17TH ANNUAL GRAND CHEFS GALA (BENEFIT FOR CYSTIC FIBROSIS FOUNDATION)

Being the offspring of two medical researchers, Discovery Health was my Cartoon Network. I’ve always had a strange fascination with pathology and genetic disorders, and one of the first few diseases I learned about was cystic fibrosis (CF).

Incidentally, I first discovered the disease while reading Robyns Book: A True Diary, a memoir that left a lasting impression on the terrible impacts of cystic fibrosis. Found mostly in individuals with European ancestry (i.e. white people), CF causes thick mucus to accumulate in the lungs and digestive tract, and life expectancy rarely surpasses 40 years. Although there’s not yet a cure, many organizations help fund research and support for those afflicted by the disease, and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation leads the way. “[Their] focus is to support the development of new drugs to fight the disease, improve the quality of life for those with CF, and ultimately to find a cure.”

This year, I attended the 17th annual Grand Chefs Gala at the Fairmont in Millennium Park, where various chefs and restaurants were awarded the Jean Banchet Awards for Culinary Excellence. Proceeds went to the Illinois Chapter of the CF Foundation. Ironically, as sheets of half-melted snow drizzled over downtown Chicago, the theme was St-Tropez, and all of Chicago’s hotshot chefs were present.

The event began with a 2-hour cocktail and hors d’oeuvre reception, followed by the dinner and the awards program. Naturally, I ate to excess during the reception, but it was certainly worth the bloat:

My favorite dishes included:

I went back to get seconds for these:

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The Peninsula: winter crab salad, pumpkin puree, crispy cashew

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Avli: braised pork with eggplant puree

And of course, I always enjoy hanging out with the chefs:

And of course, raffles and event venue:

The Jean Banchet Award for best restaurant of the year (and best service) went to Grace, and Eat Fat Rice won for best new restaurant.