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Chicago Gourmet

Mod Mex & Mod Mix

Four of the world's finest Mexican chefs unite in Chicago this fall to cook, compete, and create. Join them for two days of hands-on demonstrations, intimate conversation and the most memorable meal of your life.

Event Details:

Mod Mex & Mod Mix: The New Face of Mexican Food

Date: Saturday, September 13, 2014
Time: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Location: Kendall College | 900 N. Branch Street, Chicago
Price: $95/per person
Ticket Information: Four chefs. Four styles. One cuisine. At this friendly face-off, each chef defends his vision of Mexican cooking while emcee Ana Belaval, of WGN referees. Includes food, beverages, cooking demonstrations, tastings of tequila, wines and more!

Mod Mex & Mod Mix: The Meal

Date: Sunday, September 14, 2014
Time: 6 p.m. dinner
Location: Topolobampo | 445 N. Clark Street, Chicago
Price: $195/per person
Ticket Information: This ticket includes a five-course, Mod Mex dinner at Topolobampo hosted by Chef Rick Bayless featuring chefs Pablo Salas, Curtis Duffy, Fany Gerson and cocktail pairings by Mixologists Joseph Mortera, Dave Arnold and Jay Schroeder.

Mod Mex & Mod Mix: The Meal + VIP Reception

Date: Sunday, September 14, 2014
Time: 5 p.m. reception, 6 p.m. dinner
Location: Topolobampo | 445 N. Clark Street, Chicago
Price: $275/per person
Ticket Information: This ticket includes a one hour VIP reception in the test kitchen featuring a cooking demonstration with Chef Rick Bayless and a bottle of craft tequila bottled exclusively for Topolobampo. In addition, guest will enjoy a five-course, Mod Mex dinner at Topolobampo hosted by Chef Rick Bayless featuring chefs Pablo Salas, Curtis Duffy, Fany Gerson and cocktail pairings by Mixologists Joseph Mortera, Dave Arnold and Jay Schroeder.

All Proceeds from Mod Mex benefit culinary school scholarships.

Space is limited and events will sell out!
Click here to purchase tickets

Chicago Gourmet Tickets on Sale

Saturday Tickets Sold Out! Get Sunday Tickets While They Last!

Chicago Gourmet, showcasing more than 150 of Chicago’s finest restaurants and chefs, as well as hundreds of renowned vintners, spirit makers, and premium breweries from around the world, takes place September 26 - 28 in beautiful Millennium Park in downtown Chicago. Tickets to Sunday's event are still available. Purchase your tickets today!

Late Night Gourmet

All Hamburger Hop tickets have sold out, but don't miss the official after party! Late Night Gourmet, Sponsored by CS Magazine, Belvedere Vodka, The Underground, Lagunitas Brewing Company, Diseno, and Nobilo Wines offers tasty bites, spirited libations and dance tunes from DJ Rock City. This not-to-miss event sizzles at celebrity hotspot, The Underground.

This fun and festive new event will cap off the evening with music from one of Chicago’s hottest DJs and revelry with Chicago Gourmet chefs, sommeliers, and other tastemakers. Purchase your tickets today!


Government Relations Update

Minimum Wage Update

At the July City Council meeting, Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced an ordinance that would increase the minimum wage in Chicago to $13 an hour over the next four years. If approved, the proposal would raise the minimum wage by $1.25 an hour each of the next three years, followed by a $1 increase in 2018. After that, the minimum wage would be tied to the cost-of-living index.

Under the ordinance, the tip credit wage would increase by $1 over the next two years in 50 cent increments and then tied to the rate of inflation. The ordinance was co-signed by 24 aldermen.

At the same meeting, former IRA Chairman and Alderman Tom Tunney introduced a resolution urging more study of the issue and ways of increasing the minimum wage in Chicago without putting the city at a competitive disadvantage to its neighbors. This resolution was signed by 17 aldermen.

The Illinois Restaurant Association has to be pragmatic on this issue. The minimum wage is going up all over the country, even in places much more conservative than here. We must stay at the negotiation table and work for the best deal possible. It should also include the preservation of the tip credit, as well as denying an annual cost of living adjustment. We will continue to aggressively lobby for our members.

Click here to see talking points on minimum wage. Please contact your elected officials and tell them how these issues affect your business. Tell them your story. It is extremely important for you to give your opinion. We will keep our membership aware and engaged on this issue.

Click here to read the Ordinance.

Click here to read the Resolution.


IRA Golf Classic

The 2014 IRA Golf Classic was once again a great success! Attendees enjoyed a day of 18 holes of golf, networking, silent auction, raffle, and a wide array of fantastic food and beverages.

Thanks to the Golf Classic Committee Chair, Steven Hartenstein, and his hard working committee on a successful event.

Many thanks to the following sponsors who made this event possible:

Presenting Sponsors




Eagle Sponsors




Birdie Sponsors




Par Sponsors






Hole Sponsors








Also, thank you to our lunch, breakfast, and dinner providers:


Buckhead Beef & Seafood
Manny's Cafeteria & Delicatessen
Chicago Coffees & Teas
Gonnella Baking
Turano Baking
Connie's Pizza
The Churro Factory
Uncle Dougie's
American Junkie
Blues BBQ & Grill
Eli's Cheesecake
Homer's Ice Cream
Lou Malnati's
M Squared Catering
Star of Siam
Wow Bao



IRAEF Update

IRA Educational Foundation CUBS Fundraiser a HIT!

On July 30th, the Foundation hosted Board members, Advisory board members and Friends of the Foundation at the fundraiser at Wrigleyville Rooftops. The sold out event generated over $7,500 for the Foundation and programming. It was an evening of networking, food, fun and baseball!. ProStart students from CPS’ Juarez High School showcased their skills as they prepared and served several appetizers to the guests. The event was made possible by Board member Stacey Loukas who generously donated the amazing venue. Special thanks to Wrigleyville Rooftops, as well as, the many Board members made generous donations to the event raffle.


Q&A With Joe Taylor

The IRA recently had the opportunity to speak with Joe Taylor, General Manager of Fig & Oliive in Chicago, about the new restaurant, its vision, and the Chicago culinary community.

Congrats on the new location. What are you most excited about in this new role?

I’m most excited about where we are: This market. This is a perfect concept for this area. It’s very unusual, there’s really nothing else like it. For me it’s about being in this market, this area, being on Oak Street.

What made Chicago an attractive location to open?

I think for the group, they had great success on the East Coast. With the four restaurants in NY and the two in Sothern California, the next natural stop is in Chicago. With the development of Oak Street, to have this concept come into the area all really made sense.

I think many of the diners in this area are looking for something that is brighter and that offers lighter fare. Fig & Olive brings that to the customer. It’s wonderfully regional. The menu represents Southern France, Eastern Spain, and Northwest Italy. It is all very specialized, and reminiscent of airy, festive days and nights along the Mediterranean.

Continuing on that theme, the food is light. Everything has olive oil in it; there is no butter in the house – a little bit of butter for our brunches for the bread basket, but no butter on any of the dishes. Everything is cooked with different types of olive oil. These themes have been a huge focus of ours.

How do you feel about the James Beard Awards coming to Chicago next year?

The James Beard Awards coming to Chicago is exciting for all of us. For me, Chicago is one of the culinary capitals of the country. Even the expansion of great restaurants into Hyde Park, which historically was not a restaurant neighborhood, has really turned the neighborhood and the City into one of the go-to places for diners. The neighborhoods of Chicago are a natural place for diverse, intriguing restaurant concepts.

How is Fig & Olive different than some of your previous ventures and restaurants you have managed in the past?

Fig & Olive is very different. The one thing is it is very sunny and bright. With my background, with steakhouses, the food was in the center of the plate and there is that old steakhouse theme. This is a 180 degree difference. The food is light, and there is a beautiful design and environment. The owner, Laurent Halasz, worked so hard on the details of this restaurant. People are coming in and enjoying it; they’re relaxing in the themes. And it’s really beginning to be talked about. There’s a wonderful buzz in the neighborhood and throughout the City about it. The owners couldn’t be happier about the way the management staff is executing the concept.

What have you seen changed in the industry over the years? Does Fig & Olive take a direction towards a new trend you and your team have been observing?

What Fig & Olive provides to diners does seem to be more of the trend. There is no question that Chicago is the steakhouse capital of the world. As I mentioned, Fig & Olive offers a turn from that. The restaurant is approachable pricewise, with a lighter fare. Customers are looking for the sunlight that Fig & Olive provides.

Are there any valuable advice or lessons you can share with aspiring restaurateurs?

[Laughter] Well, I’ll have to share that information with you “off the record” some other time. In Chicago, we are relationship driven. It is about building a relationship with the guests. About having that connection and being available to them. We are subservient in our work, and look for the return business.

Fig & Olive does that by recognizing the people in the neighborhood and making the locals know we are available to them. To me, that is the ‘secret sauce’ for restaurants. The local clientele are the valuable ones. The conventioneers and tourists are certainly important. But to me, the locals are the cake. The conventioneers and tourists are the good icing on top of the cake. And we want to bake a great cake.


Don't Miss It

September 21-23: FSTEC

Keep your finger on the pulse of the latest developments in foodservice technology at the 18th Annual FSTEC Fall Conference & Showcase: the foodservice industry's Woodstock for all technology-minded executives. The event is September 21 - 23 in New Orleans, LA.

FSTEC is the sector's longest running technology conference in the U.S. that focuses exclusively on foodservice. This unique conference offers a great opportunity to meet face-to-face with industry peers providing you the opportunity to build relationships with some of the category's top leaders and decision makers.

Click here for more information. Visit for more information.  


News & Notes

A Day at the Park

On August 24, Sam Toia threw out the first pitch at the Chicago Cubs game against the Baltimore Orioles. Both the Illinois Restaurant Association and Wrigley Field celebrate their 100 year anniversary in 2014.

Watch the video of Sam throwing the first pitch!

Kendall College Offers Hospitality Education Program to Veterans

In August, Kendall College, the No. 1 Chicago school for preparing students for a career in hospitality management and culinary arts (TNS Global - 2013 Survey), announced a partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs, Blackstone and its portfolio company Hilton Worldwide to offer a hospitality educational program designed to help veterans and their spouses receive the critical education and experience that can lead to a career in hospitality management.

"Kendall College is committed to providing veterans opportunities in the hospitality and culinary fields," said Kendall College President Emily Williams Knight. "We are proud to be working alongside both Hilton and the Department of Veterans Affairs to achieve this goal. Having a pathway to a career at a world class leader in the hospitality industry from the moment they enter the program will give them a goal to work towards and will help to keep them on track."

This new educational program will also support Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's goal for hosting 55 million tourists to the city by 2020.

Click here to read the full press release.


New Members

The Association is pleased to welcome:

Owen & Engine
Daley and George’s
Big Shoulders Coffee
Found Kitchen & Social House
Heartland Café
J.C. Restoration, Inc.
Nash Media Solutions
Will’s Northwoods Inn
41 North Contractors
Café Tola
Culver’s of DeKalb
Leather Medic
Blue Bridge Legacy
Heroes West Sports Grill
Two Chefs Café & Catering
Smith Amundsen LLC
Crowe Horwath LLP
Pearl Tavern
Eat & Run Chicken
Mad River Bar & Grille
Trade Show Gazzette
Arrowhead Golf Club
Freshly Baked Communications
Lito’s Empanadas
Maple Tree Inn
Padgett & Company
Riverside Pizza

Platinum Sponsors


Gold Sponsors


Silver Sponsors


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