826CHI is a nonprofit creative writing, tutoring, and publishing center that lives its mission in every way — including in how they build awareness and raise funds. It just wouldn’t be them to throw an old-fashioned gala.
Instead, on Thursday, Oct. 3 from 6-10 p.m., 826CHI will be hosting its 5th annual culinary gala, Eat Your Words, at the Chicago Cultural Center. This evening will bring Chicago’s culinary and literary worlds together in support of Chicago’s young writers. Featuring small plates from such restaurants as Momotaro, Swift & Sons, Good Fortune, and City Mouse, cocktails from Scofflaw and Moneygun, and dessert from Cabra and Milk Bar, Eat Your Words promises to be an unforgettable night of food, friends, and fantastic storytelling.
“As a creative organization, we take creative license as a guiding principle to do things a little differently,” says Kendra Curry-Khanna, executive director of 826CHI. (826 refers to the street address of the writing center’s first California address.)
Additionally, at this year’s Eat Your Words there will be an “Iron Chef”-inspired cooking battle between two national culinary pros. Chefs Lee Wolen (Boka, Somerset, Devereaux) and Jimmy Papadopoulos (Bellemore) of Boka Restaurant Group will face off in Chicago’s first-ever Chef Battle. Two student sous chefs will help the chefs work with mystery ingredient baskets and produce an original dish in 30 minutes, and emcee Michael Muser (co-owner of now-closed Grace and the soon-to-be-opened Ever) will provide live commentary on the competition. Eat Your Words attendees will have front row seats to this live cook-off, and 826CHI students will draw on their creative writing chops to write about what’s happening in front of them in real time.
“We want our guests to make a real connection to the voices of our students and the heart of our mission,” Curry-Khanna explains. “Creative writing is so much more than a basic skill. It conveys how we understand the world in which we live and how we see our place in it. Our programs ensure that students leave having learned — and in some cases — having mastered this lesson.”
826CHI offers tuition-free, highly interdisciplinary writing programs to more than 3,500 Chicago students annually. Every single student graduates from the programs as a published author. Dave Eggers, an award-winning, bestselling writer originally from Lake Forest, was one of 826CHI’s original co-founders. He will attend the Oct. 3 event.
“Dave continues to be one of our biggest advocates,” adds Curry-Khanna. “He has been an inspiration for many other writing centers that have been founded across the country, and across the globe.”
826CHI strives to offer multi-faceted programming:
- After-School Tutoring and Writing
- Field Trips
- Writing Workshops and Community Partnerships
- Teen Writers’ Studio
- In School-Partnerships
- Student Publishing
“The goal of our programming isn’t only to strengthen the writing skills of our students, but to encourage them to believe in their voices and be confident in sharing their own stories,” says Curry-Khanna. “When you volunteer with us, you see this process evolve over time and you just become hooked on what’s happening here.”
Ann Marie Scheidler is a contributing writer with Better who has made a career writing about people, their favorite places, and the things they value most. Ann Marie, a pearl-loving yogi who has a thing for travel, lives in Lake Forest with her husband and five children.