A James Beard Award-winning chef will host a Ukrainian dinner series to raise funds for a humanitarian crisis involving family connections.
Chef Johnny Clark named the project in honor of his late maternal grandmother, Anelya Ochatchinskiya, who was from Kharkiv, Ukraine. Clark owns the critically acclaimed Parachute and Wherewithall restaurants in Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood with his wife, chef Beverly Kim.
“We originally hosted Ukrainian dinners for a couple of weeks in May,” he said. “They gave me the idea to do something more substantial to raise funds for the humanitarian crisis that is still unfolding in Ukraine.”
The chef wanted to add more detail to the food but didn’t have many family recipes to work with.
“My grandmother only cooked about five different Ukrainian dishes,” Clark said. “Because when she was alive, growing up in Ukraine, there wasn’t much to eat.”
She made borscht and varenyky, the dumplings that resemble pierogi.
“During the Soviet era, they tried to suppress Ukrainian culture,” he said. “So they even did that through food.”
Clark found help for his menu with a recent refugee. Marina Yakush and her husband came through the United States refugee program. They now live with a family friend near town.
They came together when the Russian invasion of Ukraine began and the chef was looking for ways he could help.
“I read (about) this chef, Igor Mezencev, who is from my grandmother’s hometown in Kharkiv,” Clark said. “I reached out to him on Instagram and said I don’t know if there’s anything I can do but if there’s anything I can do for you let me know.”
Mezencev told him about Yakush. She had opened and managed restaurants, but most recently led a symposium for chefs and Ukrainian food culture in Kyiv.
“Marina knows a lot about Ukrainian cuisine and history,” Clark said. “She will help me cook and talk about the history of these dishes over dinner.”
Anelya will be taking over the private dining area at Wherewithall on Fridays and Saturdays from this Friday through December 3rd. Space is limited to 12 guests at a shared table, with five courses per evening. Tickets cost $225 per person.
When guests arrive, they start with Ukrainian aperitifs.
“And hors d’oeuvres, or zakuski, it’s called,” Clark said. “Various fermented pickles, chilled sausages and various snacks.”
On the opening menu, a tomato salad will feature Brynza, like a cross between feta and farmer’s cheese, he said.
“Then we’ll make borscht, but with duck,” said the chef. “There’s a different borscht for every region of Ukraine.” They make one that’s similar to the soup Yakush grew up with in Zaporizhia, but the duck isn’t traditional.
They also offer three different types of varenyky.
“We also do halupki,” Clark said. “Usually it’s stuffed cabbage, but we use Swiss chard with sturgeon and caviar.”
They finish dinner with honey cake.
“It’s graham cracker-esque layers covered in honey cream,” he said. “It’s glazed with the same cream and sits overnight to hydrate into this soft but dense honey cake.”
After dinner, drinks, tea and coffee complete the evening.
Normal operation continues. The private dining room is separated from the main dining room on the same property by a small courtyard.
“It’s going to feel very homey,” Clark said. “Almost like a dining room at home.”
All profits go to BlueCheck Ukraine, a charity network co-founded by actor Liev Schreiber, whose late maternal grandfather, Alex Milgram, was also a Ukrainian immigrant.
The chef was also connected to Schreiber via Instagram and worked closely with the organization to create Anelya.
“If you really want to donate to Ukraine, I think BlueCheck is the best way to do it,” Clark said. “Because it goes straight to the people doing the hard work on the ground.”
He and Kim continue to do their own work in Chicago, with two restaurants, three children, and numerous fundraisers. They also founded The Abundance Setting to support working moms in the culinary industry at the start of the pandemic. The Tribune honored her with a 2021 Critics’ Choice Award for Best New Industry Resource.
“Beverly and I, when we have feelings about something, we want to be able to contribute as best we can,” Clark said. “Our lives are pretty chaotic. Maybe it’s a way to escape the stress of the last three years.”
Anelya at Wherewithall, 3472 N. Elston Ave., 773-692-2192, wherewithallchi.com
Ethiopian chef Tigist Reda, owner of Uptown restaurant Demera, will host Chicago Chefs Cook for Tigray on Wednesday.
Proceeds benefit humanitarian relief efforts, with a focus on women and children in Tigray, Ethiopia, and refugees in Sudan. The Health Professionals Network for Tigray leads disaster relief programs, and Reda founded the nonprofit organization in 2020 to help her hometown during a devastating conflict that has left an estimated 6 million people without access to medical care, adequate nutrition and clean water, and other critical needs Has.
Earlier in March, event organizers raised more than $600,000 at the Chicago Chefs Cook for Ukraine event at Navy Pier.
Tickets are $150 per person for the walking tour at the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture in the Humboldt Park neighborhood.
The impressive roster includes many returning chefs and restaurateurs, ranging from fine dining restaurants like Esmé and GT Prime Steakhouse to award-winning chefs Erick Williams (Daisy’s Po’boy and Virtue), Noah Sandoval (Pizza Friendly Pizza) and Dana Cree (Pretty Cool Ice Cream), Johnny Clark and Beverly Kim (Wherewithall) and Paul Kahan and Greg Wade (Public Quality Bread). Some of the city’s most popular restaurants, from Rose Mary to Avli Taverna, will also be taking part. The full list of participating chefs and restaurants can be found here.
Chicago chefs cook for Tigray, givebutter.com/EXKQu4; National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture, 3015 W. Division St., 773-486-8345, nmprac.org
Locally, chefs at 35 restaurants have partnered with Kitchen Possible for a fundraiser for Empowering Menus featuring select dishes across the city and suburbs.
Katie Lowman founded Kitchen Possible in 2017 to teach kids an empowered mindset through cooking. She has given weekly cooking classes to children aged 8 to 12 in Pilsen, East Garfield Park and Englewood. She’s been joined by chefs and other volunteers, including Darnell Reed of Luella’s Southern Kitchen and, quite frankly, this author.
One of the participating chefs at the fundraiser was Esmé’s Jenner Tomaska, who first taught a recipe to a Kitchen Possible class in 2019. In 2021, he volunteered for an eight-week session to work personally with a team of three children, Lowman said. The chef shows up every Saturday, she added, while opening his first restaurant, which earned a Michelin star in its first year.
Tomaska created a 15-course tasting menu at Esmé inspired and supported by Kitchen Possible, now through October 31st. Each course is linked to one of the life lessons in the class curriculum – for example, getting out of your comfort zone or resourcefulness. They are presented as nostalgic and whimsical experiences involving bendy rainbow straws and school lunches.
Tickets for the Esmé x Kitchen Possible dinners are $235 per person.
Along with a portion of the proceeds from the Esmé dinner, money from each meal sold at the following restaurants will go to Kitchen Possible through the end of September, unless otherwise noted:
All together Now fried goat cheese quark
Avli Flambe Cheese (Saganaki)
Bang bang pie, lime pie
Bar Goa, Lamb Keema
Dough and berries, butter cookies french toast
Big Jones, fried green tomatoes
Birrieria Zaragoza, Quesabirria
Boeufhaus, short rib beignets
Boka, beef tartare
Chef’s Special Cocktail Bar, Whiskey Bird cocktail
Coal fire, pizza margherita
Daisy, “overpriced tomato”
Dear Margaret, Duck liver mousse
Dos Urban Cantina, Chicken Enchilada Dinner
The Duck Inn, duck wings
Esmé, Esmé x KP Tasting Menu (until 31 Oct)
Gaijin, shirokuma kakigori (polar bear shaved ice)
Galit, Gazoz (non-spirited seltzer)
Huge, saffron tagliatelle
HaiSous, bò nướng tỏi (grilled rib eye)
Honey Butter Fried Chicken, Honey Butter Fried Chicken Sandwich
Luella’s Southern Kitchen, Chicken Gumbo
Lula Cafe, Spaghetti Pancetta, Queso Fresco plus sweet and spicy chili salsa rosa
Mi Tocaya Antojería, Steak Burrito
Monteverde, spaghetti al pomodoro
Pan Artesenal, Cookie Monster Concha
Parachute, Haemul Pajeon (seafood pancakes)
Peanut Park Trattoria, Polpette (Beef and Pork Balls)
Rooh, Bengali lamb shank
Scofflaw, steak fries
Segnatore, Freestyle “Lasagna”
Soul & Smoke, pulled pork sandwich
Steingold’s, Uncle Steven Sandwich (pastrami seasoned turkey, bacon and pimento cheese)
Superkhana International, Butter Chicken Calzone
Tempesta Market, The Dante Sandwich
Meal. Watch. Do.
what to eat Something to see. What you need to live your best life…now.
kitchen possible kitchenpossible.org; Esme, 2200 N. Clark St., esmechicago.com
Billy Zureikat, also known as Tripping Billy, will be selling his new TriBilly’s Pizza Bread at TriBecca’s Sandwich Shop in Avondale on Saturday and Sunday until it sells out.
A portion of each sale will be donated to the fundraiser of Zureikat’s Muscular Dystrophy Association, which has raised more than $13,000 since November to help people like him who suffer from muscular dystrophy as well as ALS and other neuromuscular diseases.
Zureikat describes his dish as cafeteria pizza on steroids. It’s focaccia with JP Graziano Giardiniera, topped with homemade pizza sauce, Munster cheese, Italian sausage and more Giardiniera.
Follow the home chef, pizza maker and baker on Instagram to learn more about his ongoing fundraising series for guest chefs at restaurants across the city.
stumble billy, instagram.com/therealbillyz; TriBecca’s Sandwich Shop, 2949 W. Belmont Ave., 773-878-2717, Tribeccas.com
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