By Jenny Berg Posted September 21, 2009, 11:30 AM EDT
CHICAGO On Thursday night, some 300 guests headed to one of the season's final alfresco events at Fulton's on the River, where Common Threads hosted its first World Cookout benefit. A nonprofit group that offers cooking classes to underprivileged children, the organization has an advisory board peppered with well-known chefs, many of whom cooked up snacks for Thursday's walk-around tasting.
As compared to the menu at Common Threads' annual World Festival—another tasting event, which typically takes place in March and offers sophisticated international cuisine—the cookout fare was “suppposed to be a little more casual,” said Linda Novick O'Keefe, the organization's executive director. ”We asked chefs to prepare things one would eat at a cookout. So we had pulled pork, fun burgers, and drinks with lots of fresh herbs.”
On the restaurant's riverside patio and in its adjoining event space, Top Chef alum Radhika Desai handed out lamb sliders topped with cucumber yogurt, Tru pastry chef Gale Gand offered miniature servings of banana cream pie, and Nacional 27 mixologist Adam Seger shook up cocktails that combined kiwi vodka with passion fruit, coconut, pineapple, and lime.
At $75 a head, the cookout was intended to be more accessible to young philanthropists than World Festival, which this year sold individual tickets that started at $250. “We [at Common Threads] knew almost everyone at last night's event,“ Novick O'Keefe said on Friday, “so that made it really fun. But there were also some new faces. Over all, it was just a really young, hip, and good-looking crowd."
Through ticket sales and a silent auction, the event ultimately raked in $29,595, and cost only $90 to produce. “Our chefs donated the food, Fulton's on the River donated the space and labor, and [Studio AG] donated pipe and drape and decor," said Novick O'Keefe, adding that paint and signage were the only event tropes she had to shell out for.
Novick O'Keefe said that the cookout will “absolutely” take place again next year. ”The only thing I think we'll change,” she said, ”is that we want to add a dance floor.” As DJ Rock City spun upbeat tracks from bands such as the Jackson 5 and the Red Hot Chili Pepers on Thursday, “people really wanted to dance,” she said.