Keep or Kill: The Taste of Chicago

Keep or Kill: The Taste of Chicago

If you read this morning’s Chicago Tribune, you’d see the City of Chicago lost about $1.3 million on this past year’s event. Now for a city that sold its soul for parking meters and has the murder rate of a horror movie you might be thinking is this something we should be worried about? I would say, YES!

Disclaimer: It's been a few years since I've attended because it just doesn't seem interesting or exciting. Does anyone who lives in the city really go, other than for lunch?

I’m not one to advocate the City should kill off the Taste, just yet, but it needs to have a better plan than selling chairs and having a couple high profile chefs cook a dinner.  We can’t have this event continue to lose considerable money but we do need these kinds of events to showcase our city. This event is public and open to all which it should be. There are other culinary events around town that have a hefty cost and appeal to a special food crazed public. This type of event is what builds upon a city’s reputation. We don’t want to be just a cookie cutter, boring, same old same place by a lake, do we?

I’ve got some ideas for those at the City looking to make this event more fun, profitable and oh, ya SAFE!

  • Get rid of the boring food vendors and inject some variety. I’ll be honest as a kid we went to the taste all the time. It seemed big with a cornucopia of selection. I found it gross then to see my uncle take down a turkey leg.  I went a few years back when friends were in town and I thought…This is it? Perhaps, that’s me getting older and it losing its luster but it seemed I had a choice of 4 things - pizza, some kind of Asian food, a rib and a sausage. Solution: Send the super brain trust to a state fair to see the variety and fun food can be – I suggest Texas and Wisconsin to start. Inject that fun in to our event.
  • Have an EVENT! We can’t do fireworks because people might get shot at so what else can we do…if there were only some kind of food competition thing??? OH, WAIT there is. Solution: Coney Island has hot dogs, why can’t we do an Italian Beef or Pizza eating contest. Some may say it’s gross and not safe – I say enjoy the sideshow and make it an annual event.
  • Something to do other than people sweating and eating…I avoid massive crowds like the plague. A sweaty, close quartered crowd eating – not awesome. But what if we had more room to spread out and have some other fun activities? Solution: Perhaps an area for kids to run themselves tired in a bouncey house or ball pit. $$$ maker!!! And for the adults – why not have an art fair or concerts instead of a radio station with a Camaro playing LMFAO! We have a massive park area and it feels like we use all of 3 blocks. Spread out the food and the art and make it feel more special instead of staring at sweaty, sleeveless people eating.

I think the city should continue to do special dinners or highlight our local chefs in a demonstration or tastings throughout the event. The Taste should be an event not just a watered down version of its past. Perhaps, if we get this gun thing/murder rate under control we can have fireworks and more days again. I’d like to be taken out of timeout and have fun, anyone else?

What are your ideas to keep the Taste of Chicago and make it better? Or should we scrap it and invest the money in something new?

Joe Campagna is the Chicago Food Snob. A former restaurant General Manager, Server and Chef you can find him on twitter @chifoodsnob. You can reach him through email at

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