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Fall Ingredients: Stars of the Plate


As appeal across the consumer market continues to trend towards healthier, more plant-based dining options, restaurants continue to adjust menu offerings accordingly, sourcing the best ingredients available. Now more than ever, demand is heightening for locally-sourced ingredients that lend themselves to an overall high-quality, highly nutritious dish.

Research compiled by the National Restaurant Association concluded that consumers are currently being drawn to restaurants with food that is prepared in an environmentally-friendly way – from ingredient choice to production to nutrition content. Diners are seeking menus that feature local ingredients and dishes that push the boundaries by using simple, farm-fresh fare. Today’s diner is increasingly progressive, and chefs and operators big and small are adjusting to align with demand.

From this demand comes an increase in seasonal menus across all types of operations. As local offerings shift, menu items and dishes adjust to align with the current season. And with ever-changing seasons in the Midwest, chefs must modify, fine-tune, and adapt their menus year-round.

“Illinois is positioned in the center of America’s heartland. Our restaurateurs have access to the freshest ingredients grown right here in the Midwest, so that’s really helped the farm to table philosophy take root in Chicago and Illinois,” said Sam Toia, President & CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association. “We see many restaurants planting urban gardens, making their own breads in house, and developing partnerships with local farmers to plant and cultivate land for the specific seasonal ingredients they need.”

With the onset of fall, chefs throughout Illinois will feature pumpkin, sweet potato, squash and more as the fall harvest begins. Before they know it, the palette will change to peppermint, gingerbread and eggnog as holiday bells begin to chime.

This constant adjustment begs the question: How are local chefs keeping up with the demand for healthy, flavorful options while simultaneously adjusting the menu for the season?

This month, we took a look at several Illinois Restaurant Association members known for their seasonal and ever-changing menus.

Calling All Corn
As the leaves turn and the cooler temps arrive, it comes as no surprise that corn takes center stage. A classic for the season, it begins to pop up on many a menu across Chicago.

Restaurants like Farmhouse integrate corn as a more focal ingredient, even tailoring dishes around the vegetable. Not only does the restaurant have a Sweet Corn and Basil Bucatini on its menu that includes a parmesan corn broth, but the ingredient is also incorporated into Chef Eric Mansavage’s Beats & Greens appetizer and his Roasted Half Chicken main dish.

Other restaurants, such as Bad Hunter, have featured corn as a supporting – but no less impactful – ingredient like the white corn that comes with Chef Dan Snowden’s Butter Dumplings, served with gochugaru, and spring onion kimchi.

Fall Fan Favorites
When fall cuisine comes to mind, pumpkin is the classic go-to. Whether flavoring a hot beverage or topping off a meal in pie form, the popular ingredient makes its move onto menus long before Halloween! Freshly made pumpkin soup is always a highlight, as are other renditions like pumpkin skillet cornbread, pumpkin risotto and more. Chefs are also making use of an oft-overlooked component – pumpkin seeds – to enhance their menus. Big Star’s Taco de Zanahorias includes mole-spiced carrots, chipotle date yogurt, pumpkin and sesame seeds, almond and cilantro. Replete with magnesium, manganese, copper, protein and zinc, pumpkin seeds add both crunch and extra nutritional value to Chef-Partner Paul Kahan’s dish.

Another sign that fall is here? Root vegetables become the star of the plate. Beets are a favorite at this time of year. While most commonly featured year round in vegetable-centric dishes such as salads, beets play a bigger role in the fall, often taking center stage. Chef Dan Snowden plays up their earthy flavor and hearty consistency in a Charred Beet French Dip sandwich, which includes Dijon horseradish aioli and emental cheese, served on a baguette. Beets never tasted so good.

And perhaps the biggest underdog of fall ingredients is squash. At Farmhouse, it is served roasted alongside its award-winning roast chicken. Elsewhere, diners will find it simply pureed, purposed into “fries”, and even utilized as “noodles” in replacement of traditional pasta and more. Varieties like acorn, butternut, delicata, banana and more lend to a range of flavor profiles and possibilities on the plate. With a tremendous amount of vitamin A, as well as significant amounts of vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin B6, it is also one of the most nutritious vegetable options on menus today.

Desserts of Fall
Fall desserts never come up short, with healthful staples like corn, pumpkin and apples leading the way. At Bad Hunter, the veggie parade marches right into dessert, with Sweet Corn Crème Brulee and Beet Cheesecake Mousse, introducing a sweet sensation to otherwise savory ingredients. True to the classics, The Publican embraces fall’s freshness with Chef-Partner Paul Kahan’s Apple Crisp dessert, served with fresh ginger frozen yogurt.

Whether the presentation is modern or classic, one truth rings clear on menus statewide: both chefs and diners get the most enjoyment and benefits out of seasonal veggies when their flavors are allowed to shine simply at the center of the plate.

Flavor Profile

A Conversation with Chris Gawronski, Executive Chef, The Gage/Acanto


This month, we sat down with Chris Gawronski, Executive Chef of The Gage and Acanto, to discuss his culinary upbringing, favorite Italian dishes, and what he's looking forward to at the 10th anniversary celebration of Chicago Gourmet. 


Tell us a little about your history. How did you get where you are today?  


I grew up in a chef household. My mother is an amazing cook and my father was a Master Chef, so from day one I always knew what good food was. I was always eating something that no one else would eat when they were four, five, or six years old. People would come over and there would be pheasant or lobster on the table. When I was four, I actually went to a friend’s house and was offered a grilled cheese sandwich, but it had American cheese, which I hated. I remember asking if they had any brie.


What’s your favorite Italian dish to prepare?

My absolute favorite is tortellini in brodo. It’s a very simple dish with tortellini filled with a mixture of salumi and parmigiano in a delicious chicken broth, and that’s it. Put a whole bunch of parmigiano over the top, and it’s the simplest, cleanest, and most delicious dish. The last time I was in Italy, I was staying with a family and this was the final dish served for dinner, prepared by the matriarch of the household. My host brought out a bottle of house-made lambrusco and as we were finishing off our tortellini in brodo, he said hold on to a little bit of the broth, pour some lambrusco in the bowl and suck the whole thing back. It was uncanny how beautiful, simple and flavorful everything was together. This dish shows the breadth and beauty of all things that embody Italian food; everything is created by a grandma, a grandpa, a story, or a family and that’s perfect to me.

You’re hosting a “High Steaks” cooking demo at Chicago Gourmet. What’s your favorite part about the festival each year?

It always gets a little bit cooler before Chicago Gourmet, and we’re always just at our wits end trying to prepare everything. And always on the days I’m at the event, it’s beautiful, it’s sunny, it’s happy. You know you’ll get another little taste of summer during the weekend. There’s no other culinary event in the city that I have this much respect for because of the way that it’s produced and how professional the organizers are. It shows throughout the weekend every year.   

To what do you attribute your success?

Family and heritage, which are the things that I love most about Italian cooking. I always looked up to my father and in becoming a chef I’ve sort of completed a journey to where cooking is now a part of our family identity. I feel successful because I’m doing something that makes me proud.


What are you looking forward to in the coming year?

I’m looking forward to (and always scared of, hah!) Billy Lawless’ next ideas. He always gets a little twinkle in his eye, where I say “Oh, boy, what’s he up to now.” I look forward to those surprises and it’s great because he always keeps me busy and fresh in the industry. 


On the personal side, I just started my family, and I’m excited to see my daughter grow, start talking and to also be that little kid that asks for brie cheese on their sandwich. 


Any advice for aspiring chefs and restaurateurs?

Patience. You will fail; it’s a guarantee. That’s ok and if you’re patient, you’ll understand that the work, sweat and tears that go into this job all mean something it if you truly believe in yourself. Failing once doesn’t make you a failure. Don’t be afraid of it. 


Visit Chef Chris Gawronski at The Gage and Acanto, or at the Bon Appétit Culinary Stage at Chicago Gourmet this Sunday, September 24. Tickets are still available at



DACA Program Renewals End Thursday, October 5


The federal government has recently announced that it will only accept Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) renewal requests received by Oct. 5, 2017. The Illinois Business Immigration Coalition offers free assistance for employees that need DACA or work permit renewal assistance. The Illinois Restaurant Association is a proud founding member of IBIC.


After Thursday, October 5, the Department of Homeland Security will not accept any more DACA renewals, meaning employees' work permits will expire if they do not renew. If your HR team is unsure whether this impacts your employees, please contact Rebecca Shi, IBIC Executive Director at

There are over 42,400 DACA recipients in Illinois – over 36,000 of whom are in our workforce. Ending DACA would result in approximately $2.3 billion in lost GDP over the next decade. Together with IBIC and industry partners, the IRA is advocating for lasting immigration reform to benefit DACA recipients and the immigrant community as a whole.

Click here to learn more about DACA program renewals. Contact Matt Quinn, IRA Government Relations & Communications Manager, at or (312) 380-4122 with any questions.



Inspiration Powers Success


US Foods® is proud to partner with award-winning chef, author, and restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson, whose unique style is inspired by his Ethiopian and Swedish heritage and his roots in Harlem, where he now lives. Together, we have developed six innovative products that stem from these distinctive global flavors.

Find those new items, among many products designed to unleash your creativity in the kitchen, in the Fall 2017 edition of Scoop™, launched on September 18. It includes our exclusive interview with Chef Samuelsson, who discusses his influences, passion for food and words of wisdom for food-industry professionals.

Discover the newest products, read the whole interview and learn about Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP), the charity that Marcus champions, at

From world cuisine to profit-drivers, innovation to business expertise, US Foods provides the tools to help you make it. You make it yours.

For more information on USFoods products and services, please contact IRA Advisory Council member Jeff Forkenbrock at  


Get in the Game at the Cubby Bear!


Located across the street from Wrigley Field, the Cubby Bear Wrigleyville is not only your home for pre-and post-Cubs games, but also the perfect place for year-round entertainment. With over 30,000 square feet of space, you can enjoy live music, watch your favorite sporting event, choose a tasty dish off of our extensive menu, or attend a party in one of the private rooms overlooking the historic Wrigley Field Marquee.

This month, we have plenty of Cubs baseball! Watch all of September baseball with us and the exciting postseason race as they chase another championship. We have 5 projection screen TVs and over 75 plasma TVs throughout the bar so you can’t miss a game!

The Cubby Bear is also your Private Party Headquarters, with views of Wrigley Field from every private party room. Hit a “Homerun” this fall with Cubby Bear! For more information, please visit


Cubby Bear

1059 West Addison

Chicago, IL 60613

On Instagram @cubbybearwrigley

On Twitter @Cubbybear


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