By Jenny Berg Posted March 24, 2009, 5:38 PM EDT
CHICAGO Last night, Common Threads' World Festival—a fund-raiser for the nonprofit organization, which teaches culinary skills to children from low-income homes—turned the Museum of Contemporary Art into a proverbial candy shop for cooking-show aficionados. At one of 41 tasting stations, Take Home Chef's Curtis Stone doled out tuna ceviche and flirted with female guests. Across the way, Top Chef season four winner Stephanie Izard prepared braised pork belly; and later, Food Network star Tyler Florence hosted a V.I.P. after-party at the James Hotel.
According to Common Threads executive director Linda Novick O'Keefe, the event was intended to give guests “a taste of what the underprivileged children in our program do every day in our kitchens: Learn and celebrate the world...through delicious global meals. These children are learning to appreciate diversity through food.” To give guests a similar experience, a walk-around tasting format allowed nearly 600 attendees to sample dishes from countries such as Thailand, Morocco, and Greece.
To help guests further bond with the host organization, two 10-year-old chefs passed out spring rolls they learned to make at Common Threads. In the museum's main hallway, Event Creative projected pictures of more young cooks onto the walls; and before the live auction, event organizers presented a three-minute video that showcased footage from the Common Threads classroom. “We wanted to remind everyone why we were there,“ said Novick O'Keefe. “It's all about the kids."
Even so, some decidedly adult attractions—namely, sponsored bars from 10 Cane rum and Belvedere vodka—also filled the museum. In keeping with the evening's serious-foodie vibe, both brands manned their bars with professional mixologists, who shook up specialty drinks for (of-age) guests.
Correction: The spelling of pastry chef Suzanne Imaz's name has been corrected.