Born in Columbus, Ohio, Curtis Duffy knew early on he had a passion for cooking. In addition to having the support of his parents, he was fortunate enough to have his passion recognized and encouraged by two of his teachers, both of whom remain close friends and mentors. To this day, he notes these teachers alongside such culinary luminaries as Michel Bras, Charlie Trotter, Grant Achatz, and Fernand Point as key influences in his career.
While in high school, Duffy started working for Chef John P. Souza at a private golf club, learning both basic and advanced culinary techniques. After six years under Souza's tutelage, Duffy left to work as Chef de Cuisine at another private club while finishing his studies at Ohio State University. Shortly after receiving his Associates Degree in Applied Science (1999), he left Ohio to work at the legendary Charlie Trotter's in Chicago; while at Trotter's, Duffy staged at The French Laundry. The young chef honed his skills at the two restaurants, oft-named #1 and #2 in the country. After three years at Trotter's, Duffy accepted a position as Pastry Chef at the esteemed Trio, where he was recognized as "Best Innovative Pastry Chef" from Food & Wine (2003). Duffy met Chef Grant Achatz at Trio, and in 2004, they left Trio to open Alinea, where Duffy worked as Chef de Cuisine. Alinea skyrocketed to fame, being named the "Best Restaurant in America" by Gourmet just a year after opening, and is widely recognized as one of the best restaurants in the world. In 2008, Duffy took his impressive skill set to Avenues (The Peninsula Chicago) and was instantly celebrated for his thoughtful, progressive, and imaginative cuisine by consumers and media alike.
At Avenues, Duffy garnered an extraordinary list of awards and accolades, including two stars from the prestigious Michelin Guide, the AAA Five Diamond Award , and perfect four-star ratings from Chicago Magazine and the Chicago Tribune. In May 2010, to mark the 20th anniversary of the James Beard Awards, Duffy was named a "Legacy Chef." The James Beard Foundation asked previous Outstanding Chef award winners from each of the prior twenty years to select a chef whom they have mentored and who they believe would have a major impact on the culinary world in years to come. Grant Achatz selected Duffy, essentially naming him to the next generation of leading chefs. The following year, Duffy was nominated by the JBF as "Best Chef, Great Lakes Region."
In mid-2011, Duffy left Avenues to begin making plans for his own restaurant, expected to open mid-2012. At Grace, Duffy's culinary style is showcased, reflecting his personal taste and drawing upon his wealth of experience. His micro-seasonal cuisine is best described as "thoughtfully progressive" – thoughtful as he puts tremendous time, focus, research and thought into what he creates, and progressive as he will utilize modern techniques to coax the best out of the ingredients. Each dish is an expression of his personality – progressive but grounded – and puts ingredients at the forefront. He will continue to source the highest-quality ingredients, allowing flavor to trump technique; by putting flavor first, with modern techiques playing a supporting role. When not in the kitchen, Duffy volunteers with the Grand Chefs Gala, a fundraiser benefitting the Greater Illinois Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. In 2012, he served as the Chef Chair of the Gala; in 2010, he emceed the annual fundraiser and helped to raise $275,000 to benefit the Foundation.