Grand Chefs Gala Honors Chicago Culinary Stars to Fight Cystic Fibrosis
The Greater Illinois Chapter of The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation presented the 20th annual Grand Chefs Gala on Feb. 3 at Navy Pier. Over 900 guests enjoyed fare from Chicago's rich culinary scene and honored restaurateur Rich Melman, founder and chairman of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises.
Hosted by The Food Network's Jeff Mauro, the event began with a chef's tasting of small bites, followed by a three-course meal and then a nightcap of pastries and craft cocktails. Some of the 55 featured chefs and mixologists were recipients of the Jean Banchet Award.
Participating chefs included Fabio Viviani (Siena Tavern), Ryan Pfeiffer (Blackbird), Doug Psaltis (RPM Steak), Ryan Burns (The Blanchard), Mark Sabbe (Marchesa), Bill Montagne and Jennifer Kim (Snaggletooth), Adrienne Lo and Abraham Conlon (Fat Rice), and Sarah Grueneberg (Monteverde).
Chef Chris Pandel (The Bristol, Balena) conceptualized the themed three-course dinner menu — "An Evening at Le Francais" — as a tribute to the legendary, late chef Jean Banchet. Attendees enjoyed dilled Scottish smoked salmon maki rolls and fried leeks. And, in a departure from typical gala fare, venison was served with a chestnut confit for the main course.
The Chicago Classic Award was presented to Rich Melman by last year's winners, Michelle and Tony Durpetti (Gene & Georgetti). In his acceptance speech, Melman acknowledged Banchet and his love for his restaurant, Le Francais. "I met him in 1973 after an introduction from Arnie Morton, who called him 'possibly the greatest chef in the country.' I couldn't get enough of his amazing restaurant. He, along with Le Perroquet chef Gabino Sotelino, would always tease me, talking about how great the food was in France. I told them I didn't think they knew how to make a great tuna sandwich or hamburger. I smile when I think of Jean."
Co-chaired by Rose and Jim Kallas, the gala raised more than $670,000 to help find a cure for cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease affecting over 30,000 people in the U.S.