When Taste of Chicago kicked off in 1980, we had high hopes of having bites from some of Chicago’s best restaurants. The idea, at least as we understood it, was that we’d get small plates for a relatively small price and get to try a range of items from a lot of places we either hadn’t been to you or, maybe, couldn’t afford to go to until we were older and had money.

And for the first year, it kind of worked out that way.

Over the years, Taste of Chicago expanded and contracted, hitting some new lows, but lately also improving here and there.

Started under the Daley regime, Chicago Gourmet was never supposed to be anything like Taste of Chicago…except that it would, like our vision of the first Taste, showcase some of Chicago’s finest restaurants.

Big difference is, since 1980 and 2013, Chicago evolved from a pretty good meat-and-potatoes city with some decent ethnic places to an international dining destination, with many outstanding restaurants and a number of strong ethnic neighborhoods of restaurants (e.g., Pilsen for Hispanic, Argyle and environs for Southeast Asian, Chinatown, etc.).

Reflecting the evolution of Chicago into a true culinary capital, Chicago Gourmet is a gathering of some of the finest kitchen talent in the city. Starting tonight with Hamburger Hop, a competitive hamburger event (sold out), the food-related festivities go through this Saturday and Sunday, September 28-29, in Millennium Park with about 100 Chicagoland chefs and dozens of  winemakers doing their best to impress the thousands that show up expecting nothing but.

Saturday and Sunday everything culminates in a Grand Cru event that has recruited a staggering 15 Michelin-starred chefs preparing food that will be paired with wine selected by the largest group of Master Sommeliers in the event’s history. Chefs drawn from Japan, Sweden, Barcelona and other international chow centers will be introduced by Chicago chefs for a limited group of attendees (it’s capped at 400).

Now, a common criticism of this event is that the lines are long…and, indeed, there are lines. But we find this a good opportunity to shoot the breeze with some of the attending food enthusiasts (let’s not call them gourmets, okay?), and the reality is, few of us can eat and drink for four hours straight, and if you are good hunters, you can find lines that aren’t more than a 5-minute stand.

Reflecting the significant upgrades in talent, the Grand Cru and Chicago Gourmet are significantly more costly than Taste of Chicago…but if you’ve got the time and the money, it all starts today.  

Ticket info here:


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David Hammond

David Hammond, a corporate communications consultant and food journalist living in Oak Park, Illinois, is a founder and moderator of LTHForum.com, the 8,500 member Chicago-based culinary chat site. David...