Bon Appétit's Chicago Gourmet, blockbuster outdoor culinary extravaganza showcasing Chicago's best chefs (or at least 175 of them), Chicago's best restaurants and the world's best wines and spirits is coming to Millennium Park this Saturday and Sunday.
This is year six for the popular fest where Saturday is already sold out and tickets for Sunday are going, going, almost gone.
This is also year six for me. Why, you ask? Because there is so much to eat, drink and see that I do not think it is humanly possible to cover everything by going only once.
Over the years, I have talked to attendees and not unlike most fests, the large majority of people that I have talked to in my unscientific survey come every year.
Chicago Gourmet draws some of the same people that hit the summer festival circuit but it also draws others whom I doubt have ever been to a neighborhood festival.
Here are the top five categories of people that I have observed in my five years at Chicago Gourmet:
The Party Animals
These are the people, pretty much all ages, that come to eat and drink as much as possible before the gates shut for the day. They don't necessarily have a plan they just fill up their glasses and plates and continue on to the next feeding/drinking station.
Attractive Young Women
Note to single guys: The ratio of attractive 20-something women to unattached men has got to be something like a thousand to one. Groups of what appear to be single successful young ladies are everywhere.
Middle-aged couples from the suburbs
These couples come in all shapes and sizes and from the South, North and West suburbs. Most of the couples I've talked to return every year and do not attend any other city festivals including Taste of Chicago.
Young city couples, either married or with their significant others
There are lots of just marrieds and other couples that seem to be in long-term relationships. Not too many on first dates--probably too expensive.
Food and Wine Connoisseurs
Be on the lookout for this group as some try to sample everything and have been known, at times, to be "over-served" (although they'll be the first to deny this). For serious foodies.. attendees have the chance to interact with hundreds of culinary experts, including Bon Appétit Editor-in-Chief Adam Rapoport and Restaurant and Drinks Editor Andrew Knowlton, and learn about today's epicurean trends first-hand. Many of these attendees pop for the extra $199 plus tax for the Grand Cru featuring fine wines (meaning expensive) along with the, new this year, culinary tastings from 10 internationally renowned chefs from around the globe, five of whom carry esteemed Michelin stars.
The Skinny on Chicago Gourmet
Who, What, When, Where: Chicago Gourmet takes place Saturday, September 28 from 12 to 6 p.m. and Sunday, September 29 from 12 to 5 p.m. in Millennium Park.
New this year:
The Celebrity Chef count is up from 160 last year to 175 this year including Hubert Keller. Hugh Acheson. Sara Moulton. Gale Gand. Art Smith. Graham Elliot. Lorena Garcia. Takashi Yagihashi. Tony Mantuano. Homaro Cantu.
More food: This year's event features 11 Tasting Pavilions...up from previous years.
Smackdown in the City Competition This new addition features a duo of chefs battling it out in food and ingredient categories ranging from fried chicken and seafood to meatballs and the infamous ghost pepper on the Bon Appétit stage.
Tickets available online. General-admission tickets: $159 for a One-Day Pass per person. General admission allows full access to the main festival area, which includes numerous culinary tasting pavilions, live cooking demonstrations on the Bon Appétit Main Stage and the Bon Appétit Culinary Stage, as well as premium wine and spirits tastings and seminars. Grand Cru tickets: $199 per person + regular admission. Attendees at all events must be at least 21 years of age.
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