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Mouth-watering Scenes from the 2011 Great Chefs Tasting Party

By Roger Kamholz in Food on Mar 18, 2011 7:00PM

United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Chicago hosted its 19th annual Great Chefs Tasting Party at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers on Wednesday, luring scores of hungry guests thanks to an all-star lineup of Chicago-area chefs. UCP of Greater Chicago is a 60-year-old nonprofit whose mission is to help advocate for and enrich the lives of people with disabilities. Attendees not only grazed on some incredible food from more than 40 talented chefs, they also showed their support for the cause to the tune of approximately $160,000 in donations.

The Sheraton's ballroom was abuzz with activity Wednesday evening as guests bounced between chef's stations, eating their way through the delicious offerings. They also browsed goodies that had been donated for the event's silent auction, including signed jerseys and other memorabilia from Chicago pro athletes, exclusive private cooking classes at Chicago restaurants, and a weekend at the Sheraton complete with dinner at the hotel.

But back to the food. Event headliner Stephanie Izard of Girl & the Goat and Sprout's Dale Levitski kicked off the evening with cooking demos during a VIP guest reception, and both followed up with delicious treats once the tastings began. Izard and her team served crispy, smoky goat empanadas, while Levitski plated a superb smoked duck salad. And they weren't the only chefs to bring their A games Wednesday evening. For one, it was a taco-lover's heaven: the folks from Big Star were pressing fresh tortillas for their juicy tacos de chivo, while across the room the team from Mercadito Chicago plated light and crunchy beer-battered-fish tacos with Mexican slaw and chipotle aioli. Chef Heather Terhune of Sable Kitchen & Bar crafted elegant, well-balanced spoonfuls of smoked black cod topped with housemade pickles while, just a few feet away, Chef Frank Brunacci from Sixteen sliced up comforting quarters of toasted lobster roll. We'd go on gushing but, in truth, there were simply too many great dishes to mention.

As a whole, the event was not only a vivid reminder of how creative, skilled, friendly and profoundly charitable our city's chefs are, it also demonstrated what amazing variety and diversity exist across Chicago's dining landscape.