Some of Chicago’s top talent from women-led bars and restaurants are collaborating with one another on unique batch of tasting menus on Fridays and Saturdays throughout October. Born out of a larger push to establish a network of support for women chefs, both locally and across the country, “Savor the World” offers four tasting menus from local industry leaders including Beverly Kim (Parachute, Wherewithall), Carrie Nahabedian (Brindille), Tigist Reda (Demera), and Uzma Sharif (Chocolat Uzma).
The idea sprung from a team-up earlier this between the immigrants behind Saigon Sisters and Demera. Saigon Sisters’ Mary Aregoni combined forced with Demera’s Tigist Reda so customers could order Vietnamese and Ethiopian food from each other’s restaurants. The idea helped expose the restaurants’ brands to a new audience.
Rohini Dey, the owner of Indian-Latin restaurant Vermilion, wanted to expand the idea. She co-founded the James Beard Foundation’s Women’s Leadership and Women’s Entrepreneurship Leadership programs.
“We thought, let’s do something collectively to boost our presence in the city,” Dey says. “We are not [large restaurant companies like] BOKA, or Lettuce Entertain You, or One Off. We are individual women restaurateurs, so we need to pool our strength.”
The promotion is an extension of the city’s first Women’s Restaurant Week, which happened in late August. Dey has also recently been working to develop Let’s Talk, a community designed to give women chefs and restaurant owners a chance to help one another emotionally and logistically as the pandemic wears on.
“Getting over that isolation was hugely helpful, and we became a referral system for each other — ‘How are you doing testing, I need a manager or server, where can I find patio furniture,’” Dey says.
Kumiko’s Julia Momose is also contributing cocktails.
Dey began with 17 Let’s Talk participants, and the local group has since grown to 25. Leveraging her connections with national industry leaders like Dominque Crenn (Atelier Crenn) and Mary Sue Milliken (Border Grill), she’s also set up groups in 10 cities including Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia, adding over 150 total members who are now discussing collaborations, fundraising, and lobbying for the industry. Let’s Talk members in Chicago are also keenly aware that they’re staring down the barrel of winter, and hope to continue working on projects like the tasting menus to keep their own and one another’s businesses solvent.
“The next seven months are going to be do or die,” Dey says. “We’re all very anxious about how many of us are going make it.”
The three dinner menus feature four-course tastings for $50 to $55 dollars. A fourth highlights an assortment of desserts and optional cocktail for $45. Ordering for carryout or delivery is available via Tock. Here’s a full list of the menus and participating restaurants.
“A Global Extravaganza — Vietnamese, New American, Indian-Latin, French”
HaiSous (Danielle Dang)
Prairie Grass Cafe (Sarah Stegner)
Vermilion (Rohini Dey)
Brindille (Carrie Nahabedian)
“Savor the World — Korean, Vietnamese, Ethiopian, Mexican”
Parachute and Wherewithall (Beverly Kim)
Saigon Sisters (Mary Aregoni)
Demera (Tigist Reda)
Frontera Group (Deann Bayless)
“A Phenomenal French Affair”
The Dearborn (Clodagh Lawless and Amy Lawless)
Kasama (Genie Kwon)
Bistronomic (Laurence Noguier)
Pretty Cool Ice Cream (Dana Salls Cree)
“Best of the Best Desserts”
Chocolat Uzma (Uzma Sharif)
Sugar Bliss Cake Boutique (Teresa Ging)
Vanille (Sophie Evanoff)
The Dandy Crown (Julia Shell and Sarah Syman)
* Kumiko (Julia Momose) is providing to-go cocktails.