Easter Seals’ Modern Classic brings our Chicago’s culinary A-List chefs

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Easter Seals’ Modern Classic came to fruition because of Kevin’s desire to recreate a celebrity chef event, similar to one he had done before with his longtime friend, Tom LeClair, Easter Seals’ Vice President of Development.  That event was held for an organization in Springfield where Kevin grew up and opened his first restaurant.

Joining the Easter Seals Metropolitan Chicago Board of Directors, a mere two years ago, Kevin wasted no time in creating this culinary winner. Kevin and his partner Rob Katz have opened 16 successful restaurants in just over two decades so it was no stretch at all to know Easter Seals’ Modern Classic would be a hit.  And a hit it was!

Held at Morgan Manufacturing on August 5, the culinary extravaganza drew a crowd of over 350 foodies, many of them devoted fans of the BOKA Group restaurants.  Billed as a classic dish with a modern twist, Modern Classic, sponsored by Mercedes Benz, kicked off with a VIP Chefs Meet and Greet.

Guests at the Easter Seals’ Modern Classic weaved their way around the venue sampling the small plate tastings prepared by the chefs.  Attendees were given a magnetic button with the Easter Seals logo – their voting chip – for their favorite dish. Each chef had a magnetic board and guests slapped their buttons onto the board, crowning their personal favorite. Popular dishes were Graham Elliot’s refreshing watermelon gazpacho, Bill Kim’s lamb potsticker with delicious cilantro, chipotle, olive oil sauce (a personal favorite) and Giuseppe Tentori’s, gnocco with truffle and uni, a soft pillow bursting with flavor.

Kevin Boehm welcomed the crowd of the Easter Seals’ Modern Classic and said, “It’s very rare to get this kind of culinary talent together in one room. Truly some of the most famous chefs in the world came to support Easter Seals.  The first Modern Classic sets an amazing foundation for this to be a perennial event for years to come.” He introduced the chefs and announced the winner of Modern Classic, Fabio Viviani, of Siena Tavern whose winning dish was delicate gnocchi with truffle cream, fried sage, and crispy pancetta. Vivian received a plague in honor of Baran Harold Galand, a chef on the east coast in the 70’s who attended the culinary arts in New York.  Baran’s son-in-law is Easter Seals Metropolitan Chicago’s CEO and President F. Timothy Muri.

The participating chefs were Chicago’s culinary “A” list and their featured dish was equally grade A in the Easter Seals’ Modern Classic:

  • Paul Kahan, who opened Blackbird in 1999 and, within a year, won a James Beard Award for Best Chef of the Midwest. Kahan’s other restaurants have met with equal popularity and success which operate under One Off Hospitality Group. Dish: Testaroli – Charred Crespelle; Sungold tomatoes, peaches, robiola cheese, hazelnut pesto.
  • Stephanie Izard, the winner of the popular reality series “Top Chef,” also won the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef Great Lakes in 2013. Girl and the Goat and Little Goat quickly became hot Chicago favorites. Dish: Pork Belly dumplings; Szechuan chili sauce.
  • Bill Kim, proprietor of the Belly restaurants – Urbanbelly, Belly Shack and BellyQ – honed his skills at some of the top French and Asian restaurants across the country and his Asian fusion has celebrities visiting on a regular basis. Dish: Lamb Potsticker; black vinegar sesame dressing.
  • Graham Elliot, the chef/owner of two now-shuttered restaurants due to his demanding as celebrated co-host and judge on Fox Network’s hit cooking competitions, MasterChef and MasterChef Jr., and as culinary director to Lollapalooza. Dish: Watermelon Gazpacho; pickled rind gremolata, smoked sea salt.
  • Giuseppe Tentori, a multi-culinary award nominee and winner, the executive chef of GT Fish & Oyster and the BOKA Catering Group and a Jean Banchet’s Award for Best Catering Company. Dish: Gnocco; truffle, uni.
  • Chris Pandel (Easter Seals’ Modern Classic) whose Italian influenced restaurant, Balena has been named one of the top 25 restaurants on the American dining scene. Dish: Chilled Tagliolini Nero; uni, crab, chiles.
  • Mark Hellyar, Momotaro’s Executive Chef and Partner, whose culinary career has taken him across the pond and back, working in some of the most notable restaurants until landing in Chicago. Dish: Selection of three toast points: Miyazaki Beef with peas and shoots; Momotaro Tartare with charred fava bean; Uni with shiso, hakurei turnip pickle.
  • Fabio Viviano, executive chef at Siena Tavern, who appeared on season 5 of Bravo’s reality series, Top Chef and earned the Fan Favorite title. He is also the host of the award-winning series “Chow Ciao!” on Yahoo. Dish: Gnocchi; truffle cream, fried sage, crispy pancetta.
  • Lee Wolen joined the Boka Restaurant as Executive Chef/Partner in January of 2014, winning the Jean Banchet Awards in two categories: 2015 Chef of the Year and 2015 Restaurant of the Year. Dish: Roasted Broccoli; almonds, preserved lemon, smoked ham, parmesan.
  • Tony Quartaro, rising star and currently Sous Chef at Balena, will become the Executive Chef of Formento’s, B. Hospitality’s newly opened Italian-American heritage restaurant.  Dish: Raviolo; corn, lobster.
  • Grant Achatz has been recognized as the Best Chef in the United States by the James Beard Foundation and honored by Time Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. Alinea, Next and Aviary are where he hones his innovative approach to modernist cuisine. Dish: Sautéed wild mushrooms with pork rind chips.
  • Paul Virant is the award-winning chef/owner of Vie Restaurant and Perennial Virant. A Michelin Award winner he was also named Food and Wine Magazine’s Best New Chef and Gayot named Vie to its 2015 list of Top 40 Restaurants in the United States. Dish: Crispy Cotechino; arugula pesto, endive, ground cherry aigre-doux.
Easter Seals Metropolitan Chicago is a champion for abilities serving children, adults, and families through comprehensive autism and child development programs and services. Easter Seals Metropolitan Chicago paves the way for programs offering guidance and support, inspiring action and unlocking the potential of each person served at the Easter Seals’ Modern Classic.

Featured Photo from Easter Seals’ Modern Classic: Chefs Mark Hellyar, Tony Quartaro, Fabio Viviani, Lee Wolen, Chris Pandel, Giuseppe Tentori, Grant Achatz, Graham Elliot, Bill Kim, Paul Virant

Photo Credit from Easter Seals’ Modern Classic: Jed Hoyer

About Margaret O'Connor

Margaret J. O’Connor is the founder/owner of MarCon Communications, a public relations and special events firm which handles the publicity and event needs for a diverse range of clients. She’s involved with numerous charities in Chicago and is active in its lifestyle and social scene. She grew up and was educated in Africa, Australia and America and holds degrees in marketing and finance from the University of Illinois. She is a contributing writer to many print and digital publications and her focus is lifestyle, culinary and nonprofit events. Read more from this author.