News & Features

Chefs Shine at Chicago Gourmet 2012

October 03 2012 - 10:31 AM

Most locals claim to prefer Chicago Gourmet to the hectic crowds at The Taste of Chicago. In my opinion, it wasn’t much different. While lines at Bon Appetit’s Chicago Gourmet were tame at Millenium Park this past weekend, in many cases they were longer than what you’d find at The Taste. And rightfully so, considering patrons want to get their money’s worth for the nearly $200 ticket each day. The real charm in Chicago Gourmet was in the live chef demonstrations – more intimate gatherings where local star chefs shared their tips, cooked a special dish and made you feel as if they were personally inviting you to their restaurant.

I know I’m a serious foodie, but I assume you are, too, and would be equally as starstruck by the chef lineup last weekend. Some of the big names included Stephanie Izard (Girl & The Goat), Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill), Art Smith (Table 52), Sarah Grueneberg (Spiaggia), Ryan Poli (Tavernita), Jimmy Bannos (The Purple Pig), Takashi Yagihashi (Slurping Turtle). I also enjoyed seeing New York chef Geoffrey Zakarian (Chopped, Iron Chef America) who felt like a local personality to me considering the amount of time I’ve spent watching him on TV from my living room.

But aside from the awe of seeing all of these people in one place and the wonderful tips they shared, I was drawn in by something more. Every chef I saw seemed like they genuinely loved food and teaching people about it. No one was pretentious or took themselves too seriously. They worked the food lines, greeted fans and happily posed for pictures. Takashi had the audience laughing along with him, Jimmy Bannos poked fun at himself while making the audience swoon over Poli (see picture above) and Bon Appetit Editor in Chief Adam Rapoport played along with everyone.

That’s not to say that the food wasn’t worth going for. I had an incredible chilled corn soup and some sort of chocolate croquette that Ryan Poli played a hand in, a delicious mahi mahi taco from Mercadito and an incredible two-bite carrot cake from Table 52. Don’t go starving, and you’ll be much happier. You can, however, fill up on some quality wines and every spirit under the sun. The drink lines are far more manageable than the food lines, and there are plenty of wine vendors no matter what your taste is.

Is Chicago Gourmet worth going to next year? If you’re looking to get your money’s worth of food, the answer is probably not. You’ll spend your time waiting in lines, complaining about how hungry you are and walking out of a line disappointed with just a few bites of food at times. Instead, go to plenty of demos for an experience you won’t forget. In between, grab a glass of wine, check out a restaurant you’ve been wanting to try and just enjoy the beautiful Chicago fall weather. Is that worth the money? I’d like to think so.