Online culinary mag StarChefs feted its pick of Chicago's rising star chefs at a tasteful gala on Monday, May 23. The event took place at the beautiful Fairmont Hotel Chicago and hosted by executive chef Brad Parsons and Beverly Kim Clark, chef de cuisine at Aria. Chef Clark's Buttermilk Bleu Cheese Semifreddo with Port Foam and Five-spice Walnuts was a sweet-savory delight, served in a miniature ice cream cone.
Every chef's dish was fantastic. A few stand-outs for my palate were the homey Milk-braised Pork Shoulder and Mashed Potatoes by Jimmy Bannos Jr. of The Purple Pig, and the Braised Australian Lamb Neck with Warm Heirloom Tomato Panzanella and Sauce Aureole by Geoff Rhyne of Fig. Chef Rhyne's sous vide technique produced a supremely delicate texture.
Restaurateurs Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz of Boka Restaurant Group were honored, and their presentation of Yellowfin Tuna with Prickly Pear, Pear-wasabi Vinaigrette, Jicama and Kaffir Lime Chips was interactive. You had to break through the chip to get to the spicy and bright flavor combination balanced by GT Fish and Oyster chef Carl Shelton. (I have to remember to take more pictures of the food...too busy sampling and chatting!)
Mercedes Lamamié from the Trade Commission of Spain was on hand, sampling Iberico pork products. Most notably, I was enticed to try Iberico pork carpaccio. That's right, raw pork. Though I had a cartoon bubble over my head containing my tsk-tsk-ing mother, I went ahead anyway. Fantastic! The texture was incredibly supple, and the flavor of the pork unlike anything I have ever tasted. The flavor is unique because the Jamón Ibérico de Bellota pigs are fed a diet of feed and acorns, and only given the Dehesa de Extremadura seal if fed the proper proportion of acorns.
This event reinforced the fact that Chicago is not second to any city when it comes to culinary talent, innovative restaurateurs, and hospitality chutzpah. Thank you, StarChefs, for organizing this great celebration of culinary talent.