10 Top Highlights from Food Network in Concert
From morning until night, your favorite Food Network chefs and musical all-stars came together at Food Network in Concert on Saturday for a celebration of three things that are just better together: eats, drinks and tunes. Together with Chicago's most-acclaimed chefs, the stars took over Ravinia — an outdoor festival space near the Windy City — for a jam-packed schedule of walk-around tastings, hands-on culinary demonstrations and sit-down meals alike, and it culminated in roof-raising concerts by Phillip Phillips and John Mayer. FN Dish experienced the sights, sounds and tastes firsthand as Chicago local Jeff Mauro, plus Alex Guarnaschelli, Anne Burrell, Geoffrey Zakarian, Jose Garces, Marc Murphy and Sunny Anderson, welcomed the crowd to lunches and dinners, posed for pictures with fans and dished on the soaring culinary scene in Chicago. Read on below to count down 10 of the day's best moments, hear from some of the chefs and see photos of what went down on stage.
10. Blues, Brew and BBQ: With good music in the background and ice-cold beer in hand, diners could choose from some serious finger-lickin' fare. The longest line was at the spare ribs station, but the host of the event, Marc, particularly enjoyed the pickle bar with flavors like Key lime chipotle, lemon ginger, and hot and sassy.
9. Birthday Shoutout: Phillips turned 24 on Saturday and in a total moment of spontaneity, concertgoers sang "Happy Birthday" in the middle of his set. The song (sang surprisingly in unison) was started by just a couple of fans but was quickly picked up by everyone in the pavilion and beyond into the lawn seats.
8. Dinner and Tunes: Geoffrey's Farm to Turntable event wouldn't be complete without a DJ, and sure enough, Alexandra Richards was on hand to spin genuine records. On the playlist? An upbeat mix of Frank Sinatra and B.o.B to complement a locally sourced menu that included smoky pork and juicy tomatoes.
7. The Ultimate Chicken Sandwich: Nothing says backyard comfort food quite like fried chicken, and at Sunny's Country Cookout lunch event, this Southern staple was in full force. The fried chicken sandwich, pictured above, presented by Chef Rey Villalobos from Table Fifty-Two, was nestled on a tender, buttery biscuit with a tangy, spicy sauce.
6. Smoked Pastrami to Remember: Chicago-native Jeff described the smoked pastrami sandwich from Fumare Meats as the “greatest single bite of food that you will ever have melt on your tongue like that.” Hearing that from the Sandwich King himself, you'll have to believe it's the real deal.
5. #EatDrinkRock: No stranger to social media, Sunny worked to promote Food Network in Concert online by volunteering herself for selfies with every fan in attendance at her Country Cookout.
4. Man vs. Pig: Even in the midst of light rain during his Grilling Seminar event on pork, Jeff managed to take to battle — with a faux pig, much to the delight of his crowd of fans.
3. The Concert: Folks set up camp on the lawn as early as 11am to grab a good spot for Phillips and Mayer, the final two events of the night, and both singers/guitarists proved to be worth it by putting on spectacular shows. Fans sang along as Phillips performed his American Idol-winning song, "Home," and Mayer had everyone on their feet when he sang his version of "Free Fallin'."
2. Tune In for This: Mayer joked with fans that he might become the next Food Network Star, as he kidded that just prior to taking the stage; he chatted with Food Network about possible new show ideas. What's Left in John's Microwave? and Blending with John, which would focus on the all-important blender, were two of his pitches.
1. GYOB (Grind Your Own Burgers): As a part of his Rock 'n' Rolls lunch, Jeff taught Phillips how to make the perfect burger. Things got a little out of hand as the two began to eat when Jeff also demonstrated his talent to sing while eating. During the demo, the duo became instant best friends, at least according to Jeff.
Whether they came for the food or the music, eventgoers walked out of Ravinia Park with a full and satisfying dose of both. With amazing food and equally awesome musical talent, no one could feel anything but lucky to be there.