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Chicago Food Museum

When the Chicago Chefs Hall of Fame gathers to induct Rick Bayless Aug. 27, the beneficiary of the $175-a-plate event will be the Chicago Culinary Museum, which currently exists in the imagination of volunteer Barbara Kuck and a few colleagues.

Kuck, membership chair for the Chefs Hall of Fame, recently moved back to Chicago, where she grew up over the famous old Chicago restaurant the Bakery, on Lincoln Avenue near Webster, which belonged to her father Louis Szathmary (apropos of nothing, Szathmary may be the only master chef who also had a degree in journalism–per his online CV).

Kuck and her colleagues hope to raise $60,000-plus at the event.

Their first goal will be to create a web site where they can provide virtual displays of Chicago-related food history and a traveling exhibit to go to major food-related trade shows. Many of those take place at McCormick Place, as it happens, which Kuck says is normal because Chicago is among the largest centers for food production and processing in the world.

Of course most chefs are better known for dedication to their kitchens than for educating the public–but Kuck and her colleagues have a few things going for them: Several chefs who are involved in the effort have agreed to serve as spokespeople (including Charlie Trotter, the first inductee into the Chicago Hall of Fame in 2006; Jimmy Bannos got the honor in 2007) as well as Stephen Henry, executive chef at the Palmer House. They have several collections of interesting items scheduled for donation to the museum such as materials from the Drake Hotel and a collection of menus and other items from Chicago-area eateries going back to 1925 (Kuck says she’s working on a hot-dog collection). Jesse White as well as city leaders are working with the group to eventually find a site where the museum could locate.

Why a Chicago food museum? Well for one thing, says Kuck, we are the only major city to be named after a food. Anyway, wanted to share this one with everyone–it’s a delicious story! Kuck can be reached directly at barbara (at) culinary museum (dot) org. [posted by Gordon]

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