In a city of extravagantly-bearded, rock and roll-living chefs, Andrew Zimmerman looks like the rare grownup, cleancut, levelheaded and (so far as we have ever observed) tattoo-free. Ironically, he actually was an aspiring rock musician who goofed around in kitchens for a long time without getting serious, but his career from some point in his 20s has been the classic one of hard work, seizing opportunities when they presented themselves and steadily rising to better and better positions. He took over Sepia in 2009 and guided it through the period after its opening hype when many restaurants falter, winning a Michelin star the first year they were awarded in Chicago (which he has retained since). And now he's nominated for the first time for a James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Great Lakes, alongside some heady Chicago competition— Michael Carlson, Stephanie Izard and Bruce Sherman. In advance of Monday's award ceremony, we spoke with Zimmerman about his long and somewhat meandering path to his present success and acclaim, which turned into a conversation about young chefs, culinary school and how he mentors the next generation of chefs as well. The first part of our conversation is below; it will continue Monday.