Learning from Chicago's delicious culinary scene

As the 2013 Chicago Restaurant Week concludes for the year it reminds me how important food is to Chicago.  I suppose food is important to most cities but in Chicago it’s a big deal.  Celebrating food has always been a beloved tradition but now  Chicago's culinary scene is world-renowned.  Chicago chefs are the hottest celebrities and new restaurants are opening every week giving diners more delicious options to seek out.


Food is also one of the most important elements of a special event.  When was the last time you attended an event that didn’t have food and beverage? I should rephrase that, when was the last time you ENJOYED an event that didn’t have food and beverage? As an event professional being “in the know” of the culinary scene in the city you are working is critical.

Catering is a key component in the event industry.  How many pieces of chicken do you need to order for a 500 person event? How many bottles of water are necessary for a retirement party? What is the appropriate number of pounds of coffee that should be brewed for an adult birthday party? How many kegs of beer do you need to order for the reunion? Having an understanding of the catering industry will make your job as an event professional much easier.

For those of us on the south side the menu is always easy.   Birthdays, communions, gradation parties all require the same fare… chicken, beef, mostaccioli and a Hawaiian salad for extra color.  But understanding quantity makes the process of ordering the old standbys that much easier.

Scour the internet for food trends. The most successful event professionals know where to go for clever, creative and unique food /beverage options.   Take a good look through the Chicago Now blog site (link below) and read up on the latest dish.



Keep in mind “fads” come and go, trends have a bit more staying power so don’t go head over heels for the newest fad if your event isn’t for 6 months. The concept could be long gone by time your event begins.

Some safe trends to stick with for the time being:

-          Seasonal menus

-          Locally sourced

-          Artisanal

While cupcakes and cakepops have been all the rage for the past 3 years it’s possible their heyday is over.  Think about what’s coming down the pipeline.  Read up on the newest dessert trend.  Can you serve it at your next special event?

What is the media saying about the restaurants and bars? Knowing the hot spots is a good way to keep up on the food and beverage scene.  I’m hopeful that you were able to check out Restaurant Week and make it to a few places but if you weren’t pick up a Chicago Magazine or a Time Out Chicago and find out what hot spots everyone is talking about. Make your own list of restaurants and bars you want to check out.

My top five places to dine at in the coming months are as follows:



RPM Italian


West Town Tavern


Little Goat Chicago


Nightwood Restaurant


The Pump Room


While several of these places have already been opened for some time they still receive plenty of media attention.  Make a list of the top 5 places you want to go in the coming months and share it with me!  I would love to hear about the restaurant and bars you want to check out.

Food is big in Chicago.  Learn a little, read a lot, get out and Taste it.

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