This year, a festival involving area restaurants that’s raised more than $500,000 for cancer research over the past five years hopes to help the restaurants, themselves.
“As we all know, 2020 has been a trying year for the restaurant industry. We wanted to do something for our local restaurants,” said Laura Cullinan, who chairs the annual event with husband Allen.
Previously known as Farm to Table Peoria, the Peoria Food & Wine Festival 2020: “Chef’s Table,” is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 17 with all proceeds going to the 16 companies participating.
Restaurants include Hearth Restaurant, Edge by Chef Dustin Allen, 12 Bar Lounge, Eat and Evolve, Untamed Chef, Agatucci’s Restaurant, Cyd’s in the Park, Bearded Owl Brewing, Industry Brewing Co. and Country Club of Peoria. Also participating are Epiphany Farms in Bloomington, Old Bank in LeRoy and Kemp 208 in Morton.
Ticket prices range from $75 to $150 for a three-course meal and specially-selected wines. Take-out options are also available.
While Bearded Owl and Industry offer beer pairings, Sucre Sweets in Morton offers candy for a year for $180 while Balanced Bee Juice & Broth Restorative offers juice and broth for $30. The Clink Bar offers a three-hour mobile bar service for a private party to be scheduled in 2021 for $1,200.
Operating four restaurants and a farm in order to raise and serve healthy food has been a lifelong dream for Ken Myszka but the Covid-19 outbreak has turned it into a nightmare, said the Bloomington “chefarmer.”
After working in restaurants in Las Vegas and New York, Myszka returned to central Illinois in 2009 where he’s since built up a farm-to-table operation that employed 200 people until the coronavirus hit.
“Over the last three months, we’ve gotten back up to 120 workers but we’re still 80 employees short of where we need to be,” he said.
“The (restaurant) industry is on the brink of collapse. I understand why. The public sees a risk of dining out plus new regulations limit what a restaurant can do. A lot of people have left the industry,” said Myszka.
Of his four central-Illinois restaurants, one is temporarily closed, while plans to open a fifth outlet have been tabled, he said. “We can’t get back to normal until the virus is stopped,” said Myszka.
Two of Myszka’s eateries, Epiphany Farms in Bloomington and Old Bank in Le Roy, are participating in Thursday’s festival. “We’re going to throw in some surprises. It will be a five-course tasting event,” Myszka promised.
Dustin Allen, who helped plan the dining event five years ago, will also serve up special dinners at his two restaurants in Peoria Heights, The Edge and his new rooftop entry, 12 Bar Lounge.
“This area is so good about supporting restaurants. This event drives that home,” he said.
“The restaurant industry has taken a beating since March. I have to give credit to Allen and Laura Cullinan for wanting to help local restaurants here,” he said.
“Along with the special dinners prepared by area chefs, the Cullinans donate special wines to the event each year,” said Allen.
Laura Cullinan noted that two bottles of wine are provided for each ticket. “These are incredible wines and a great value add to each ticket bought in support of the restaurants,” she said. Among wines offered this year are Cakebread Napa Valley chardonnay, Goldeneye Anderson Valley pinot noir and Plumpjack Estate cabernet sauvignon, said Cullinan.
Tickets can be ordered online at www.peoriafoodandwinefestival.com.
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