Share |

May 2013

NRA Public Affairs Conference

The Illinois Restaurant Association participated in the NRA Public Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C. April 17-18. The first day of the conference the IRA delegation attended sessions hosted by the NRA on the importance of political advocacy, health care, minimum wage, immigration, swipe fees, and menu labeling. These meetings educated operators about the political environment how they can help their businesses.

In the evening the IRA hosted a dinner reception that was attended by seven Congressmen. It was a great opportunity to break bread with our elected officials in an informal setting. In attendance were Rep. Rodney Davis (IL-R), Rep. Randy Hultgren (IL-R), Rep. Dan lipinski (IL-D), Rep. Peter Roskam (IL-R), Rep. Brad Schneider (IL-D), Rep. Mike Quigley (IL-D), and Rep. David Joyce (OH-R). 

The second day the IRA delegation went to Capitol Hill to meet with Illinois Congressmen about important issues that will greatly impact our industry. The Illinois delegation included: John Colletti, Gibsons Restaurant Group; Dan Costello, Home Run Inn; Steven Hartenstein, Phil Stefani Signature Restaurants & Events; John Heil, Heil Insurance; Billy Lawless, The Gage and Henri; Steve Palmer, Palmer Place; Olivia Pantoja, John Barleycorn; Alicia Rocha, Texas De Brazil; Phil Stefani, Phil Stefani Signature Restaurants & Events; Jay Stieber, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises; and IRA President Sam Toia. The issues we focused on were healthcare and immigration.

There were many other important meetings including an immigration meeting with the Republican members of the Gang of 8 attended by NRA Board Member Jay Stieber. Jay also had a meeting with top White House officials in the West Wing about the issue. Billy Lawless also took part in important meetings with Senator Durbin on the same topic.

The IRA had an enormously successful trip. Thank you to all who attended the conference to fight for our industry.


Students from Illinois Rank Among Winners
in the 12th Annual ProStart® Invitational

The Technology Center of DuPage and Elgin High School represented Illinois at the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s (NRAEF) 12th Annual National ProStart® Invitational, which took place in Baltimore, Maryland from April 19-22. In the Culinary competition, the Technology Center of DuPage team won 2nd Place and took home scholarships. Elgin High School competed valiantly in the Management portion of the competition to earn 10th place honors out of 46 teams.

The National ProStart Invitational is the country's premier high school competition focused on restaurant management and culinary arts. More than 350 top ProStart students from 43 states competed for their share of $1.4 million in scholarships by demonstrating their mastery of restaurant leadership skills — culinary and management — in a fast-paced competition.

In the culinary competition, teams prepared a starter, entree and dessert within 60 minutes using only two butane burners, and were judged on categories including taste, knife skills, safety, sanitation and teamwork. The Technology Center of DuPage (TCD) team presented a winning menu that included Caramelized Carrot Soup with Warm Lobster Salad, Maharajah Spiced Lamb Rack with Crispy Lamb Sweetbreads and Lamb Cheek Swiss Chard Roll, and White Chocolate Orange Mousse with Buttermilk Donut, Orange Basil Salad and Blood Orange Sorbet.

The second place team was comprised of students who attend schools surrounding TCD in the west suburbs. Team members included Jared Dollinger, Julia Martiradonna, Ben Kitchen, Zachary Molokie and Michael Bodie. Teachers Kyle Neuner and Matt Barker coached the team.

In the management competition, teams developed an original restaurant concept and applied critical thinking skills to challenges restaurant managers face in day-to-day operations.

Following two years of Illinois teams placing 25th or lower, 10th place was a tremendous accomplishment for the Elgin High School management team. Teacher Ann Hannick Leider mentored students Colin Flanagan, Tyra Kemper, Ethan Magsombal and Travis Paquin to achieve this impressive ranking.

“We were thrilled with the performance of our ProStart students this year,” said Kathy Summers, Executive Director of the Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (IRAEF). “They work tirelessly year-round to prepare for competition, and to see their accomplishments rewarded with scholarships and national recognition is something we – and they – are very proud of. We’re already looking forward to 2014.”

*The IRAEF is seeking internship opportunities for ProStart students. There are tremendous benefits to hiring ProStart students:

  • Access to a talent pool of students dedicated to a career in the industry
  • Students are studying culinary arts for two years and have basic knife skills
  • Students are work-ready
  • Students understand the restaurant workplace. They want to learn the job. Many have worked catering events or in the industry.
  • Low turnover
  • Students need internship hours to obtain a National Certificate of Achievement
  • Training savings and the restaurant has a reliable, long-term workforce
  • Serv Safe Sanitation Certification: many student shave the certificate, saving the owner money on training to meet state mandated requirements


NRA Show and IWSB 2013 Spotlight

The annual 2013 National Restaurant Association, Hotel-Motel Show (NRA Show) and International Wine, Beer & Spirit Event (IWSB) will bring the industry’s best and brightest to Chicago’s McCormick Place from May 18-21 to share ideas, advice, solutions, and trend forecasts for the coming year. To experience the energy and inspiration of the NRA Show and IWSB, please register here.

Every year, foodservice trailblazers and top chefs attend the NRA Show, and this year’s line-up proves to be the best yet. On Sunday, May 19 Anthony Bourdain will host the third annual Restaurants Rock industry celebration, the official after-party of the NRA Show and IWSB. The infamous chef, author, and TV personality will also deliver a special talk on Monday, May 20.

Additionally, Howard Schultz, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Starbucks, will deliver the keynote presentation: "Transforming Companies for the Future: Balancing Profit with a Social Conscience," on Sunday, May 19. Attendees will be inspired by the ideas of the man who grew Starbucks from four to more than 18,000 stores in 62 countries. Several of the country’s most recognized chefs will also showcase their signature cuisines at the World Culinary Showcase Stage, including Rick Bayless, Cat Cora, Maneet Chauhan, Marcus Samuelsson, Marc Murphy, Aarón Sánchez, Anne Burrell, Robert Irvine, and more.

The NRA’s 80+ education sessions and specialty pavilions will address the industry’s hot button topics, from the latest trends in nutrition and products for those with special dietary needs at the new Alternative BiteStyle Pavilion to sustainability efforts and insights from speakers such as entrepreneur and media mogul Ted Turner. This year, the NRA Show will showcase a brand-new, fully functioning Hydroponic Garden on the Show floor next to the one-stop shop for all sustainability needs, the Conserve Solutions Center. The health care law will also be addressed with six health-care focused education sessions and private one-on-one consultations at the brand-new Health Care Knowledge Center from experts with over 120 years of experience.

The event will also recognize companies and individuals leading advancements in the industry through established award platforms like Kitchen Innovations, FABI Awards, and the Operator Innovations Awards. For the latest trends in beverage alcohol, attendees can visit the International Wine, Spirits, & Beer (IWSB) Event on May 19-20 to connect with master sommeliers, renowned mixologists, certified cicerones, and more. IWSB Education Sessions will uncover ways to enhance menus and drive profitability through building craft beer programs, optimizing wine lists, and more. We look forward to seeing our Illinois Restaurant Association members at this year’s National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show!


Mamma Mia! Tocco Chef/Owner Bruno Abate Credits Mom for Success

The IRA recently had the opportunity to sit with Chef/Owner Bruno Abate of Wicker Park’s Italian gem, Tocco. With Mother’s Day right around the corner, we took the opportunity to ask him about his childhood in Italy and lessons learned from the matriarch of his family.

Restaurateur and Owner of Wicker Park hot-spot Tocco, Bruno Abate grew up where culinary skills come second nature: in the Apennines region of Italy. When asked about his restaurant and culinary inspirations, Bruno – without hesitation – credits his mamma with having taught him the Italian fundamentals to create the perfect dish, lessons that he carries over into his successful restaurant, which features seasonally-influenced, regional Italian cuisine.

At Tocco, the majority of ingredients used by Chef Abate are imported from Italy, and he insists on working only with the finest ingredients available. He stressed the necessity for chefs and restaurateurs to recognize that products vary greatly from region to region and can impact the flavor profile of the dish. For example, he said, “Rice in the Po Valley tastes completely different than rice grown in the south of Italy, so you need to know the difference in order to create the dish and the flavor you envision.”

When asked about his mother’s signature dish, baccala – an Italian seafood specialty of dried and salted cod – immediately sprang to mind, stirring up fond memories of growing up in the hills outside Milan.  Bruno strives to bring those memories to life at Tocco. 

Thank you to all mothers, who have inspried our cuisine, and Happy Mother's Day!

1266 N Milwaukee Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 687-8895


Illinois Restaurant Association Partners with Kendall to Offer Tuition Benefits for Members

The Illinois Restaurant Association is pleased to announce a new partnership with Kendall College. As a result of this venture, Kendall College will extend a 20% tuition reduction for IRA members statewide on degree programs in business, culinary arts and hospitality. Employees and families of IRA members will also be eligible to benefit from this support in their pursuit or completion of a degree in several disciplines.

“Offering Illinois Restaurant Association members’ employees the means to achieve or continue college education is an investment in the most important asset of our state’s vibrant foodservice industry,” says Kendall College President Emily Knight.

Kendall College was selected by the IRA as an official partner for this member benefit for the quality of its education, ranked as the best in Illinois for preparing students for careers in hospitality management and culinary arts.

“The Illinois Restaurant Association has worked since 1914 to provide restaurant operators and suppliers with valuable business services, networking opportunities, cost-saving programs and vital advocacy,” says IRA President Sam Toia. “Working with Kendall College in a way that makes quality education in hospitality management, culinary arts and business more accessible and affordable is yet the latest example of the IRA’s commitment to its members’ ongoing success.”

Kendall College will also offer IRA members’ employees and their families a 15% tuition reduction on pursuing bachelor’s-degree programs in early childhood education.

For more information about Kendall College’s Illinois Restaurant Association partnership benefit, visit



James Beard Foundation Awards 2013
The James Beard Foundation Awards – often referred to as “the Oscars of the culinary industry,” were held in New York on Monday, May 6. Several Chicago restaurants and chefs received highly coveted awards in several categories, including Chef Paul Kahan of One Off Hospitality (Outstanding Chef), Chef Stephanie Izard of Little Goat and Girl & the Goat (Best Chef Great Lakes), and The Aviary (Outstanding Bar Program).

Nominees included numerous Chicago chefs and restaurants, including Association members Spiaggia (nominated for Outstanding Restaurant) and Chef Jimmy Bannos Jr. of The Purple Pig (nominated for Rising Star Chef). Congratulations to both the finalists and winners, all of whom are leading Chicago as a world-class culinary destination.

For more information on this year’s nominees and winners, visit

Bacon Fest 2013
The winning dish: the “Wake n ’Bacon” – bacon scrapple with bacon sriracha, bacon-salt cured egg yolks, and a bacon–Malort Julius.

The Prince or Pork has been named! Congratulations to Chef Matt Troost from Three Aces for winning Bacon Fest’s dinner session award for Most Creative Use of Bacon for the 2nd year in a row.

Restaurant Neighbor Award
Each year, the National Restaurant Association recognizes outstanding restaurants around the country with its Restaurant Neighbor Award. This prestigious national award honors restaurants that go above and beyond in community service and aims to inspire other restaurateurs to get or stay involved in their local communities. This year, we’re pleased to announce that Nick’s Pizza & Pub and The Signature Room at the 95th are the Illinois Restaurant Neighbor Award winners and will now compete with other state winners across the country for the national award.

Manny's Cafeteria & Delicatessen Featured in the Chicago Tribune
Ken Raskin, owner of Manny's Cafeteria & Delicatessen and Vice Chairman of the Board, was featured in a Chicago Tribune article about the importance of early defibrillation, and the steps Manny's Deli has taken to ensure that if such a circumstance as sudden cardiac arrests occurs in the restaurant, the employees will be prepared. Click here to view the article.



The IRA is hosting our fourth annual restaurant PAC event for the NRA Show on Monday, May 20 at 5:30pm at Paris Club. For the invitation, click here.

Retail and Hospitality Litigation and Claims Management Seminar
DRI, the voice of the Defense Bar, is hosting a seminar on May 16 and 17 at the InterContinental Chicago to address current litigation trends in employment, loss prevention, and securities, and how these trends affect the retail and hospitality industries. Speakers at the seminar include C.J. Childers, Family Dollar Stores, Rebecca Roby, Hard Rock Cafe International, and Howard Rosenblum, Walgreens. For more information, click here.

Food and Sake of Japan
Japan's food and sake community is honored invites all food industry professionals to an unprecedented Japanese product tasting event in Chicago. The Food & Sake of Japan event will be May 14 at Kendall College. Click here for details and registration.

A Taste of Germany
The German Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection and the German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest, Inc. cordially invite you to an exclusive reception showcasing products from Germany.

The event will take place on Tuesday, May 21, 2013 from 5:30 - 7:30pm in the Vertigo Sky Lounge of the Dana Hotel & Spa in Chicago. Don't miss the opportunity to be part of this event and meet German sweets and snacks companies. Refreshments will be served. Register here.

HUG 2013
HUG 2012 takes place Thursday, May 23, 2013. For information on the HUG program, please contact Lori Adlesick at (312) 567-8496 or



The Association would like to thank our newest silver sponsors, Heil Insurance Agency and Gold Rush Gaming



The Association is pleased to welcome:
Advanced Custom Energy Solutions - Chicago
American Junkie - Chicago
The Bistro by the Pier – Chicago
Chicago Coffees and Teas – Chicago
Chinese Yum Yum – Chicago
Hearthware – Libertyville
Hospitality Services Group – Chicago
Lucky Strike Lanes – Chicago
Port Edward – Algonquin
Stanley’s Kitchen & Tap – Chicago

Millennium Park   |   Sept 26 - 30