“Farm to table” dining may have become commonplace on Chicago’s restaurant menus. But Chef Paul Virant was in the vanguard of the movement just 13 years when he opened Vie restaurant in the suburb of Western Springs. And he is all about giving back to the community. Within a recent three-day span, Paul did a cooking demo with the Gardeneers audience for schoolchildren in Englewood, then was the honoree for Angelic Organics Learning Center at their annual dinner.
Any list of hot commodities in Chicago would have to include the Chicago Cubs, who last year won baseball’s World Series for the first time in 108 years; a world-renowned restaurant community driven largely by chefs who believe in Good Food movement principles and community engagement; and a craft beer scene that has boomed just within the past few years. So it wasn’t a coincidence that the first major event held at The Park at Wrigley — the new event space and community asset built by the team owners right next to historic 103-year-old Wrigley Field — was called Craft and Cuisine.
The organizers who produced the Frontera 30th Anniversary Celebration took a bit of a gamble by preceding the highly anticipated, chef-driven tasting event with a Good Food Forum. Given that most in the audience were anxious to eat, drink and be merry, the hour-long symposium could have be a buzzkill. But the enlightening, engaging and passionate discussion among five Good Food activists and leaders, deftly moderated by Peter Sagal of NPR’s popular program “Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me,” turned out to be a perfect set-up for the food and frivolity that followed.
When you are throwing a big party, the usual measure of success is whether all good time was had by all. By that standard, the Frontera 30th Anniversary Celebration — marking three decades of Chicago Chef Rick Bayless’ Frontera Grill — was a dazzling success. But the event also was a fundraiser for Rick’s Frontera Farmer Foundation and FamilyFarmed… and that also was a success.
The people who attended the Frontera 30th Anniversary Celebration on Sunday (April 30) — to help accelerate the Good Food movement — hopefully will always remember the evening they spent in what we called the Culinary All-Star Food Court. So as our thank you note, we present a photo essay of all of the participating chefs, with links to the chef profile series that Good Food on Every Table published in recent weeks.
Chef Rick Bayless’ Topolobampo — which brought fine-dining regional Mexican cuisine to Chicago in 1989 — won the James Beard Foundation 2017 Outstanding Restaurant Award at the organization’s annual ceremony, held Monday night at his hometown’s Lyric Opera House. The award, which Rick received with wife-business partner Deann Bayless sharing the podium, came just one day after the Frontera 30th Anniversary Celebration at The Art Institute of Chicago.
Chefs Erling Wu-Bower of Chicago’s Nico Osteria and Cosmo Goss of The Publican are two of the biggest young stars on the city’s and nation’s restaurant scene. So when they went to their boss at the hugely successful One Off Hospitality Group — James Beard Award winning chef Paul Kahan — a few months ago to tell him that they planned to open their own restaurant, Paul says, “Man, my brain exploded.” But Paul himself had benefited from the nurturing and encouragement of the chefs from whom he learned, such as Rick Bayless, and he and his business partners are helping Erling and Cosmo plan and develop their restaurant. All three chefs will participate on Sunday in the Frontera 30th Anniversary Celebration fundraiser at The Art Institute of Chicago.
Stephanie Izard graduated from University of Michigan in 1998 uncertain about her career path, and her father encouraged her to give culinary school a try. Over the past 17 years, the Chicago and national food scenes have owed Stephanie’s dad their gratitude. Her restaurant Girl & The Goat earned her a James Beard Award in 2013, and she has expanded to her Little Goat Diner and Chinese-themed Duck Duck Goat. Stephanie is a chef-participant in Sunday’s Frontera 30th Anniversary Celebration fundraiser at The Art Institute of Chicago, and a lucky bidder in the event’s online silent auction will get to dine at each of her three restaurants.
or many years, Ming’s parents — both immigrants from China — owned, and his mother ran, a restaurant in Dayton, Ohio, called Mandarin Kitchen. Ming worked there during his teen years and showed his obvious talent and passion for cooking. But… this is an ethnic food story with a twist: The reason Ming’s family settled in Dayton was because his father was an aerospace engineer who worked at the nearby Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and Ming initially embarked to follow in his footsteps, earning a degree in mechanical engineering at Yale University. But cooking was never far from his mind, and he embarked on a career that led to his two successful Asian cuisine restaurants in the Boston area and a long career as a TV chef.
Brenton Balika grew up in the Chicago area in a family in which food and cooking were shared experiences. By his early teens, he developed the passion that led him to a career as a chef; he says the only jobs he has ever held are as a golf caddy when he was in the 8th grade and working his way up through restaurant kitchens. But Brent took a long and winding road to his current high-profile station: developing the soon-to-open Margeaux Brasserie and Petit Margeaux patisserie at Chicago’s Waldorf Astoria hotel for Chef Michael Mina’s San Francisco-based Mina Group. Brent will participate with other top chefs in the Frontera 30th Anniversary Celebration, a joint fundraiser for FamilyFarmed and the Frontera Farmer Foundation.
The folks attending the Frontera 30th Anniversary Celebration fundraiser on April 30 at The Art Institute of Chicago will be able to bid on some mind-boggling prizes, including a food field trip to Mexico with Chef Rick Bayless, whose 30 years of achievement is being celebrated at the event. But guess what? You can bid for all of those prizes too. That’s because the auction, already under way, is taking place online, and you can compete wherever you are. All you have to do is visit the auction portal, click the prizes your heart desires, and bid.
FamilyFarmed has partnered with Chef Rick Bayless’ Frontera Farmer Foundation to produce the Frontera 30th Anniversary Celebration, a joint fundraiser that will be held on Sunday, April 30 at The Art Institute of Chicago. Good Food on Every Table is running a series of profiles of the participating chefs, and here we feature some of the tributes to Rick Bayless that these chefs made. Their comments focus on Rick’s contributions to the rise of the Good Food movement and to elevating Chicago to the status of an international culinary capital. Each of the excerpts below is followed by a link to the full profile of the quoted chef.
Jason Hammel of the critically acclaimed Lula Café is a rarity among Chicago’s top chefs, in that he did not learn the craft in the kitchens of culinary legends. Jason is essentially self-taught. But he counts Chicago legends such as Rick Bayless, Paul Kahan and Matthias Merges as his role models and mentors. Like them, he has played a major role in sourcing from local and regional farmers. We are honored to have Jason as a participating chef at the Frontera 30th Anniversary Celebration, a joint fundraiser for Chef Rick Bayless‘ Frontera Farmer Foundation and FamilyFarmed, which will be held at The Art Institute of Chicago on Sunday, April 30.
Chef Abe Conlon has Portuguese blood lines, grew up in a working-class city (Lowell, Massachusetts) with a large Asian population, apprenticed under skilled chefs and attended the Culinary Institute of America. So there might be some destiny in the fact that he and business partner Adrienne Lo have built a thriving success at Fat Rice, the restaurant in Chicago’s largely working-class Logan Square neighborhood that introduced Macanese cuisine to Chicago and — through their cookbook The Adventures of Fat Rice — to most of the rest of America. They will participate in the Frontera 30th Anniversary Celebration, a joint fundraiser for Chef Rick Bayless‘ Frontera Farmer Foundation and FamilyFarmed, which will be held at The Art Institute of Chicago on Sunday, April 30.
Mindy Segal is a legend among pastry chefs, both in her home city of Chicago and nationally. The winner of the 2012 James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef, she has delighted customers at Mindy’s HotChocolate — her full-service restaurant in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood — for 12 years. for many years has made cakes for all of Rick Bayless’ family’s special occasions. So she was an obvious choice to participate in the Frontera 30th Anniversary Celebration, a joint fundraiser for Chef Rick Bayless‘ Frontera Farmer Foundation and FamilyFarmed, which will be held at The Art Institute of Chicago on Sunday, April 30.
Johnny Anderes is head chef of The Kitchen Chicago, with a beautiful location overlooking the north bank of the Chicago River. The Kitchen restaurant group was founded in Boulder, Colorado in 2004 and features delicious food — with a strong focus on local and sustainable sourcing — at its restaurants in Colorado, Chicago and Memphis. Johnny will join Paul Kahan and an all-star lineup of chefs who are participating in the Frontera 30th Anniversary Celebration, a joint fundraiser for Chef Rick Bayless’ Frontera Farmer Foundation and FamilyFarmed, which will be held at The Art Institute of Chicago on Sunday, April 30.
Matthias Merges is a leader in Chicago’s culinary community. Matthias also, from very early on, has been deeply committed to making Chicago and its communities better. So it’s not surprising that Chef Rick Bayless, was eager to have Matthias participate in the Frontera 30th Anniversary Celebration, a joint fundraiser for his Frontera Farmer Foundation and FamilyFarmed, which will be held at The Art Institute of Chicago on Sunday, April 30.
Matthias Merges is one of the most important figures in the rise of Chicago to its status as a world-class culinary capital. after a 14-year stint at Charlie Trotter’s — the last 12 of those at the world-renowned restaurant’s chef de cuisine — Matthias went out his own in 2010, and soon after opened Yusho, focused on Japanese street food, and it quickly became the flagship of his extensive Folkart restaurant group. Matthias will be a participating chef at the Frontera 30th Anniversary Celebration fundraiser on April 30 at The Art Institute of Chicago
Many people who have worked in Chef Rick Bayless’ kitchen since he opened Frontera Grill 30 years ago have gone on to their own success as chefs and restaurateurs. But among those who have worked for Rick, few — if any — have benefited more than Anselmo Ramirez, chef-owner of Chicago’s popular Ixcateco Grill, where he combines the Mexican food knowledge he gained from his grandmother with the restaurant craft he learned while working for 13 years in Rick Bayless’ kitchens… starting as a 17-year-old dishwasher. Anselmo will participate in the Frontera 30th Anniversary Celebration fundraiser on April 30 at The Art Institute of Chicago.
There are many “farm to table” chefs in our hometown of Chicago, but Abra Berens embodies both ends of that equation.Abra is the executive chef at Stock Café at Local Foods. She also is so committed to local and sustainable food that she started Bare Knuckle Farm, located in the northern part of her home state of Michigan. Abra will participate the Frontera 30th Anniversary Celebration, a joint fundraiser for his Frontera Farmer Foundation and FamilyFarmed, which will take place on Sunday, April 30 at the Art Institute of Chicago.