Chicago Chefs Gather for Japan

April 20, 2011

(WBEZ/Micki Maynard)
Takashi Yagihashi, back to camera, supervises his chef-crowded kitchen.

Monday night is usually chefs’ night off. But this week, a flock of Chicago’s top chefs worked on their day off to support Japan.

There was so much fire power in the kitchen, and on the restaurant floor, that one guest called it “a meal cooked by the 1927 Yankees.”

The Chicago benefit dinner took place at Takashi, a modern Asian restaurant in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood. It is owned by Takashi Yagihashi, a Japanese native who Detroiters will remember as the executive chef at Tribute. Within hours of hearing about the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, Takashi decided to hold a benefit dinner.

The response to Yagihashi’s invitation was immediate. Within five days, chefs from across the city across the city had signed up to offer their skills for the benefit, called Heal Japan, Yagihashi said.

The group included Paul Kahan, who runs restaurants such as Publican, Blackbird and Big Star; Tony Mantuano, chef at Spiagga, a favorite of the Obamas; John Hogan of Keefers steakhouse; Jimmy Bannos Jr. of the Purple Pig and his father, Jimmy Bannos, the owner of Heaven on Seven and Emmanuel Nony of Sepia. Don Yamauchi, the executive chef at Detroit’s Motor City Casino, and Bill Kim, owner of Belly Shack and Urban Belly in Chicago, waited tables and joked with the guests.

Ties between Japan and the Changing Gears region run particularly deep. As we reported last month, more than 160,000 people across Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio work for Japanese companies. And, as Japan rebuilds itself, people from across the region are stepping up to provide assistance. Students at the University of Michigan recently raised $20,000 in their own benefit.

The benefit at Takashi appears to have raised at least that much. The five course meal, and accompanying wines, cost $200 for an early seating and $250 for a later one, with all proceeds donated to the American Red Cross for Japan relief, and the dinner was a sell-out, with about 110 patrons taking part.

The menu included house cured sardines, prepared by Mantuano; miso-glazed squab, made by Kahan; Washugyu beef, grilled by Hogan; and a dessert of ginger creme glacee and a lychee baba, prepared by Sebastien Canonne of the French Pastry School.

Benefits for Japan are continuing around Chicago. Check out a list here.