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Chicago Michelin Guide Brings Out Chef Wattage to Party

Tasting Table editor Heather Sperling and Alinea chef Grant Achatz
Tasting Table editor Heather Sperling and Alinea chef Grant Achatz

It's truly amazing what the release of a little red book can do to a city's culinary scene. The first-ever Chicago Michelin Guide hit the city—and hit it hard. Between the release of the Bib Gourmand list last week, the "Primo" controversy and the ultimate big reveal of what restaurants earned Michelin stars, everyone was ready to let off some steam and celebrate. And boy was it a celebration.

Last night, the main event took place at the Chicago Cultural Center with nearly every big-name Chicago chef in attendance, especially those who received stars and listings on the Bib Gourmand list. Everywhere you looked you saw star power: Alinea's Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas, Donnie Madia and Eduard Seitan from the Blackbird group, Everest's Jean Joho, Michael and Carrie Nahabedian, Boka Group's Giuseppe Tentori, Kevin Boehm, Rob Katz and Ryan Poli, Rick Bayless, Laurent Gras, Spiaggia's Tony Mantuano and Sarah Grueneberg, Urban Belly's Bill Kim, Ria's Jason McLeod, Graham Elliot, Season's Kevin Hickey, Schwa's Michael Carlson, Longman & Eagle's Jared Wentworth, Avenue's Curtis Duffy and so many more. Even Mayor Richard M. Daley showed up to make a surprise speech to honor the night.

After the bash, a huge crew popped over to eat at the Purple Pig. The scene was insane—Rob Katz called it a "shit show"—and the long table on the east wall was a veritable who's who of Chicago chefs and restaurant owners. We heard that Michelin director Jean-Luc Naret worked his way over to the Publican to eat and see chef Paul Kahan, who couldn't make the party at the Cultural Center because he was cooking at a charity event for Share our Strength at Spiaggia. Which brings us to the after party.

As if the indulgence at the Purple Pig weren't enough, Spiaggia hosted a bash in their private dining space and it seemed as if nearly everyone who was at the Cultural Center made their way to 980 N. Michigan. We finally had to bail around 2 a.m. and can only imagine what else went on around the city.

Some observations we made during the night:

· There was lots of talk that Laurent Gras, who earlier in the day broke the news that he was permanently leaving L20 and moving to New York to open his own restaurant, had made his way back to Chicago for the party with his wife, Jennifer Leuzzi. Despite reports of needing a break, Gras seemed fit and energized. While many seemed happy to see Gras, there was also chatter that he dissed Lettuce Entertain You chairman Rich Melman, who was absent due to a charity commitment.
· Time writer Joel Stein was spotted accompanying Grant Achatz for an upcoming profile in the magazine. When we told him we thought he'd be shorter (he's somewhat tall, actually), he jokingly said it's because he's Jewish and no one expects Jews to be tall. For the record, Eater Chicago's editor is about six feet tall.
· We heard there were explicit instructions left at the check-in desk barring two specific food journalists from entering the party, including photos of said journos. Don't ask, we're not saying who.
· Chef Charlie Trotter, who received two stars, was obviously absent from the Cultural Center. Was he bitter he didn't get three?
· We loved that Time Out Chicago dining editor David Tamarkin and food writer Julia Kramer steathily hung out at the party.
· In a sign showing the camaraderie of Chicago's food world, we saw Grant Achatz and Kith & Kin's Andrew Brochu give each other a bear hug. In fact, there was a lot of that going around. Could you feel the love last night? Indeed.

· Laurent Gras Talks L20, Michelin and Future NYC Plans [~EChi~]
· Chicago Michelin Guide Revealed; Alinea, L20 Get 3 Stars [~EChi~]
· Yelper Claims Has Michelin Guide, Books Not Sent Early [~EChi~]
· Chicago Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand Revealed [~EChi~]
Select photos courtesy of Kevin Boehm.