In what may seem like an odd pairing, elusive Schwa chef/owner Michael Carlson will make a rare public appearance when he goes head-to-head against Ripasso chef/owner Theo Gilbert in Ruck 4 The Kids. The event, which takes place at Ripasso (1619 N. Damen) on April 15, will see the two chefs come together to help raise money and awareness for Chicago Wapiti RFC, Youth Rugby Program.
Chicago Wapiti kicks off its season on April 15 at Revere Park, but Gilbert said the league, which is the largest in Illinois, needs to raise money to help buy equipment, train coaches and other things for the kids aged 4 to 14. "It's great for kids because as opposed to a baseball or football team, where there's a zillion kids, if they're not the best, they don't play," said Gilbert, who coaches his three daughters in Wapiti. "With rugby everyone plays. You don't have to be a superstar. It's a sport that if you are the superstar, it doesn't make a difference because it's a true team sport."
In what will amount to more of a fun event than a serious competition, Gilbert and Carlson, close friends since working together at a Wisconsin restaurant, will each prepare four dishes. They'll agree on three ingredients to use and will then throw each other a mystery ingredient they have to cook with. Ripasso mixologist Lorna Biljan will be mixing up alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
Gilbert said they have about a total of 50 spots and nearly half of those are already filled, so if you want in, don't wait. There are two donation levels: $100 gets you into the cook off, but if you pony up $250 you'll kick things off with a 4:30 meet and greet with the chefs and see a sneak peek of the menu, get to wear special event swag during the competition and then get to enjoy special craft beers while watching a rugby match at a still-undetermined location for the after party. To purchase tickets, call 773-342- 8799.
As for who will win? Gilbert said the winner will be decided through crowd approval; this is an informal competition, after all. "The whole idea is to have fun and raise awareness that it's a viable sport that kids can play," Gilbert said.