Chicago Gourmet took over Millenium Park last weekend, and one of my favorite parts of the event is getting to listen to local chefs’ perspective on food. Country Financial kicked off the weekend with a chat between “Check Please!” host Cat De Orio and The Duck Inn‘s Chef Kevin Hickey. Country Financial provides a wide range of insurance services, and since the company was founded by a group of Illinois farmers, the talk focused on the state of the farm to table trend in Chicago. Country Financial is known for supporting both the agriculture industry and local farmers and they help restaurants to be financially secure in the industry.
Chef Hickey said that he credits Chicago with helping to pioneer the farm to table movement. The city’s proximity to agriculture and farming gives Chicagoans more access to local meats, produce, and other products.
In Chicago, the farm to table movement extends beyond restaurants; the cities numerous farmer’s markets make the best quality ingredients available to the public. The Green City Market got its start in an alley next to the Chicago Theater, and today it has grown into a sprawling market that takes place twice a week in Lincoln Park and once a week in the West Loop. On Wednesday mornings chefs head to the market to source ingredients, and on Saturdays, the market is a community event.
The farmer’s markets are all about getting premium ingredients while supporting local family farmers. Consumers are willing to pay more to shop local. Hickey encouraged the crowd to shop at Chicago’s farmer’s markets – the more we support the farmers, the more they sell, and as a result, the farmers are able to lower their prices.
As the community gains access to better quality foods, they learn that locally sourced fresh organic foods taste better and are worth the cost. Fresher more flavorful foods are easier to cook and more satisfying to eat.
Cat and Kevin also chatted about how fine dining is evolving in Chicago. While fine dining used to be about formal atmospheres and four-hour meals, Chicago is moving towards fine dining cuisine with a more casual setting. Hickey said that people like to “Drink well, eat big, and sit casual”. I couldn’t agree more. I love going to restaurants where I can have an incredible meal, in under 90 minutes, and wear jeans. Hickey went on to say that true Chicago foodies have equal love for Doug Sohn (of Hot Doug’s) and Grant Achatz (of Alinea/Next).
The chat ended with Chef Hickey saying that he hopes that the farm to table trend is here to stay. After the chat, we got to head into Chicago Gourmet where Chef Hickey was serving up Duck Hot Dogs on poppy seed buns.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of COUNTRY Financial. The opinions and text are all mine.