The Million Dollar Dinner
Earlier this summer, during garlic harvest, Dan McGowan, President of Big Bowl, was in the neighborhood and stopped by our house. Surprised at the size of our back yard garden and our commitment to raising our own food, he suggested we host the chef’s dinner in our backyard. Danny thought it was important for the chefs to experience the level of commitment he felt when he entered the little sanctuary in our backyard. “Rent a grill and get some paper plates” he said, “we can cook from your garden.” Is he crazy, I thought? We can’t have everyone running through our garden and picking all the potatoes and tomatoes. And if we did do it, I wasn’t going to serve the type of food I imagined on paper plates (besides all the wasted paper). So together, we began planning what would eventually become The Million Dollar Dinner.
The dinner got its name one morning during the conference. Looking around the room, we realized we invest close to a million dollars a year in chefs and support salaries. As chefs, we decided this was going to be the best dinner our guests ever attended. We wanted our guests, Big Bowl friends and family, to be completely surprised by the experience in our backyard. To make it interesting for the chefs we turned it into our own Top Chef Competition. This was not going to be easy; twelve chefs divided into six teams, each team making at least two dishes, an old Kitchen Aid stove in a small kitchen, a rented grill, and a ninety degree day.
With the ingredients picked the day before by the chefs, the meats organically raised by Becker Lane Organics, and the grill loaded with natural hardwoods, the solution to this was actually fairly simple. As we try to do at Big Bowl, the chefs let the quality of great ingredients, simply prepared, do all the work. The results were stunning. Dish after dish came to our beautifully set garden table. Stuffed chilies fria, aqua frescas made with cucumber and watermelon, whole roasted pork shoulder, organic chickens, eggplant pickles, two kinds of ratatouille, three kinds of potatoes, beans, squash, and on and on. Our guests enjoyed Illinois wines and local artisanal beers well into the night.
We did it. We achieved The Million Dollar Dinner. I am proud to be a part of this team and inspired to create even better food. Congratulations to all the chefs who made this dinner exceed everyone’s expectations. I look forward to next year’s Million Dollar Dinner.
Check out the photo montage of the whole event here.