Chef Graham Elliot Bowles with his pork-belly sandwich, which, sadly, will not be served at Lollapalooza, but launch the gallery to see his music fest offerings.
Lolla will be like Taste of Chicago—but with good food!
FESTIVALS The chef Graham Elliot Bowles is the first “culinary director” of Lollapalooza, the gargantuan music festival for the masses that seizes downtown Chicago August 6th through 8th. It makes sense: The guy’s a musician, and c’mon, he even has a tattoo that references the Cali punk band Jawbreaker on his forearm. He’s roped a few other music-loving chefs into joining him in a mini-Chicago-food court at this year’s Lolla, and on Monday night, he hosted an event at his restaurant to show what it will all be about. While servers passed out sample fare from Sunda, The Southern, Big Star, Kuma’s Corner, and Graham Elliot, the young chef took a minute to explain the project: “Lollapalooza brings in 90,000 people a day,” he told me. “They’re artsy and esoteric. I want to be in front of those people. I want to sell stuff, I want to make money—but it’s not about that. We’ll probably just break even.”
Paul Kahan, the culinary talent behind Avec, Blackbird, The Publican, and Big Star, and his business partner Donnie Madia walked by. I remembered from a story I wrote a while ago that Kahan owns a massive record collection. I mentioned that, and Bowles said, yeah, when the PR firm issued the call to the more discerning establishments, Kahan was one of several who answered with enthusiasm. “I want to showcase the similarities between cooking and music,” Bowles continued. “Cooking is now a form of entertainment—like baseball was in the ‘80s and ‘90s.”
We tasted the offerings as speakers blared music by Metric, Jane’s Addiction, and MGMT. Noting that the samples are miniature versions of the actual servings, we rated each dish from 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) based on taste and festival friendliness—i.e. Will it fall apart? Is it food you will crave when standing under the blazing sun, surrounded by a sweating, chanting crowd? Launch the gallery to see the results.
Photograph: Anna Knott