Taste Talks Returns with Hammel at the Helm

Taste Talks

Food festivals tend toward plugging celebrities or gorging oneself with bite-sized portions of lavishly-topped treats while pounding two ounce pours of wine and beer or miniature cocktails. We can all indulge once in awhile. This weekend, however, offers a little something different.

Taste Talks promotes an alternative to the gluttony of food festivals, championing critical thinking over excess eating – though, to be fair, the evening parties at Virgin Hotel, Local Foods, and AceBounce, along with the Sunday afternoon chef barbecue in Palmer Square, will most definitely proffer plenty of food and drink. But the star of the show remains the Saturday conference – a series of seminars, panels and a few demos – especially for this year’s resident chef curator, Jason Hammel.

Under the guidance of good conversation, Hammel hopes the selected panelists – ranging from chefs, bartenders and journalists, to musicians (including Glenn Kotche of Wilco and 19-year-old Chicago hip-hop artist Kweku Collins) and photographers, relinquish themselves to the day.

“These are super busy individuals. You can lose sight of those connections with other artists and other artistic pursuits,” says Hammel, nodding to this year’s motif of the intersection of food and art.

He compliments the Taste Talks organizers, based at Brooklyn’s Northside Media, for their open-minded approach to proposed topics. “[We have] really interesting people coming together for a conversation. We’re dedicated to getting people in a room together who should be together but never get the chance to talk.”

The day kicks off bright and early Saturday morning with a Bang Bang! biscuit bar, followed by discussions on the transitioning kitchen environment, a brief (but promisingly nerdy) history of Chicago’s restaurants, neighborhood sea change through food, and much more. Chef Paul Liebrandt shares an intimate conversation with Louisa Chu, and Hammel partakes in a roundtable with Beverly Kim (Parachute) and Andy Ricker (Portland’s Pok Pok) on one of the industry’s toughest questions: what does a healthy and sustainable business, with healthy and happy employees and employers, look like, and how do we pay for it?

Tickets for the conference portion on Saturday at Morgan’s on Fulton are still available for $99, in addition to the Friday night opening party “Flavors + Sounds,” at Virgin Hotel, the Saturday night “Mother of Pearl” dinner at Local Foods (where David and Anna Posey will sort-of preview their forthcoming Elske), and the Sunday afternoon “All-Star BBQ” in Palmer Square. All-access passes are steep but available.

Not in the industry? Not a problem. “It’s a community building push,” says Hammel. “Those outside the industry can offer outside-the-box recommendations.” In other words, you are more than welcome.

Taste Talks Conference
Morgan’s on Fulton
October 1, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Tickets: $99

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