CHOWING DOWNTOWN

Chicago Gourmet descends on Millennium Park

2012-09-26T00:00:00Z Chicago Gourmet descends on Millennium ParkEloise Marie Valadez Eloise.Valadez@nwi.com, (219) 933-3365 nwitimes.com

A culinary extravaganza will take over the Windy City next weekend.

Chicago Gourmet, presented by Bon Appetit magazine, in conjunction with the Illinois Restaurant Association, runs Sept. 29 and 30 at Millennium Park. Everything from world class food tastings by Chicago-area chefs to wine seminars, cooking demos by celebrity chefs, book signings and more will take the spotlight.

"This year we have a lot more food," said Sam Toia, president of the Illinois Restaurant Association. The event, now in its fifth year, is expected to attract over 10,000 people over the two-day period.

"We want people to walk away realizing that Chicago is such a great city and how this adds to Chicago's international scene," he said.

Toia said Chicago's culinary status is definitely elevated and attendees at the gourmet event will experience the talents of diverse chefs.

Foodies will have their cravings satisfied while savoring the flavors and libations starring in the heart of the city's stellar park.

In the limelight will be 160 chefs. Among those scheduled to work their magic on the culinary stage are Art Smith, Rick Bayless, Tony Mantuano, Jimmy Bannos, Jimmy Bannos Jr., Dirk Flanigan, Rick Tramonto, Shawn McClain, Stephanie Izard, and more.

Special guest/celebrity chef John Besh will also do a book-signing and demo on Sept. 29. In addition, he'll act as a guest judge at the Hamburger Hop on Sept. 28 which kicks off Chicago Gourmet. Besh, of Louisiana, is the owner of nine restaurants, manufactures food products and is the author of two cookbooks.

Chicago-area restaurants represented at the event include Arun's Thai Restaurant, Cafe des Architectes at Sofitel Chicago, C-House Restaurant, Courtright's, Inovasi, Le Colonial, Lockwood at the Palmer House Hilton, The Gage, NoMi Kitchen, Riva, Tavernita, The Bristol, Mercat a la Planxa, Zapatista and others.

Toia said organizers have added a few new pavilions to the mix bringing the total to 10. One of the food pavilions, he said, will focus on gluten-free offerings.

"There are a lot of people interested in (and who are) gluten-free now," Toia said. "It's a big thing now." At Chicago Gourmet, the restaurants Piccolo Sogno, Zapatista and Quartino will display gluten-free items.

Also on the agenda will be wine seminars and tastings by Serafin Alvarado of SouthernWine and Spirits of Illinois. Guests will also enjoy the event's first pig roast on the East Lawn. The pig roast is presented by The Purple Pig, whose executive chef is Jimmy Bannos Jr. Gourmands won't want to miss the International Tap on the premises featuring various brews from around the world.

And techies will be happy to know that Chicago Gourmet recently launched a special mobile app allowing guests to customize their visits.

Toia hopes guests, having been exposed to the work of many great area chefs, will plan to check out their restaurants.

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