Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Culinary stars take over Chi-Town

Primehouse Executive Chef Rick Gresh and Marcus Samuelsson of C-House, set to open in April. (Photo: 312DiningDiva.com)

It was a who's who in the dining world Monday night at the Museum of Contemporary Art for celebrity chef Art Smith's third-annual World Festival. Benefiting his pet charity, Common Threads, which encourages children to take control of their health through food and culture, the event was the hottest ticket in town with high-profile chefs and culinary stars everywhere you turned.

There was Padma Laskmi, the super model host of "Top Chef Chicago," who served as the honorary host of the event. This was only her second time to Chicago—beyond the "Top Chef" tapings—but she's been around the block to know a few things about our fair city.

"Blackbird and avec are my favorite Chicago restaurants," she gushed about the West Loop mainstays, "but Vermillion is the absolute best Indian restaurant in the country!"

There appeared to be a consensus about Blackbird (619 W. Randolph St., 312-715-0708) and avec (615 W. Randolph St., 312-377-2002), as chefs Rocco DiSpirito ("Rocco Gets Real" on A&E), Govind Armstrong (Table 8—coming to River North late this fall) and Marcus Samuelsson (C-House—coming to Streeterville in mid-April) also raved about their visits. But these guys weren't just about the usual suspects; they also made their way to more insidery joints like Mr. Beef (666 N. Orleans St., 312-266-8251), Goose Island Shrimp House (1011 W. Division St., 312-642-3640) and Mama Desta's Red Sea (3216 N. Clark St., 773-935-7561).

"Most people outside of Chicago think Chicago cuisine is just about German sausage, deep-dish pizza and Irish food," said Rocco DiSpirito. "But it's clear that this big city has a good restaurant scene with very diverse tastes."

R&B sensation John Legend performed at the VIP after-party at the James Hotel. (Photo: 312DiningDiva.com)

The highlight of the night was the VIP after-party at James Hotel (55 E. Ontario St., 312-337-1000), where Food Network star Paula Deen introduced soul sensation John Legend, who performed his now classic hits as well as his latest flavor, "Good Morning."

What's "Good Morning" all about? He told me: "It's all about waking up to that person you really want to be with and making the most of the morning, if you know what I mean."

Sounds good to me!

No comments: