Heads Up: Chicago Gourmet
If the Taste of Chicago is not your style, perhaps the highbrow Chicago Gourmet is more up your alley. For the third year, Chicago will play host to chefs and sommeliers from around the world, and this year's event will be bigger than ever. More than 100 chefs will offer cooking demos, book-signings, seminars and tastings.
Last year's event had 8,000 attendees, and Illinois Restaurant Association President Sheila O'Grady announced this morning that she hopes this year's celebration draws an even larger crowd.
The food and wine extravaganza takes place in Millennium Park on Saturday and Sunday,
September 25 & 26. A one-day pass costs $150 while admission for both days is $250. New this year are the Bon Appetit Marketplace Tent, where guests can mingle with magazine editors, and the Foodspring.com Specialty Food Pavilion, a new Fancy Food Show consumer retail event.
In addition to general admission, for an extra $175, oenophiles can taste the finest wines in the world, hand-selected by master sommeliers, at the Grand Cru Tastings. Attendance at the Grand Cru is limited to 200 people per day. Tickets are already available, so oenophiles may want to get on that.
The party kicks off Friday evening with a burger-cooking contest featuring more than a dozen chefs at Harris Theatre's Rooftop Terrace. Tickets for this event are $75.
If $150 for one day's admission seems a bit steep, there is still hope: Dine Around. Dine at five different participating restaurants (50+ are expected to participate) between August 30 and September 26 and bring your receipts along with your "passport" to the registration table at Chicago Gourmet for a free one-day pass. Think of it as a restaurant stimulus package.
O'Grady said Chicago Gourmet is a "tremendous value," particularly compared to similar events across the country.
Mayor Daley was very supportive of Chicago Gourmet and the city's chefs, although he and O'Grady made it clear that the event is privately funded by the Illinois Restaurant Association and the Anton Family Foundation.
Bon Appetit's editor-in-chief, Barbara Fairchild, attended this morning's press conference, and said she was thrilled for the magazine to be the title sponsor for this year's event. She also noted that her love of Chicago dining was sparked by Abby Mandel, a former columnist for the magazine and founder of Green City Market.
Not only does Chicago Gourmet enhance Chicago's dining scene reputation, but it also supports the hospitality industry, according to Mayor Daley, who described the food-service sector this morning as "very important to our economy" and "vitally important to our future."
"These [chefs] are our ambassadors around the world," Daley said. "They represent the creative class of our society."
Approximately 50 chefs gathered at the press conference today to celebrate the upcoming event.
Epic's Stephen Wambach is excited to appear at the event for the first time. "It's a big deal for me to be invited," Wambach said with a smile.
Chef Dirk Flanigan from The Gage has participated in Chicago Gourmet since its inception.
"Each year it's been getting better and better," he said, referring to the organization and quality of food at the event.
This year, Flanigan plans to host another cooking demo with Piccolo Sogno's Tony Priolo. The two have been friends for more than 20 years. According to Flanigan, they are toying with the theme of "same ingredients, different kitchens."
To close the press conference, everyone toasted with Santa Margherita Prosecco, provided by Terlato Wines International. Sunda, Sixteen, RL and The Gage provided yummy bites to eat. (The Gage's generously portioned sandwich with housemade duck sausage was a highlight.)
For more information and tickets to all events, visit ChicagoGourmet.org. This year, some of the proceeds from the event will be used to fund scholarships for students going to culinary school.