Chicago chefs are over-the-top generous by nature. This is a city where despite the plethora of restaurants, pandemic woes, and ongoing staff shortages, our chef community turns out in force to help raise money for varied causes when there is a need. Recent global events spurred the creation of Chicago Cooks for Ukraine (at Navy Pier back in April), the Chicago Chefs Cook for Tigray, and Chicago Chefs Cook for Puerto Rico (both held at Humboldt Parks’ National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture in recent weeks), quick responses to humanitarian crises around the world that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars.
All three events were spearheaded by Sarah Stegner (Prairie Grass Café), Tony Priolo (Piccolo Sogno), and Jodi Fyfe (Eden, The Paramount Group), who gathered a diverse group of like-minded chefs and restaurateurs to create something truly special. Charity comes from the heart, but in Chicago there is often a detour via the stomach.
No need for FOMO, because there are more foodie philanthropy events coming up this fall. The celebrity chef angle is a big draw in the Windy City, and these three happenings take full advantage of that fact.
Wednesday, October 5 at Wherewithall
For over two decades, Dana Cowin was editor in chief of Food & Wine, a magazine she transformed into the industry standard we know today. Since leaving the magazine, she’s become an in-demand coach to people and businesses in the hospitality industry, and created a highly successful podcast, “Speaking Broadly” on the Heritage Radio Network. Each episode finds Cowin in intimate conversation with fascinating industry visionaries and makers.
In our recent interview, Cowin shared that after doing editorial work for many years, what she really missed was telling people’s stories. “The starting point for the podcast was, ‘Who do you want to talk to?’ So, I created a list — they were almost all women — and it just burbled out of me that these were the stories that hadn’t been told and needed more space. These stories were timeless. They were human beings with a story to be told.”
This past spring, Cowin launched a new print project, the Speaking Broadly zine (vibrantly designed by her Creative Director Meagan Bennett), which features written work by many of the women who appeared on her podcast. “I love doing the podcast,” says Cowin. “The women said so many things that were provocative, moving, helpful… and I really wanted to collect the wisdom of many episodes. I assigned the pieces to some of the past guests, many of whom aren’t really writers, and it was wonderful to see how their stories unfolded.” She’s doing a series of events around the country, often in partnership with women-focused nonprofits and collectives.
Chicago gets the full “Speaking Broadly” treatment in conjunction with The Abundance Setting, a nonprofit started by James Beard Award-winning chefs Beverly Kim and Sarah Stegner that “encourages and supports the advancement of working mothers in the culinary and hospitality industry to have a thriving career while maintaining a quality life at home.” The Oct. 5 event brings The Abundance Setting community together to celebrate the launch of the Speaking Broadly zine, and features food and drink from women-led restaurants, including Tigist Reda’s Demera, Becca Grothe’s TriBecca’s, Carrie Nahabedian’s Brindille, Heather Bublick’s Soul & Smoke, and Maya-Camille Broussard’s Justice of the Pies, among others.
The event runs from 6 – 9 pm, and your $100 ticket includes a copy of the zine, and the possibility of a short coaching session with Cowin.
Friday, October 14 at The Geraghty
This long-standing event is back, and in a new venue: The Geraghty in Pilsen. Dozens of award-winning Chicago chefs and mixologists will be on hand for this year’s Celebrity Chef Ball, an over-the-top dining experience where every table is a chef’s table. Three chefs and a mixologist are assigned to a three-table pod, resulting in a spectacular six-course meal prepared just for you.
The chefs feel a special bond to this event, and to this particular nonprofit, because feeding people is in their blood. Meals on Wheels, started in 1987, provides 4.7 million hand-delivered meals annually to home-bound seniors and people with disabilities throughout the city. These meals often bridge the gap for those who are struggle through circumstance to afford food, and for many the driver may be their only outside interaction. “For people who are homebound, having a nutritious meal delivered to you by a warm and friendly driver is the highlight of the day,” shares 2022 Celebrity Chef Ball participant Paul Virant (Vie, Vistro Prime, Gaijin). “We should never underestimate the healing power of presence.”
Participating chefs include Jason Paskewitz (Aconto, The Gage), Soo Ahn (Adalina), Ryan Brousseau (Dear Margaret), Austin Adler (Maple & Ash), Jared Wentworth (Moody Tongue), Chris Pandel (Swift & Sons), Aya Fukai (Aya Pastry), Brian Jupiter (Frontier), and more.
The event runs from 6 – 11 pm; tickets are $400.
Friday, October 28 at Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel
This culinary showcase raises funds for the March of Dimes’ campaign to end premature births and support the health of mothers and their babies throughout pregnancy. The event brings together some of Chicago’s most-loved restaurants, chefs, and fine beverage purveyors for an evening of great food, live music, and exciting live and silent auctions.
During the event, two families will share their stories and be honored. The Friedenberger Family, long-time supporters, will receive the 2022 Fields Family Legacy Award. They became involved in 2004 after experiencing preterm birth first-hand when their twins, Hanna and Quinn, were born at just 25 weeks.
Gary and Jamie Waits will also be honored as the 2022 Ambassador Family. Their daughter Ann, now 6, was born at just 22 weeks and spent the first 148 days of her life in a Newborn Intensive Care Unit.
Participating restaurants include Dusek’s Tavern, Formento’s, Kuma’s Corner, Sunda New Asian, The Florentine, and Venteux. Look for beverage stations from KOVAL Distillery, Pilot Project, and Revolution Brewing.
The event runs from 5:30 – 9:30 pm, with an afterparty to follow; tickets are $500.
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- Let’s Talk Womxn Talks Change: Special Events for Women’s History Month
- Better Family Dinners: Make Giuliana Rancic’s Mom’s Famous Pasta Recipe — Mama DePandi’s Bucatini
- How Chef José Andrés Is Using Food to Create a ‘More Perfect America’
Julie Chernoff, 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 counts Northlight Theatre and Les Dames d’Escoffier International as two of her favorite nonprofits. She currently serves on the national board of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, an advocacy group addressing hunger issues in the U.S. and Israel for the nearly 46 million people — veterans, children, seniors, tribal nations, and more — who go to bed hungry every night.