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The Official Publication of the Illinois Restaurant Association
July 2015

IRAEF Awards $176,000 in Scholarships in 2015


On June 28th, the Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (IRAEF) held its 20th Annual Scholarship Luncheon at Café 300. The Foundation awarded $176,000 in scholarships to 62 students that will study Culinary Arts or Hospitality Management at 24 colleges to across the country. This is the highest award total since the inception of the IRAEF Scholarship Program, which has awarded almost $2.5 million to deserving students and future industry leaders.

More than 125 students, parents, teachers, donors and IRAEF Board members attended the event, which was sponsored by EUREST. The program included an inspiring keynote address by Jim Caldwell (Regional Executive Chef, EUREST) and words of wisdom from Alpana Singh (Owner of The Boarding House and Seven Lions restaurants) and Lamar Moore (Executive Chef, Hotel Chicago). All are long-time ProStart® supporters.

“The mission of the Foundation is to support and develop our future hospitality leaders. It is profoundly rewarding to provide scholarships to deserving students that are seeking a college education and a career in the foodservice and hospitality industry.” said Kathy Summers, Executive Director of the IRAEF. “The IRAEF Scholarship Program is one of our most important initiatives. It's an honor to support our ProStart® students as they develop a passion for the industry, and know that we've played a key role in preparing them to pursue their dreams and succeed in college.“

The Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (IRAEF) is a 501c(3) that builds the Illinois hospitality industry through career exploration, workforce development programs, and scholarships offered to high school students enrolled in ProStart® programs. These students have shown commitment to culinary arts or hospitality management through their coursework, work experience, and other credentials. A Blue Ribbon Panel of industry professionals judges the scholarship applications each year.

ProStart® is a national school-to-careers program that prepares high school students for careers in foodservice and hospitality management. The IRAEF administers the ProStart® Program in Illinois to more than 4,000 students at 62 schools throughout the state. Students have the opportunity to earn industry-recognized credentials and articulated credits for college while still in high school. Throughout their high school career, the IRAEF provides work readiness training and connects students with industry professionals through job shadowing, internships, industry events, and more to hone their skills in the foodservice industry.

Shantel Lane, a graduate of Roberto Clemente High School in Chicago, received a $3,000 scholarship from the Anton Family Foundation at the scholarship luncheon and will attend the prestigious Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in January 2016.

“For me, the scholarship is going to help a lot,” said Lane. “My older sister is already in college, so to have that money to start college is a huge help. Working with ProStart® was a great experience. There was always someone who was able to help and give me guidance. Kathy Summers has helped me find part-time work this summer, which will give me the fine dining recommendation that I need to attend CIA. I also worked at the Taste of Chicago. As I get ready to go off to college and attend CIA, I am most looking forward to being on my own, learning as much as I can from my instructors, and meeting new people. It’s going to be a completely new environment for me. Most importantly, I can’t stress enough about how grateful I am for this scholarship.”

Ms. Lane is one of hundreds of students who have been positively impacted by the IRAEF since its inception. See more personal stories here.

The ProStart® program is also offered in 48 states encompassing more than 115,00 high school students in more than 1,700 high schools. For more information about how you can get involved locally in the IRAEF’s year-round efforts, please contact Kathy Summers at

Flavor Profile

Q&A with Tony Priolo, Chef/Partner - Piccolo Sogno and Piccolo Sogno Due

Chef Tony Priolo co-owns two of Chicago’s beloved Italian restaurants – Piccolo Sogno and Piccolo Sogno Due. Piccolo Sogno has earned countless accolades, and was named an OpenTable Diners Choice award winner in 2009, 2010, and 2015, a Chicago Reader Critic’s Pick in 2012, and a Concierge Preferred Favorite in 2011. Piccolo Sogno also received the Best of Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator in 2012.

Priolo is an IRA board member and known for his support of local charities, especially his work supporting the IRA Educational Foundation and ProStart® students studying culinary arts in high school.

  • Tell us a little about your history. How did you get where you are today?
    • I grew up cooking with my Sicilian grandmother in her Chicago kitchen. She taught me that the best food comes from a profound place of love and passion. I knew at an early age that I wanted to become a chef, and I landed my first job at 16 as a prep cook in an Italian restaurant near my home. I graduated at the top of my class from the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago in 1989 and quickly immersed myself in Chicago's competitive Italian restaurant scene.

      I opened Coco Pazzo Café as the Executive Chef in 1997. The year following, I opened the flagship Coco Pazzo and later was made partner in both restaurants. Under my direction, Coco Pazzo was honored by many leading food organizations, winning the AAA Four Diamond and DiRona awards and receiving wide acclaim from both local and national restaurant critics. During my time with Coco Pazzo, I traveled to Italy regularly, as I worked for a short time at Da Delfina, the Michelin two-star country restaurant in Tuscany with famed Chef/Owner Delfina Cioni.

      In 2008, alongside my business partner Ciro Longobardo, we opened Piccolo Sogno, our “little dream,” providing regional Italian fare to Chicago. The success of Piccolo Sogno led us to open Piccolo Sogno Due in 2012, bringing coastal Italian cuisine to River North. I implement a simple attitude of cooking using all of the senses and cooking from the heart. I like to keep my food as Italian as possible, highlighting the very best ingredients, both local and some sourced from Italy, and letting the food speak for itself without overcomplicating a dish. I believe that the best way to pair food and wine together is to understand the influence of the dish and where it comes from, and then choose a wine to complement the food.

      As a small child, my dream was either to become a professional baseball player or a chef. I chose the latter due to my grandmother’s passion for food. I spent a lot of my childhood days cooking and traveling with my grandmother by bus, discovering the best ingredients in the Chicago area and cooking from scratch together. My grandmother’s love of cooking taught me that if you cook with your heart and soul, then your food will be the best. I’m honored to be a part of the local Chicago chef community, and I’m proud of the national and international exposure that Chicago continues to garner.

  • What has been your biggest challenge in the culinary world?
    • My biggest challenge as a chef is creating a healthy work/life balance.
  • What is currently your favorite culinary trend?
    • I don’t really follow trends. In our kitchens, we try very hard to bring a true Italian experience to our diners. My team and I work hard to keep things fresh and exciting, but everything is always authentic Italian.
  • What is your favorite ingredient to cook with?
    • That really depends on the season. But for July, I’m really excited about beets, fava beans, peas, summer mushrooms, and truffles.
  • What do you see as being the most valuable resource provided by the IRA?
    • The fact they the organization has the knowledge of what’s going on legally and politically in the restaurant industry is a huge bonus. They give equal support to all members and are always prepared with an answer or able to point me in the right direction when I have a question. Running a restaurant business can be challenging, and the IRA works very hard to make it a bit easier for us all. Additionally, I am grateful for the IRA’s production of Chicago Gourmet. It’s a fabulous event that I’ve been involved in since year one. The team works hard to grow the event every year and make sure it goes off without a hitch.
  • You’re very involved with ProStart® and have hired students for the past two summers. What’s the most rewarding thing about working with students who aspire to be part of the hospitality industry?
    • I love to see how excited they get when they learn new things. I also really enjoy keeping track of them and watching them progress throughout their careers.

  • What’s your biggest piece of advice for ProStart® students?
    • Don’t give up! Hang in there. If you love it, it will come naturally.


Culinary and Hospitality Modernization Act Signed Into Law


This month, Governor Rauner signed SB 398 - the Culinary and Hospitality Modernization Act - into law. This law is a huge step forward for the entire industry, and it truly brings Illinois' culinary and hospitality laws into the 21st century.

For over two years, the Illinois Restaurant Association worked with key stakeholders to pass this legislation. SB 398 passed through the General Assembly with broad bipartisan support in both chambers, and now Governor Rauner has signed this pro-business legislation into law. Thank you to everyone who helped secure this bill's passage, especially Chief Sponsors State Representative Sara Feigenholtz (12th) and State Senator Tony Muñoz (1st).

This law takes a very balanced, pragmatic approach to updating our state's culinary and hospitality laws by including statewide alcohol server training, meal and party packages, food and wine pairings, happy hours, infusions, and other reforms that will help our industry thrive.

Click here for an updated FAQ with answers to common questions about the provisions of the law, including: happy hour regulations, posting requirements, meal and party package definitions, and BASSET training deadlines.

For more information, contact IRA Government Relations Manager Matt Quinn at (312) 380-4122 or email

Come celebrate the passage of the Culinary and Hospitality Modernization Act at our "Happy To Be Heard" event on Wednesday, August 26 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. at John Barleycorn River North. Connect with operators from across the state and learn how this new law will positively affect your business. Click here to register today. For more information, contact Eric Fine at 312-380-4115 or

A La Carte

Edward Don & Company


A family owned business since 1921, DON is the chosen supplier to all types of foodservice businesses, including: independent restaurants, national chains, health care facilities, hotels, country clubs, schools and universities, government institutions and foodservice management companies.

Our line of 16,000 items includes everything for your operation from the plates on your tables to the soap you use to clean the plates. In between, we carry a full line of kitchen small wares, disposable items, and heavy equipment. Each of our six distribution centers stocks about 12,000 items. That means the items that you use the most can be ordered, picked, and on their way to you in a matter of hours, not days.

We sell nothing but equipment and supplies. Most of our competitors are focused on food. That makes us the experts at bringing you all your non-food needs. Our 330 sales professionals have an average tenure of 12 years. They are with us for the long run and have the experience to help you find the right products for your business.

While your sales professional is your main contact with Edward Don & Company, every DON employee, from the accounting department to the warehouse, is dedicated to providing superior service whether you’re a large chain or just starting your first restaurant. DON’s centralized call center features more than 50 customer service agents focused on available time, not on number of calls. That means you get the full attention you deserve every time you call.

Our National Account Department offers specialized services to national and multi-unit operations. Customized programs take advantage of our national scope to provide you with greater efficiencies. Edward Don & Company pioneered the consolidation of stock and non-stock items into one large shipment ready to be delivered for your opening. These “pre-pack” orders include detailed check-in documents to make a challenging job a little easier.

DON’s Foodservice Equipment Division offers complete kitchen design and installation. Our FED Group will take your dream of a new kitchen from the earliest planning stage all the way to installation and final walk-through.

Our six full-service distribution centers are strategically located to provide prompt delivery to your operation anywhere in the U.S.A.

DON Distribution Centers Warehouse Capacity:
Chicago, Illinois: 362,500 square feet
Atlanta, Georgia: 85,000 square feet
Dallas, Texas: 187,000 square feet
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida: 161,000 square feet
Los Angeles, California: 210,000 square feet
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: 147,000 square feet

Whether you place your order through a DON sales professional, a customer service agent or on, we’ve made it easy to get it done right. Once your order is in our system it’s picked from one of our warehouses, routed to your business via our own fleet or common carrier, and delivered to your dock when you need it. Best of all, we can track the merchandise every step of the way so you’re always in the loop.

For more information visit



Park Grill and the Plaza at Millennium Park


Park Grill and the Plaza at Millennium Park are thrilled to welcome another memorable summer season in Chicago. Located beneath the Cloud Gate along Michigan Avenue – and in the heart of the Chicago Cultural Mile – both restaurants serve as a gateway to the Chicago experience, representing the city as both a culinary and cultural destination.

Chef-Driven Cuisine
Park Grill's cuisine and seasonal year-round entertainment offer an experience unique to Millennium Park. Chef Alfredo Sandoval brings a chef's interpretation to contemporary American cuisine, infusing it with Chicago flavor. His recently launched summer menu focuses on chef-driven items that capture the ingredients and flavors of the warm weather months. Inside at Park Grill, guests will embrace the quality and freshness for which Chef Alfredo is known. He believes the dining experience begins by engaging guests with the menu, and then he invites them past the four walls of the restaurant and into the culture of Park Grill's robust summertime programming.

Community Engagement
Annual summer programming directly links Park Grill to the community. With a goal of supporting the future of the restaurant industry, Park Grill has aligned with the Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (IRAEF) and the ProStart® program. Every summer, Park Grill employs students currently enrolled in ProStart® and offers each student real-world experience in the daily operations of the multi-brand concept.

This partnership culminates with the annual Chefs on the Grill competition on the Plaza at Millennium Park, where top Chicago chefs compete against each other to benefit ProStart®. With the assistance of ProStart® students throughout the evening, participating chefs teach students how to operate outside of the traditional kitchen setting. Recently completing its eight year of the competition, ProStart® students have gained access to the industry with the full support of Park Grill fundraising.

Chicago Cultural Showcase
Park Grill and the Plaza’s unique offerings create a direct connection with Chicago’s cultural community. Proud members of the Chicago Cultural Mile, the Plaza showcases an iconic Chicago summer experience – attracting guests and visitors to Millennium Park with an array of local brews, live bands, and its premier location for outdoor dining.

As the largest al fresco restaurant in the city, the Plaza’s beverage program showcases locally produced beers, providing guests with an opportunity to experience a phenomenal range of regional purveyors. Rotating drafts place a spotlight on the latest small batch, local brews all summer long. Chicago’s vibrant music scene also booms on the Plaza. Each Friday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., Friday Nights Live on the Plaza presented by Goose Island features hometown, 93XRT bands from Local Anesthetic hosted by Richard Milne.

Now celebrating its eleventh summer season, the team at Park Grill and the Plaza at Millennium Park is thrilled welcome guests to a true Chicago experience. With an unparalleled culinary and cultural focus, both restaurants will continue to serve as spirited locales for championing summer in Chicago for many years to come.

For more information, visit

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