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Event Tue May 20 2008

Chicago Gourmet: A Pricy New Food Festival

This morning was the official launch press conference in the Pritzker Pavilion for the Chicago Gourmet food and wine festival, produced by the Illinois Restaurant Association and the Anton Family Foundation and backed by the City. The event will take over much of Millennium Park on September 27 and 28, with a gala opening party on the 26th.

Chicago Gourmet promises to be a culinarily star-studded affair, with nearly every Chicago chef of note involved (list after the jump). It's almost easier to list the ones that weren't on the initial list: Charlie Trotter, Grant Achatz, Homaro Cantu, Bruce Sherman, Michael Carlson, Mark Mendez of Carnivale. The festival will include food from Chicago's great restaurants, tastings of more than 150 wines from around the world, cooking demonstrations by celebrity chefs on the Pritzker Pavilion stage (yes, you get to go on the stage!), and seminars on food and wine trends. A special family pavilion will offer kid-friendly food events, including a cooking demo led by Rick Bayless and his daughter Lanie. Additional events will be announced in the months to come.

Thanks to a partnership with the Culinary Institute of America, a version of the CIA's World of Flavors conference will bring chefs from Mexico and Latin America to Chicago to offer samples of traditional and contemporary cuisine from their home countries.

Tickets will be a whopping $150 per day ($130 if you register before June 30) or $250 for a two-day pass. That's nearly twice the price of the much more established Scottsdale Culinary Festival, but only half that of the American Wine & Food Festival in LA. And, as Monica Eng pointed out, you could spend that much on dinner at some of the restaurants represented at the festival.

Tickets for tastings in the family pavilion will cost $30 per adult, with up to three children. The World of Flavors Pavilion will cost $95. There's no word yet on the cost of the opening night party or the other planned special events, such as a Grand Cru wine tasting, which will be ticketed separately. For reference, tickets for similar special events at the 2008 South Beach Wine & Food Festival ranged from $28 all the way up to $500 — $250 would have been a conservative cost for an equivalent experience there. In other words, your full price tag for Chicago Gourmet could potentially run toward $1,000 or more per couple.

We'll have more details as they come, but from the looks of it so far, it should be quite an event. Here's a set of photos from today's press conference.

Participating chefs include:
Michael Altenberg, Bistro Campagne
Malika Ameen, Aigre Doux
Paul Bartolotta, Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare
Rick Bayless, Frontera Grill/Topolobampo
Graham Elliot Bowles, Graham Elliot
George Bumbaris, Prairie Grass Café
David Burke, David Burke's Primehouse
Kim Canteenwalla, Blau & Associates
John Coletta, Quartino
Christian Delouvrier, Brasserie Ruhlmann
Kendal Duque, Sepia
Dirk Flanigan, The Gage
Gale Gand, Cenitare
James Gottwald, Rockit Ranch Productions, Inc.
John Hogan, Keefer's/Tavern at the Park
Mohammad Islam, Aigre Doux
Paul Kahan, Blackbird
Michael Kornick, MK
Tony Mantuano, Spiagga
Shawn McClain, Spring Restaurant Group Custom House
Richard Moonen, RM Seafood at Mandalay Place
Carrie Nahabedian, Naha
Martial Noguier, OneSixtyBlue
Arun Sampanthavivat, Arun's
Mindy Segal, Hot Chocolate
Jackie Shen, Red Light
Art Smith, Table Fifty-Two
Sarah Stegner, Prairie Grass Café
Roy Yamaguchi, Roy's Restaurants

Participating sommeliers include:
Serafin Alvarado MS
Fred Dame MS
Alpana Singh MS
Joe Spellman MS

Participating VIP Supporters include:
Elizabeth Blau
Bill Curtis
Steve Dolinsky
Donna LaPietra
Abby Mandel
David Schwimmer


The festival website was designed by Knauer Incorporated, renowned restaurant architecture and design firm. Unfortunately, they're not a great web design firm — frames and unnecessary scrolling abound. UPDATE: I've been informed that Salt Communications designed the website, not Knauer Inc. Knauer designed the layout of the event itself.

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Drive-Thru is the food and drink section of Gapers Block, covering the city's vibrant dining, drinking and cooking scene. More...
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Editor: Robyn Nisi, rn@gapersblock.com
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