For the first time in Chicago Gourmet’s 16-year history, the festival grounds had visible recycling and composting bins. It might be a minor detail for an event featuring dozens of Chicago’s most popular chefs and wines from all over the world, but for an event where upscale restaurants are celebrated, the move was welcomed.
Throwing an event like this plenty of waste — it’s not uncommon site to see patrons cleaning their wine glasses out with water from plastic bottles of Evian. But it was hard to ignore the composting bin parked outside on Randolph Street. Not only did fest organizers bring in recycling and composting, but they also donated leftover food to shelters, something a rep says is done on a regular basis.
The festival is comprised of a series of events from Thursday through Sunday and is sponsored by the Illinois Restaurant Association and Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits. Chicago Gourmet is known as one of the city’s premier food events, bringing together chefs from some of the city’s best restaurants who craft small bites exclusively for the event. It’s an end-of-summer party to show out for those willing to pay. The costs ranged from $79 for an Octoberfest-themed brunch with Monteverde chef Sarah Grueneberg to $255 for the main event, the Grand Cru.
The sunny skies cooperated over the weekend and attendees were in good spirits mingling with chefs including Dominique Leach, the pitmaster behind Lexington Betty Smokehouse in Pullman — she recently won Season 4 of Food Network’s BBQ Brawl. Other chefs running around the Harris Theater’s rooftop included Patty Neumson of Herb, Edgewater’s fine dining masterpiece; Joe Flamm of Rose Mary, one of Fulton Market’s biggest openings in the last five years; and Rodolfo Cuadros of Amaru and Bloom Plant Based Kitchen. He was a James Beard Award semifinalist in 2022.
The event has scaled down since the pandemic, once extending across Millenium Park. Chefs like Rick Bayless would participate in demonstrations at Jay Pritzker Pavillion and there would be panels under tents throughout the park. Organizers and sponsors are hopeful for an eventual return to the old days of using the entire space.
Check out some of the action for Saturday’s early session in the photos below. Chicago Gourmet will return next year from September 26 to September 29.
Correction: The story and headline have been updated to reflect the festival has had recycling at past events and has donated leftover food to shelters.
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