Restaurant Scene: 'Flavors of Chicago' blend in Hammond

2013-06-28T00:00:00Z Restaurant Scene: 'Flavors of Chicago' blend in HammondEloise Marie Valadez, (219) 933-3365

Home cooks will have an opportunity to learn some tricks of the kitchen trade from two of Chicago's most celebrated chefs this weekend in Hammond.

Tony Mantuano, chef/partner of Chicago's acclaimed Spiaggia restaurant and Graham Elliot, owner of restaurants Graham Elliot, Grahamwich and Graham Elliot Bistro, all in the Windy City, will star in "The Flavors of Chicago" on Saturday and Sunday at The Venue at Hammond's Horseshoe Casino.

"I'm looking forward to it," said Mantuano. "I always enjoy having the chance to shake hands, talk to and connect with people."

Mantuano, who has starred on "Top Chef Masters," said he'll be sharing recipes from his award-winning Italian restaurant Spiaggia.

Elliot, a judge on the television show "MasterChef," always welcomes the chance to visit the Region.

"(When asked to do this) It was something I instantly wanted to do. My wife has family in Gary," Elliot said, adding they spend a great deal of time in the Miller Beach area during the summer.

Mantuano will star on stage at 2 p.m. Saturday while Elliot appears for cooking demos at noon and 4 p.m. Sunday. Both chefs will not only cook signature dishes but also offer kitchen tips and engage the audience in a question and answer session.

"With the 4th of July coming up, I'll be doing something All-American," said Elliot, adding a version of Buffalo Wings will likely be in the spotlight.

He said he'll be redefining the flavors of the popular foods in different ways. "I'll be taking something everyone knows and finding a way to put a different spin on it," he said.

Known for the past few years as the culinary director of Lollapalooza, Elliot enjoys delving into the creative aspects of developing menus, recipes and stand-out flavors.

Elliot said he's drawn to live cooking shows of this type because he likes to collaborate with other chefs and foodies.

Mantuano said he'll be "giving people a taste of what we do at Spiaggia every day."

He added this past April Spiaggia celebrated 29 years in business.

"We're making big plans for the 30th anniversary," he said. He looks forward to relaying stories from the iconic eatery on stage as well.

"With a restaurant like Spiaggia, I have so many stories to tell of celebrities that have dined there," he said. Notables from The Obamas to Lady Gaga and more have eaten at Mantuano's restaurant. "It's always fun to tell those stories."

According to Elliot, the general public is still very enthusiastic about live cooking shows as well as television culinary programs.

"Chefs are the new entertainers and rock stars of our world. There's an interest in chefs in general," he said.

The event, Elliot said, "should be a fun celebration."

In addition to the chef's appearances, audience members will have the chance to sample  foods from various restaurants and vendors that will be on-site at The Venue this weekend.

Among vendors will be Salted Caramel, Washburne Culinary Institute, Popcorn Palace, Beggar's Pizza, Patrick's Gourmet Cookies Inc., Aunt Nina's Sweets n Treats, Harry & David, Birky Farms, Pampered Chef, Horseshoe Hammond Casino, Bulldog Brewing, Brakur Custom Cabinetry, Indy Cafe, Heaven Sent Cookies, Barraco's and KC Chocolatier.

FYI: "The Flavors of Chicago" will be held this weekend at The Venue at Hammond's Horseshoe Casino, 777 Casino Center Drive. Chef Tony Mantuano will appear at 2 p.m. Saturday will Chef Graham Elliot will appear at noon and 4 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $20. Visit

The opinions expressed are solely the writer's. Reach her at (219) 933-3365 or

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