Meals on Wheels Celebrity Chef Ball

We had the privilege to volunteer at the 2012 Chicago Meals on Wheels Celebrity Chef Ball. If you haven't had a chance to attend this annual event let us tell you it is just wonderful. Celebrity chefs from Chicago and elsewhere participated in a full evening of culinary delights. 

Meals on Wheels holds a special place in the hearts of your Chief Ambassdors because we both had Grandparents who took advantage of Meals on Wheels programs, including the one right here in Chicago. Meals on Wheels not only provides nutritional sustenance but also compassion, conversation and hope to shut-ins, the elderly and others, whose only human contact may be their visit from the Meals on Wheels volunteer that day. 

The lucky diners who purchased a VIP Chef's Table ticket were treated to an interactive, multi-course, seated dining experience with two or more celebrated chefs, specialty cocktails prepared and explained by notable mixologists, wine pairings, delectable desserts from reknowned pastry chefs and a live auction. The chefs were all in top form enjoying the chance to cook for a great cause and put on a show for their appreciative guests. 


Chef Tony Priolo plating one of the dishes. 

We had the chance to work with two chef tables or "pods."  Our ambassador Sue Reddel worked with Executive Chefs Tony Priolo & Todd Stein from Piccolo Sogno/Piccolo Sogno Due, Executive Chef Dirk Flanigan from Henri/The Gage and Mixologist Clint Rogers from Henri/The Gage and pastry chef. The diners could not have been more pleased with the selections. They started with a refreshing Colonel Kurtz cocktail, then moved onto a dish of sea scallop, ragout house-cured pancetta, cannellini beans and Sunray Venus clams from Chef Tony & Chef Todd. Next up was Chef Dirk's escargot, torched pumpkin, goat cheese, with garlic and sage. On to Black Truffle and buffalo ricotta dumpling with truffle butter and parmesan from Chefs Todd and Tony. On a side note, Sue actually sampled a little of this dish and it was amazing! The vegetarians among the diners loved it. The last dish was a huge hit consisting of venison, melon, black pepper, arugala and while gastrique from Chef Dirk. Sue also tasted this dish and all she could say was, "Wow!" The flavors were unbelievable - the venison was perfectly cooked and the puffed rice as a crunchy garnish was an inspired choice. We don't know how the chefs come up with these unique combinations, but that's certainly one of the reasons they become so celebrated. Mixologist Clint offered an imaginative finishing cocktail called the Red Bird.

Chef's Ryan Poli and Chris Pandel taking a minute to pose. 

Our other Chief Ambassador Diana Laskaris worked with Chris Pandel - Executive Chef of The Bristol and Balena and  Ryan Poli - Chef/Owner of Tavernita. Their Mixologist was Justin Anderson of La Sirena Clandestina. Justin began with his lively All The Gin Joints cocktail, accented with a celery stick. Then the diners began with an Escalvida Pintxo of roasted eggplant and red peppers, hazelnut romesco and Lincoln Log goat cheese from Chef Ryan. The vegetarians at the event clamored to get more of these tasty bites. Then onto the beautful colors and textures in a salad of Long of Naples squash, endive and spiced yogurt from Chef Chris. Chef Ryan then wowed diners with his roasted lamb sausage, chickpea puree and giardiniera. Chef Chris finished the savory portion of the meal with an exquisite Pasta Nero with sea urchin, crab and serrano peppers. Mixologist Justin provided a sultry finish with his smoky Muskatoon served in a champagne saucer.

The diners both completed their meal with a sumptuous dessert from Executive Pastry Chef Amanda Rockman of The Bristol and Balena. Her delectable indulgence brought together coconut dacquoise, passionfruit sorbet, tapioca, opal basil, white chocolate for a burst of flavors to finish off the incredible meal.  

Chef Dirk Flanigan and Chef Todd Stein preparing their dishes.

The evening then switched to the bustling Chef's Tasting Party downstairs featuring dozens of chef's tastings, premium cocktails, wine and beer, silent auction, photo booth, with live performances by Greenlight and DJ Zebo.

Judging from the overflowing and enthusiastic crowd, fun was had by all. It was wonderful to see all the support for such a worthy cause as Meals on Wheels Chicago and we were pleased to hear that they achieved their fundraising goals for the event. If you'd like to get involved or make a donation please follow this link to their website.