A 2020 Pilsen Gourmet event. Credit: Provided

PILSEN — Pilsen Gourmet will bring more than 25 restaurants under one roof Friday to showcase the neighborhood’s culinary scene and celebrate Latino cuisine and culture. 

Organized by the producers of Pilsen Fest, the event will feature Latino chefs from Pilsen and surrounding neighborhoods at Apollo’s 2000 venue, ​​2875 W. Cermak Road. It will run from 7-10 p.m. Friday, featuring chef demonstrations, unlimited food samples and an array of drinks, including mezcal and tequila. 

A VIP kick-off hour from 6-7 p.m. will include first dibs on everything covered under a regular ticket alongside chef meet-and-greets. Tickets for the event start at $65 and VIP tickets are $125; they are available for purchase here

“Pilsen Gourmet is much more than a food festival; it’s a reflection of our eclectic and tightly bound community — one that has become the center of Latino immigration in the Midwest,” Esmirna Garcia, Pilsen Gourmet and Pilsen Fest director, said in a release. “This night symbolizes the type of diversity, solidarity, and unity that can be found throughout the whole Pilsen neighborhood.” 

Chefs from a range of Latino cuisine backgrounds will make appearances at Pilsen Gourmet. The celebration will also recognize the importance of the Latino labor force in the industry, and serve as a stepping stone for up-and-coming culinary talent. 

Stephen Sandoval, executive chef of Diego, a West Town Baja-inspired bar, and the upcoming restaurant Entre Sueños, is among those whose food will be featured in the event. He’s planning to bring a vegetarian tostada with butternut squash puree, salsa macha and pomegranate seeds. 

The seasonal colors of the dish honor Día de Los Muertos, Sandoval said. At Diego, Sandoval said he serves dishes that people don’t see at a typical taqueria. 

Using food to honor and celebrate heritage is especially important to Sandoval. Mexican food holds a lot of history and is often inspired by other cultures. For example, Baja cuisine is influenced by Spanish flavors, he said. 

“You’re able to tell a story of your heritage [with] food that your grandmother used to cook for you,” Sandoval said. “You get to see not only your classical indigenous dishes, but also dishes that have developed over the time in history of Mexico.” 

Pilsen Gourmet will honor three chefs on Friday with a trajectory award, social recognition award and entrepreneurial award. Each will speak about the evolution of the Latino culinary scene worldwide. 

The event also will recognize Pilsen’s contributions to Midwestern produce and food products.

Sandoval said he hopes Pilsen Gourmet will inspire chefs and restaurateurs. 

“It’s a very good time for Latino chefs within the Midwest who are really making their name for themselves and kind of being role models for those that want to kind of move up in the hospitality business,” he said. “It’s a celebration of culture and great food.” 

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