Thursday, April 17, 2008

The 'Hot Chef' challenge

Just got this in the mailbag about the first-ever "Hot Chef" Challenge for the National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show 2008:

Aspiring top chefs are encouraged to create a two-minute video to win a chance to demonstrate at NRA. Professional chefs and home cooks alike can submit entries of themselves preparing their favorite recipes using trendy food and alcohol ingredients.

The winner, as selected by fellow YouTube users and the National Restaurant Association, will showcase his/her culinary creations among a lineup of leading chefs and tens of thousands of attendees at the restaurant industry's biggest event of the year – the National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show at McCormick Place in Chicago (Saturday May 17- Tuesday, May 20).

Those interested should submit an original video of themselves doing a cooking demonstration by May 7. Each video should be no longer than two minutes and must include one food item and one alcohol item (as an ingredient or as a pairing with a dish) from the Association's “What's Hot & What's Not” Chef Survey, available here.

YouTube users will vote for the top three videos, and the winning entry will then be selected by an Association panel. Viewers can vote by selecting “Thumbs Up” or “Thumbs Down” through May 7.

The winner will be given a live 60-minute demonstration spot in the Culinary Scene area at the NRA Show on Saturday, May 17, at 1pm, as well as have his/her video featured on the show web site. Additionally, the winner will also receive a three day/two night trip to Chicago (total approximate retail value $850) to be scheduled around the demonstration spot. Trip package includes one single/double occupancy hotel room for two nights at a select hotel and a round trip coach airline ticket (from the nearest major airport to the winner’s home). The Culinary Scene features custom-built demonstration kitchens in which trend-setter chefs, such as Rick Bayless, Grady Spears and Charlie Ayers, will perform culinary showcases throughout the four NRA Show days.

Duchamp takes over old Meritage space

The guys behind Lumen (839 W. Fulton Market, 312-733-2222) and Zealous (419 W. Superior St., 312-475-9112) owner/chef Michael Taus are working on a May/June opening for the French-focused Duchamp (2118 N. Damen Ave.) in the old Meritage home, reports Time Out Chicago.

The Great Smoque Out, DJ Kiss returns

DJ Kiss performs Friday at Le Passage. (Photo: DJ Kiss)

There's so much great stuff going on this weekend that I'm almost at a loss for words:


I'm hearing buzz that Rodney Alex's Great Smoque Out event is completely sold out at his Juicy Wine Co. (1658 N. Milwaukee Ave., 312-492-6620). But who knows . . . he might have pity and let in a few more people. He's teamed up with Smoque BBQ (3800 N. Pulaski Rd., 773-545-7427) in Portage Park and K Vintners of Walla Walla, Wash., who will be pairing some select vino—including Boom Boom Syrah and Holy Cow Chardonnay—with the ‘cue. And you’ve just gotta have those beats with the eats: DJ L.A. Jesus spins his favorite tracks. 7-9pm. $25.

Be one of the first to experience revolutionary new River North steakhouse ZED451 (739 N. Clark St., 888-493-3451), where the culinary team not only prepares the cuisine, but also serves it tableside. ZED451 hosts this event benefiting Imerman Angels, an outstanding one-on-one cancer support service based in Chicago. A 30-year-old cancer survivor will speak, and 100 percent of the proceeds from the evening go to Imerman Angels. 5:30-9:30pm. $50.

Familiarize yourself with more than 300 wines from Portugal. More than 30 of the country’s main producers, such as Casa de Santa Vitoria, PV and Symington Family Estates, will be on hand to showcase extraordinary Ports as well as red, white and rosé wines. Suggested donation for the event is $30, which benefits the Greater Chicago Food Depository, a non-profit food distribution and training center. 5:30-8pm. Hotel Allegro: 171 W. Randolph St., 800-871-9012, ext. 24552.

Need something harder than wine? Sign up for Mixology 101, where you'll get to explore the basics of making great cocktails at home, including techniques, ingredients and flavor profiles. Program will be led by Sonja Kassebaum of North Shore Distillery and Angie Jackson of Ultimate Elixirs. 6:30-8pm. Sam's Wine & Spirits: 50 E. Roosevelt Rd., 312-663-9463. $10.

"Iron Chef" judge Mario Rizzotti leads a Food & Wine Pairing at the Lincoln Park Sam's Wine & Spirits (1925 N. Clybourn Ave., 800-777-9137). Guests will have the opportunity to sample gourmet goodies, learn how to prepare Spanish tapas, cook traditional Mexican dishes and more. Of course, all will be paired with various vino. 5-8pm. $20.

The party continues during Manor Thursdays, hosted by nightlife impresario Tony Macey. DJ White Shadow spins his favorite hits, and if you get there between 10-11pm, you can indulge in complimentary Snow Queen vodka cocktails. RSVP to with "Thursdays" in the subject line, to be placed on the guest list. Manor: 642 N. Clark St., 312-475-1390.


Phaiz (673 N. Milwaukee Ave., 312-226-9070) hosts its sixth installation, Route3Box324, an autobiographical journey of Suzanne Cummings, who represents flowers as art, along with aprons as accessories by Chorma Designs and Backbone Fashions. Deejay Norwejohn spins; comp cocktails. 7-11pm. Free.

DJ Kiss will seduce you with her sounds, just like she did for celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, Puff Daddy and OutKast’s Big Boi—who all personally requested her presence to play for their private parties. But this tempting turntablist is not just another pretty face, even though she was named a “Woman on the Verge” by Come see what all the fuss is about when she cranks out mashups, hip-hop and soul during a late-night set at Le Passage (937 N. Rush St., 312-255-0022). Bottle service recommended; she’s on the turntables 1-4am. $20.

The return of the HotHouse

Thank God the globally influenced HotHouse found a new home!

It felt like the day the music died a couple of years ago when they lost their lease for their South Loop space. HotHouse was one of the few places you could go in town and hear live music—for a reasonable price—from all over the world. From deep house music sets to Afro-Latin jazz, their entertaining sets always turned into all-out dance parties.

Last weekend they had a grand re-opening celebration in the Viaduct Theater (3111 N. Western Ave., 312-957-6073), and it looks like they're going to be there for awhile.

Tonight at 9pm, they're featuring flutist Nicole Mitchell for only $10, but we're more excited about tomorrow's set:

The Casa Caliente! HotHouse Latin Dance Party! features Papo Santiago y Orchestra Infraverde, De La Buena and deejays. The Latin dance parties are HotHouse's most popular and tickets usually sell out quickly. The event starts at 9pm Friday. $12 in advance; $15 at door.

Exec chef not going anywhere

Randy Zwieban, executive chef for Nacional 27 (Photo: Nacional 27)

Nacional 27 (325 W. Huron St., 312-664-2727) top chef/partner Randy Zwieban will continue his successful reign at the helm of the Nuevo Latin eatery in River North. It was reported here last week that he was leaving to do his own thing. Wrong!