Now widely recognized for as the nation’s best restaurant city, it’s no surprise that Chicago has quite the selection of food festivals. So many, in fact, that you’d be forgiven for wondering why we need another. However, start with the culinary minds of two of the city’s greatest chefs and add in Chicago’s hottest new neighborhood for food, and you’ve already got a compelling argument. Actually attend the Fulton Market Harvest Fest, and your doubts will be laid to rest.
Fulton Market Harvest Fest began in 2016 with Stephanie Izard of Girl & the Goat, Little Goat Diner, and Duck Duck Goat, and Paul Kahan of One Off Hospitality. It was a display of love for the flair of food fests and the casual fun of Chicago street festivals.
“We wanted to combine what we love about both of those things,” said Izard, “as well as show off what is happening in Fulton Market and what it is becoming.”
Despite staggering schedules – beyond both running successful restaurant groups, Izard still keeps a robust TV schedule and Kahan has just released his first cookbook, “Cheers to the Publican!” – the chefs aspired to make the second year of their fledgling fest a more expansive celebration.
The 2017 Fulton Market Harvest Fest spanned a weekend, expanding its footprint along a second street and providing festival goers with plenty of food, drink, and activities. Restaurants from the neighborhood and beyond offered tastes that were not found at any other of the year’s festivals. Music played at one end of the event, and families found face painting and crafts galore to enjoy with their children.
It was the KitchenAid Culinary Stage that Izard was most excited for. A defining feature of the Fulton Market Harvest Fest, it’s where chefs from Chicago and across the country performed cooking demos and games throughout the day. “Last year it was standing room only,” said Izard, “so we were excited to do more with it this year.” From a no-hands ravioli contest between Fabio Vivani and Sarah Grueneberg to sessions with visiting chefs like Marc Forgione, John Besh, and Aaron Sanchez, this stage was a treat for a small, neighborhood festival.
Another unique aspect of the festival was an offering of classes and ticketed meals featuring the chefs and restaurants of Fulton Market. Attendees could choose from baking classes at Publican Quality Bread and Little Goat, wine tasting with master sommeliers, special dinners, and more. “The classes sold out in a flash,” said Izard. “We definitely want to add more like that next year.”
As Izard noted, Fulton Market is changing fast, and this festival is certainly keeping pace. Fulton Market Harvest Fest served up a wonderful fall weekend for foodies and families alike and is keeping us hungry for more next year!