Two of Chicago’s premier food-focused events are on the horizon, and there’s still time for you to take part — and to help find a cure for cystic fibrosis.
First up, on Sunday, Jan. 13, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation presents the Jean Banchet Awards celebrating the best of Chicago’s restaurants, chefs, and sommeliers. It will be a who’s who of our restaurant industry, including Chef of the Year nominees Paul Fehribach (Big Jones), Jason Hammel (Lula Café, Marisol), Joshua Kulp and Christine Cikowski (Honey Butter Fried Chicken, Sunday Dinner Club), and John Shields (Smyth and The Loyalist).
Emceed by the hilarious and talented Michael Muser (restaurant GM by day, rock star/stand-up comic in his spare time), who in turn is ably assisted by CFF’s luminous “official junior chef” Evie Murphy, the awards evening starts with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres upstairs at Venue SIX10 in the Loop. Unlike the James Beard Awards, the awards last less than two hours, and then it’s time to head upstairs for a sometimes-raucous after party featuring chef comfort food favorites (think tacos, pizza, brats, and more) and a full bar. Feel like a restaurant insider as you rub shoulders with Chicago’s top chefs and restaurateurs, and know that you’re contributing to a truly worthy cause to boot.
Tickets for the 2019 Jean Banchet Awards are $150 to the public, and $75 for industry folk. Visit the awards website for more information and to purchase tickets.
Along with wintry weather, February brings CFF’s signature event, the Grand Chefs Experience, held once again at the Field Museum. Last year, more than 650 guests enjoyed the sit-down portion of the event, which begins in the upper balcony overlooking the Main Hall with a Chefs’ Tasting of 35 individual hors d’oeuvres stations, open bars, and a culinary-themed silent auction. Afterward, guests will head downstairs to hang out with Maximo, the world’s largest dinosaur, and enjoy Chef Tableside Service with signature dishes from 15 chefs, along with a live program including a thrilling live auction and the Bid for a Cure. Following that, the Nightcap portion begins with custom cocktails from top local mixologists and desserts from our sweetest pastry chefs. Many chefs, truly committed to this worthy nonprofit, return year after year. 2018 participants included Ryan McCaskey (Acadia), Abe Conlon (Fat Rice), Diana Davila (Mi Tocaya Antojeria), Andrew Zimmerman (Sepia, Proxi), and Doug Psaltis (RPM Steak).
Tables of 10 for the 2019 Grand Chefs Experience start at $5,000 for the full evening; Nightcap tickets (for access from 9 p.m. to midnight) are $100 each. Find more information and purchase tickets on the event website.
Julie Chernoff, Make It Better’s dining editor since its inception in 2007, graduated from Yale University with a degree in English — which she speaks fluently — and added a professional chef’s degree from the California Culinary Academy. She has worked for Boz Scaggs, Rick Bayless, and Wolfgang Puck (not all at the same time); and sits on the boards of Les Dames d’Escoffier International and Northlight Theatre.