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Familiar faces to foodies at Pheasant Run event

DanCohen top three finalist contestant 'Hell's Kitchen.'
She is among celebrity chefs scheduled appear 2012 Chicago Food   Wine Festival

Dana Cohen, a top three finalist contestant on "Hell's Kitchen." She is among the celebrity chefs scheduled to appear at the 2012 Chicago Food & Wine Festival Nov. 17 - 18 at Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles.

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At A Glance

What: 2012 Chicago Food & Wine Festival

When: Nov. 17 and 18

Where: Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles

Tickets: $75 for a one-day grand tasting pass, good from noon to 5 p.m. each day; $100 for a one-day VIP early access pass, good 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and $250 for the celebrity chef charity gala.

Learn more: For hotel and ticketing options, see or call 630-984-4888.

Updated: November 24, 2012 6:05AM

ST. CHARLES — An Algonquin couple is busy planning a big culinary event for the weekend before Thanksgiving, and it will include faces familiar to viewers of some popular TV food shows.

With their business, Distinctive Events Inc., Scott Hardesty and his wife, Sandy, are teaming up with online restaurant review site Yelp to present the 2012 Chicago Food & Wine Festival on Nov. 17 and 18 at Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles.

“It’s the perfect time. As the holidays get close, people get antsy and are looking for things to do. Some folks have told us they will have relatives in town already,” Hardesty said.

With foodies being attracted to cuisine that same way “Doctor Who” and “Star Trek” fans are to comic book conventions, Hardesty said he has had inquiries from as far away as Denmark. But unlike comic-cons, which tend to be sausage fests, Hardesty said about 75 percent of interest so far has come from women.

Hardesty said he has been in the trade and home show business for more than 20 years and started the new venture in January. The couple oversaw the main cooking stage at last summer’s Taste of Chicago and are going to be involved in 2013, too.

A home chef himself, Hardesty likened the process of putting together the food and wine fest to creating a recipe. To that end, he hopes participants will include about 40 to 50 restaurants from throughout Chicago and the suburbs, 15 or so wine or craft beer establishments, and five to 10 purveyors of spirits in the mix.

“We’re making sure this will be a well-rounded event,” Hardesty said.

Celebrity chefs

Already on board as hosts are Ted Brunson from WGN TV’s food show “Chicago’s Best” and Mark DeCarlo, the comic man about town from WLS TV’s “Windy City Live.” Hardesty said he met the men at the Taste this summer.

There will be cooking demonstrations from TV celebrity chefs, including sexy chef Dana Cohen, Patrick Cassata (executive chef at The Bank Restaurant in Wheaton) and Brian Merel (a private chef and caterer based in Chicago), all former contestants on Fox’s “Hell’s Kitchen;” Chicago native Josh Marks and L.A. chef Monti Carlo from Fox’s “MasterChef;” and Judson Todd Allen of Chicago’s Healthy Infused Cuisine, who was on the Food Network’s “Next Food Network Star.” Twenty-seven-year-old sommelier Jessica Altieri from WineChannelTV is involved with the project, too, and will oversee a casual lounge area offering wine tastings and imparting information about all things grape.

About having celebrities participate, Hardesty said, “We loved watching them and made the calls to see who we could get.”

A self-described “experimental cook,” while his wife is a vegetarian, Hardesty said, “We’re excited to bring an event to the Pheasant Run Resort that offers our guests an opportunity to discover literally hundreds of new flavor combinations all in one fun and energetic setting.”

The event will get under way each day with an hourlong session for VIP pass holders who will pay a higher fee to have priority sampling and time to mix and mingle with the chefs and foodie celebrities.

At another price point, there will be a charity celebrity chef gala Nov. 17 featuring signature dishes and specially selected wine and cocktails and an auction for charities, including Autism Speaks.

And if all goes well, Hardesty said the event will serve as the prototype for future food and wine fests at the St. Charles venue and for another project in the big city.

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