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The Journal Gazette

  • Izard

Wednesday, August 09, 2017 1:00 am

Chicago chef's Blessings visit sold out early

Austin Candor | The Journal Gazette

Tickets for Blessings in a Backpack's annual fundraiser always go quickly, but this year's event sold out a month in advance – a first.

It'll be a special night for an organization whose Fort Wayne chapter is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

The fundraiser is headlined by guest celebrity chefs who help plan and prepare the event's meals. The organization brought in Charlie Trotter for the inaugural event in 2007, and has also hosted chefs such as Marcus Samuelsson, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Graham Elliot.

When Blessings in a Backpack found this year's guest, “Iron Chef” Stephanie Izard, the organization's members not only knew that they had booked someone talented in the kitchen, they knew they were getting someone who loved to give back.

“She's well regarded and has done a lot of competitive stuff. ... One of those brilliant chefs,” says local Blessings in a Backpack treasurer Paul Sauerteig, who plays a part in finding chefs for the fundraiser. “She's just a good person.”

Blessings in a Backpack, led by board president Gretchen Gouloff, strives to feed the city's 11,000 children who return home each weekend after school, uncertain of what food they'll receive for the weekend, according to the organization's website.

Izard, a 2013 recipient of the James Beard “Best Chef: Great Lakes” award as well as a 2011 Food and Wine “Best New Chef” recipient, was most recently named an “Iron Chef” when she won the first season of Food Network's “Iron Chef Gauntlet,” according to the organization's news release. In 2008, she became the first woman to win Bravo's “Top Chef” competition.

The 40-year old is executive chef and partner of three restaurants in Chicago – Girl & The Goat, Little Goat Diner and Duck Duck Goat.

“We have been really lucky in being able to interact with internationally-recognized chefs,” Sauerteig says. “When you say we've had help from Charlie Trotter, people are like, 'Wow, we should get involved.' These chefs are very generous with their time.”

Unlike previous guests, Izard plans to arrive a day early to prepare her dishes and help out with the event's setup.

She plans to feature a duck course and “something special,” Sauerteig says.

The event will take place at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Sycamore Hills Golf Club and will also include chefs from around Fort Wayne and other surrounding communities.