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CHICAGO On Monday evening, some of the city's most highly regarded chefs left their kitchens for a night at the museum. Held at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Time Out Chicago's Eat Out Awards drew a 350-guest crowd that comprised restaurant owners, bartenders, and culinary pros such as Topolobampo's Rick Bayless and Jared Van Camp from Old Town Social.
Comprising a cocktail reception and a ceremony, the event doled out Critics' Picks and Readers' Choice awards in categories ranging from Best French Toast to Best Indie Restaurant Blog. The four-year-old happening “is truly one of our marquee events for the year,” said senior marketing manager Tuck Shepard. “The Eat Out section of our magazine [which contains restaurant listings and reviews] is such a big part of the Time Out brand and a big traffic-driver, for both subscribers and online visitors. So we like to have a party each year to celebrate all of the best dishes and bartenders and restaurants around the city.”
Shepard said that inviting an industry crowd let the magazine's staffers “celebrate with the people that we've been writing about all year, and it let industry folks celebrate with each other as well. It's really about promoting the nice, healthy competition.”
To encourage mingling among the crowd, Shepard and his team eschewed a sit-down dinner and arranged for heavy passed hors d'oeuvres from Wolfgang Puck Catering. The cocktail reception saw restaurant owners laughing with pastry chefs and mixologists commiserating about complicated garnishes. “I cut out 300 star-shaped pineapple chunks this afternoon,” one said. “Next year, I'm doing lemon twists.”