Chefs, restaurateurs, friends, food-lovers, and media descended on the historic Chicago Cultural Center on Wednesday, Nov. 12, for a special evening honoring the fifth edition of the Michelin Guide Chicago recognizing outstanding restaurants citywide.
In a red-decorated room representing the iconic red guidebook, the gala honored restaurants earning one, two, and three stars for their creative talent, service, and craft, as well as the 400 other restaurants earning a distinctive mention in the book.
The Michelin guide is very selective—only a select handful of restaurants earn one star each year, while even fewer earn two or three stars. Grace, with acclaimed Chef/owner Curtis Duffy, made the leap from two to three stars this year, joining perennial three-star winner Alinea, with Chef Grant Achatz. Michelin categorizes three-star restaurants as places with exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.
Newcomer 42 Grams with Alinea- and Charlie Trotter’s-trained Chef Jake Bickelhaupt earned two stars, along with L20 and Sixteen, which maintained their ranks from last year. This year’s group also had 19 one-star earners, including the five restaurants offering tastings at the gala.
“Chicago is the most recent addition to the collection of Michelin guides in the U.S., and as the 2015 selection illustrates, Chicago is one of the most impressive culinary scenes in the world today,” Michael Ellis, the international director of the Michelin Guide, said at the event. “As you can imagine, my job takes me to some interesting places, but Chicago remains a very special place to me.”
Ellis introduced the chefs offering tastings that evening with a champagne toast, calling them some of the most “creative chefs in Chicago.” The entire group of attending Michelin chefs was then welcomed on stage for photos, while guests enjoyed the night’s live music, cocktails, bubbles, and bites.
Chef/owner Chris Nugent of Goosefoot, the prix-fixe BYOB in Lincoln Square, prepared a semi-sweet and savory creamy custard of quince, Roquefort, and egg yolk served in the shell and finished with a five-spiced port wine and gogi berry sauce.
Seth Moliterno, chef of the Peninsula Hotel’s Lobby bar and restaurant, offered a chilled trout chaud-froid, with a crisp salad garnish of cippolini onions, Brussels sprouts, pear, and hibiscus.
Thomas Lents, executive chef at the Trump Hotel’s fine-dining Sixteen restaurant, presented thin slices of cold smoked fois gras in the shape of rose petals, atop toast with duck heart and matsutake mushrooms.
Takashi Yagihashi, chef/owner of inventive Japanese restaurants Takashi and Slurping Turtle, the ramen-focused offshoot, served a handmade, steamed Chinese-style bao stuffed with soy caramel braised pork belly. (In a surprising move one day after the Michelin event, Chef Yagihashi announced Takashi will close at the end of this calendar year.)
Tony Mantuano, chef/partner of Spiaggia, which earned one star this year, along with the legendary restaurant’s Executive Chef Chris Marchino, served hand-rolled potato gnocchi in a truffle-spiked brown butter and Parmesan coating, perfect for the cold November evening.
The celebration continued after the gala at Nellcôte, with a party hosted by Edrington Spirits, the official partner of the Michelin Galas, and included cocktails by mixologists Chad Hauge of Longman & Eagle and Jonathan Edwards of Mott Street, plus eats by Michelin-starred chef Mike Sheerin.
By Amelia Levin