller Service LLC in Lake Zurich, has been named to the board of directors of the Cradle of Aviation Museum. The museum focuses on aviation and spaceflight commemorating the contributions of Long Island, New York, to the industry.

There's more to business than just the bottom line. We want to tell you about the people that make business work. Send news about people in business to Follow Anna Marie Kukec on LinkedIn and Facebook and as AMKukec on Twitter.

Naperville mom launches new baby food company

Cancer not sidetracking Skarr from community, family activities

Theater, restaurant work help shape executives skills at Libertyville's MBX

For 50 years, Lake Forest Hospital's Niskanen rubs elbows with the best

C.J. Barth, sister Nicollete Barth and mother Lorraine Barth worth together with Lorraine's husband, Chef Chris Barth, at Retro Bistro, which has locations in Mount Prospect and Crystal Lake. COURTESY OF RETRO BISTRO
Retro Bistro started in Mount Prospect, pictured, in 1990 and now has a second location in Crystal Lake. Both are owned and operated by Chef Chris Barth. COURTESY OF RETRO BISTRO
Mike Hagen
Ne'Keisha Stepney
Kurt Webb
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.