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Eating for Hunger: Taste of the Nation

By Lisa Shames in Food on Jun 28, 2007 5:00PM


If you happened to be dining at any one of a number of Chicago’s top restaurants last Monday evening and peeked your head into the kitchen, odds are you wouldn’t have found the executive chefs there. But that doesn’t mean they weren’t working. Instead, over 30 of the city’s best chefs and 20 United States Bartenders’ Guild members were donating their time and skills to Share Our Strength’s “Taste of the Nation Chicago,” just one of 60 similar events that takes place all over the United States and Canada to raise awareness and money to end childhood hunger (and you just thought they took the night off).

Here are some random observations:
• That Chicago chefs not only talk the talk, they really do walk the walk. The June 25th event held at the River East Arts Center was a who’s who of big-name Windy City chefs. Here are a few that lent their support: Charlie Trotter (received SOS’s Most Sustainable Chef award), Graham Elliot Bowles (Avenues at The Peninsula Chicago; honorary chef chair), Steve Chiappetti (Viand; received SOS’s Leadership Award), Randy Zweiban (Nacional 27), John Caputo (Bin 36), Giuseppe Tentori (Boka), Jason Miller (Primehouse), Michael Kornick (mk), Greg Christian (Greg Christian Catering), Carol Wallack (Sola), and Jason Hammel and Amalea Tshilds (Lula Café).

• No matter how many multi-starred restaurants they’ve dined in or the number of fancy-pants ingredients they use at their eateries, at the end of the day chefs aren’t much different than us and what they really crave after a hard day’s work is a good burger. We spied a large number of white jackets over at Rockit Bar & Grill’s patio booth, chowing down on chef James Gottwald’s special burger: Tallgrass Beef, melted brie, fried shallots and medjool date aioli.

• We have yet to try a cocktail made by Adam Seger, bar chef extraordinaire at Nacional 27, that we didn’t love. And that goes for his Michigan Manhattan, made with Mick Klug Farms sour black cherry-infused Woodfarm Reserve Bourdon.

rsz_IMG_0833-01.jpg• That Trotter’s personal wine cellar is going to be missing quite a few bottles soon. During the silent auction, Trotter donated three separate dinners for 10 in his home, which sold for $48,500 total. The dinners will include eight courses—two prepared by Michael Kornick and two prepared by Bowles—plus guests will be given the opportunity to raid Trotter’s wine cellar with master sommelier Serafin Alvarado. Sustainable ingredients will be featured, including Tallgrass Beef and an appearance by founder Bill Kurtis and Donna LaPietra. (No, sorry, we don’t have the phone numbers of the guests who bought the dinners.)

• That cocktails and cuisine really do go well together, and, in fact, the event focused on the culinary fusion between those two. Need more proof? Adam Schop of DeLaCosta’s hamachi ceviche with watermelon, juniper espuma (that’s foam to the rest of us), mustard seed oil and basil matched perfectly with John Kinder of mk's Fragrant Melon cocktail. Just to be sure it wasn’t a fluke we had two (you would have as well).

• That eating to end hunger might sound ironic but it actually works: The event was attended by some 500 people and raised approximately $125,000 for local charities, including Illinois Hunger Coalition, Operation Frontline-Near North Health Services, Greater Chicago Food Depository and Vital Bridges.

• That perhaps Trotter summed up the event best: “This is about celebrating the possibilities,” and he wasn’t just referring to the food and drinks being served.