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November 2013

Chef's Table Serves Up Fire, Ice, and Festivities 

The 2013 Chef's Table -- the Illinois Restaurant Association's 36th Annual Restaurateur's Event -- featured an array of fantastic entertainment over the first weekend in November. Held at the newly renovated Hyatt Regency Chicago (home of Big Bar and Stetsons, the latter of which was featured at the Chef's Table) in the East Tower Grand Ballroom, the event dished out good food and vibes while also rolling out liquor stations manned by master mixologists, craft beer stations, an ice bar, a silent auction, stylized body painting, massage chairs, video gaming terminals, a photo booth, and a wine bike.  The theme of the night, "Fire & Ice", was readily apparent when visiting one of the 23 restaurant and six dessert stations for an aptly prepared dish like the fire & ice diver scallop crudo from Billy Caruso at III Forks, or chilling off with a milk chocolate peanut butter cheesecake smoothie from Kate Milashus at ZED 451.  There is no doubt the food was served piping hot and fresh, emblamatic of the event's hip new look over the past couple years. 

The Festivities

Each year, the event features over 600 foodservice attendees, food stations from top Chicago restaurants, great networking opportunities, a fabulous silent auction, and a DJ and entertainment.

From Left: Previous IRA Chairman, Everett Rand of Midway Wholesalers, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, and IRA Chairman John Colletti of Gibsons Restaurant Group at the Chef's Table.

From Left: IRA President Sam Toia, Previuos IRA Chairman Linda Bacin of Bella Bacinos, and State Senator Kwame Raoul (13th Dist.) at the Chef's Table.

From Left: Terri Silverstone, IRA Board Member Tony Priolo of Piccolo Sogno, Sam Toia, State Representative Sara Feigenholtz (12 Dist.), and IRA Board Member David Lissner of Dining Chicago.

From Left: State Senator Kwame Raoul (13th Dist.), Joanna DePorter, Previous IRA Chairman Grant DePorter, Harry Caray's, and Sam Sianis, Billy Goat Tavern & Grill at the Chef's Table.

Event-goers enjoy homespun cotton candy from gourmet shop Spin-Spun.

DJ Megan Taylor poses with one of the models showing some flair with stylized body painting.

IRA Corporate Sponsor Gold Rush Amusments, Inc., provided video gaming terminals for the event.

Event-goers try on oversized glasses and other costume items before stepping into the photo booth featured at the Chef's Table.


First Vice Chairman of the IRA Ken Raskin, Manny's Cafeteria & Delicatessen, takes a photo with the operator of the wine bike on Friday night.

Event-goers enjoy the many wines and spirits on hand at the Chef's Table.

The Chef's Table featured five master mixologists, each serving a specialized drink catering to the evening's Fire & Ice theme. (From Left: Tony Potempa, American Junkie; Justin Cochren, the J. Parker; Scott Huth, Tavernita and Little Market; Paul Sauter, Mercadito; Thomas Mooneyham, The Gage)

Board Member David Lissner, Dining Chicago, and Sam Toia enjoy the evening at the Chef's Table.

The Chefs

The Chef's Table draws some of Chicago's most renowned chefs and restaurateurs to participate in the event. 

IRA President Sam Toia with a host of chefs participating in the Chef's Table. From Left: Chef de Cuisine Cory Morris, Mercat a la Planxa; Executive Chef Don Penza, Municipal Bar & Dining Co.; Executive Chef Bob Zrenner, Hubbard Inn; Corporate Pastry Chef Massimo Rubino, Rosebud Restaurant; Corporate Chef Randy Waidner, Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse; Executive Chef Chao, Union Sushi & Barbeque Bar; Executive Chef Roger Waysok, South Water Kitchen; Executive Chef John Gatsos, Tavern on Rush; Chef/Owner Kevin Wu, Sweet Station; Chef Instructor Daniel Leszczewicz, Roberto Clemente Community Academy; Sous Chef Jose Alvarez, Tavern on Rush; Executive Chef Fred Ramos, Ristorante Angelina

From Left: Jimmy Bannos, Chef/Owner of Heaven on Seven and The Purple Pig, Randy Waidner, Corporate Chef of Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse and Joe Farina, Corporate Chef of Rosebud Restaurant, at the Chef's Table.

Lead Instructor John Abel of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts stands with other members of Le Cordon Bleu at their dessert station during the Chef's Table.

The Students

ProStart students with Kathy Summers, Director of the Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (IRAEF), Gary Salvestrini, President of Sysco Chicago and Chairman of the Board of Directors for the IRAEF, and IRA President Sam Toia.

The annual gala celebrates and honors the foodservice industry while raising funds that benefit the Illinois Restaurant Association's Educational Foundation (IRAEF). Funds from the proceeds of the event support the IRAEF student culinary program, ProStart®, and also awards scholarships to our future industry stars, to assist them with their post-secondary education.  To date, over $2.25 million in scholarships have been awarded.

ProStart students had the opportunity to work with some of Chicago's most renowned chefs and enjoy the festivities on Friday night at the Chef's Table.

ProStart students dilligantly prepare "Autumn Dream", a seasonal dish served by the Hyatt Regency's restaurant, Stetsons. The dish includes icy hot butternut squash and Mexican chocolate bisque, spiced autmn salad, and foie gras espuma.

ProStart students, holding roses that were handed out to donors of the Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, pose with IRA President Sam Toia.

ProStart students pose for a shot before the festivities at the Chef's Table begin on Friday night at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.

Mixologist Justin Cochren of the J. Parker serves up a strong cocktail for guests of the Chef's Table on Friday night.

Mixologist Paul Sauter of Mercadito mixes the popular "Wind Chill" cocktail at the Chef's Table on Friday night. 

Lagunitas Brewing Company hosted a craft beer station at the Chef's Table on Friday night.

Revolution Brewing hosted a craft beer station at the Chef's Table on Friday night.

The Food

The Chef's Table offered a plethora of tastings and treats for guests attending the annual gala. 23 restaurants and six dessert stations

Shaw's Crab House served up tuna on a top maki roll at the Chef's Table friday night.

Perennial favorite Supreme Lobster served fire river oysters with ice pearls in celebration of the Chef's Table "Fire & Ice" theme.

Mercat a la Planxa dished out cold smoked skuna bay salmon with espelette caviar, creme fraiche and rye crisp.

Buckhead Beef dished out roasted cab natural beef tenderloins and dry aged prime beef strip loins at the Chef's Table on Friday night.


Buckhead Beef served roasted cab natural beef tenderloins and dry aged prime beef strip loins at the Chef's Table on Friday night.

Lexington College featured chocolate toffee brownie bars at their dessert station on Friday night.



 Hospitality Leaders for John Cullerton

Executive Board Member Billy Lawless, The Gage/Henri, Senate President John Cullerton (6th Dist.), IRA Vice President of Operations Mary Kay Bonoma, and 1st Vice Chairman Ken Raskin, Manny’s Cafeteria & Delicatessen, at the Hospitality Leaders of Chicago event on October 29.

On Wednesday, October 29, the hospitality leaders of Chicago held an event in honor of Senate President John Cullerton.  The event was very successful, with many from the Association’s Board of Directors in attendance.  The event brought hospitality leaders together with Senator Cullerton and other elected officials to discuss the issues that matter most to our industry. Thank you to Executive Board Member Glenn Keefer for hosting the event at Keefer's restaurant.

IRA Board of Directors members and elected officials stand with Senate President John Cullerton. From left: Glenn Keefer, Keefer's Restaurant; IRA President Sam Toia; Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer (10th Dist.); Senate President John Cullerton (6th Dist.); IRA 1st Vice Chairman Ken Raskin, Manny's Cafeteria & Delicatessen; IRA Chairman John Colletti, Gibsons Restaurant Group; Alderman Tom Tunney (44th Ward); State Senator Kwame Raoul (13th Dist.)


IRA Fights on Behalf of Its Members

In early October, the Chicago Sun-Times reported the City of Chicago was considering raising alcohol taxes. The IRA immediately began working with other stakeholders – including business groups and liquor companies – to fight this proposal.

The consortium exchanged intelligence and developed a fact sheet indicating why the tax raise was wrong for the City. President Sam Toia organized a meeting with City officials, at which a select group explained the detrimental effects of such a tax increase on businesses.

On Wednesday, October 23, 2013, Mayor Rahm Emanuel delivered the 2014 budget address to the City Council. The City decided not raise alcohol taxes in 2014, although a
75-cents-per-pack increase in the cigarette tax and a two percent increase in the amusement tax for cable TV have been proposed.

The IRA will continue to monitor the situation closely. Alcohol taxes are just one issue the Association remains vigilant on. The Association also advocates for an entry wage that the industry can afford, and maintaining a tip credit for restaurants.


 IRAEF Partners with HMSHost

The Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation was thrilled to announce and celebrate a new partnership with HMS Host at a launch event at Fenger High School for more than 65 students on October 10, 2013. IRAEF Board Member Brad Maher and several HMS Host staff, including Vice President Essi Pourhadi, were in attendance, as were representatives from Chicago Public Schools and Alderman Carrie Austin’s office.

Students learned about the ProStart program and the resources that will be available as a result of the HMS Host partnership, including scholarships, mentors, and internships. To create a culture of success, a new recognition program was unveiled that allows students to earn coveted items such as special chef coats and knife kits to reward them for their dedication and commitment.  Each student that attended the event received a chef cap and apron to start their journey in the industry. Brunch was prepared and served by senior culinary students. The Ed foundation would like to send a special thanks to Principal Dozier for her commitment to ProStart and the partnership.


Q&A with Wendie H. Rose

As we prepare for the charitable holiday season, the Illinois Restaurant Association spoke with Wendie H. Rose, daughter of Ann H. Rose and Alvin D. Rose, one the most charitable contributors to the Educational Foundation scholarship program to date. Ann Rose was a Board Member that established a scholarship to honor her husband  (Alvin D. Rose/Tastee Freez Scholarship). She passed away in 2011, leaving $50,000 to the scholarship program.

Her daughter, Wendie, assumed her board seat in 2012 and has donated $10,000 to the program. To this day, she carries on the important work established by her mother.

How did your mother, Ann, become involved in the hospitality industry?

My father, Alvin D. Rose, founded Chicago Tastee Freez in 1959. He was ahead of his time, insofar as he wanted to build many of his walk-up units in the high density, low-income areas of the city. He worked with many of the civil rights leaders of the time and personally knew Jessie Owens, the celebrated Olympic champion, and Dick Gregory, who publically supported his efforts.

Upon my father’s death in 1973, my mother Ann stepped in to run the company. She had no experience in the hospitality arena, as she had been a housewife for over 25 years.  Yet, she was highly educated, having graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Northwestern University on a full scholarship as a history major, and taught at New Trier following a career in public relations in New York city.

Operating Chicago Tastee Freez was initially a challenge for my mother, but soon became her life focus. She was not always known for being easy to work with as she developed a touch facade at a time when women did not head up companies. She ran the company until her death in August 2011.

I stepped into the position, leaving my career in the field of hospice, and experiencing the culture shock of working in the business world. Now, with both feet planted firmly on the ground, it is my plan to reshape Chicago Tastee Freez for the current times. I am focused on growth, always built upon the nostalgic name of one of the few remaining homegrown Chicago businesses. 

What were some of the charitable organizations and causes she was a part of and what role did she play?

Prior to entering the business world, my mother was always active in the community.  She was the President of the PTA chapter when her children were in grade school at Jamieson in Chicago. She was the President of the Sisterhood at Temple Emmanuel and highly involved in fundraising for both organizations. 

Once in the business world, she wanted to break the glass ceiling for women in the corporate world. She was the President of the Roundtable for Women in Foodservice for many years, which started her on the path of a deeper involvement in the hospitality industry. She was a recipient of the group’s annual Pacesetter Award. She was also involved in the Women’s Executive Group, the Women’s Business Training Institute and volunteered at the Illinois Restaurant Association where she also served on the board since 1979.

Why was it important to your family to be an active member in her community?

Both my parents came from very humble beginnings. My father’s parents ran a small restaurant and my mother’s parents were tailors. Both immigrated to America with no formal education or assets other than their aspiration to make a better world for their children.

Even though my father eventually made a comfortable living through Tastee Freez, they raised their children to always be mindful of those who had less. I was taught that it was my responsibility never to be silent about the inequities that I see. As a result, this was no small influence on my life path. I also attended Northwestern University and then I earned my Master’s degree from Loyola in Medical Social Work. I have tried to uphold the ideals that were set, as “It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).”

In 1977 Ann established the Alvin D. Rose/Tastee Freez Industry Scholarship.  Can you tell us a little about this scholarship and whom it benefits?

The Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (IRAEF) assists with the tuition expenses of eligible and deserving students seeking to create a career in the hospitality field. This includes those young people who wish to work in foodservice as chefs, bakers, or in the hospitality field at large. Applications are reviewed and selected by the IRAEF Board annually and scholarships are awarded in varying amounts. My mother was devoted to this fund and so named her contributions in memory of my father.

How does your mother’s charitable work live on today?

Upon her death, I elected to expand the scholarship, now renamed the Alvin D. Rose and Ann H. Rose Scholarship Fund. Her dedication to this endeavor was unflinching, even when in her last years her health and mobility was compromised, she was dedicated to the continuation of this fund. I am honored to sit on the IRAEF Board in pursuing opportunities to increase the presence of Tastee Freez again in the lower income areas. I have restructured the franchise fee configuration to allow potential franchisees to open a store with considerably less money than traditional franchises. 

Have you met some of the scholarship recipients?  What does it mean to you personally to be able to carry out this great work?

I have had the privilege to be present at the annual luncheon when the scholarships are handed out so that I can meet each recipient individually. Whether the scholarship award is large or small, the students are filled with appreciation, enthusiasm, and unbridled dedication to their education. This is the vehicle that will stand to keep my parents’ names alive. The recipients may never know who those people were who have their names on the scholarship, but if even one asks, the sharing of that memory is a small form of immortality. One of the recipients in 1999 was Eric Fine, the Director of Sales and Marketing at the IRA. He remains grateful for receiving the award from my mother and is a strong supporter of the IRAEF. 

In the future, I have a daughter who may or may never step into the family tradition of Tastee Freez, but she is fully aware that keeping this scholarship alive, even after my passing, is vital.

How can people contribute to your cause?

Each generation has a responsibility to the generations that follow.  There is no greater gift that can be endowed than the gift of an education. When young people are so focused that they know their paths, it is a blessing to be able to help them on their journeys. I want this message about the IRAEF to be known within the hospitality community and beyond. I am hoping that members of the IRA and NRA will do more than pay their membership fees, but also support this fund so that even more young people can receive assistance in their education.


News & Notes

Congratulations to Richard Melman, Chairman/Co-Founder of Lettuce Entertain You, and Chef Paul Kahan, Executive Chef of The One Off Hospitality Group, for their induction into the Chefs Hall of Fame of the Chicago Culinary Museum.

The Plate Chef Humanitarian Award is presented each year at the Meals on Wheels Chicago Celebrity Chef Ball, to honor a chef or restaurateur who has significantly supported the community by supporting Meal on Wheels Chicago as well as other local nonprofit organizations. This year's recipient, One Off Hospitality Group, supports not only hunger initiatives, but also local farms and culinary education programs for children, and we are proud to honor the group for all its work supporting our community.

Congratulations to Tim and Everett Rand for being recognized by Crain's Chicago Business for their charitable activities in the City of Chicago.  Click here to read the article.


New Members

The Association is pleased to welcome:

Ale Syndicate
Breadcrumb by Groupon
The Brixton
Cantina Laredo
Farm Logix
Nobody Famous Restaurant Group
Northern Illinois Insurance
Richardson Seating


Millennium Park   |   Sept 28 - 30