Chefs cook up an alternative to pricey gala

The People's Party 

Chefs cook up an alternative to pricey gala

Dante Boccuzzi, Karen Small, Steve Schimoler, and countless other Cleveland chefs learned about the West Side Market's Centennial Gala the same way everybody else did: namely, by reading about it in Scene and The Plain Dealer. The bash, to be held on Saturday, November 3, is a star-studded event that features as much out-of-town talent as it does local.

Co-chairing the lineup are Cleveland's Michael Symon and Jonathon Sawyer. They'll be joined by a handful of other local chefs — including Rocco Whalen, Paul Minnillo, and Eric Williams — along with culinary out-of-towners like April Bloomfield (NYC's Spotted Pig), Paul Kahan (Chicago's Black Bird), and Jeff Michaud (Philadelphia's Osteria).

Naturally, there were plenty of hurt feelings, from both chefs and residents hoping to take part in the momentous celebration.

"We received a lot of calls from people who want to be involved," explains Crop Bistro chef and owner Schimoler. "People were asking, 'Where are the local chefs? Why is the event highlighting a bunch of out-of-town celebrity chefs?'"

And then there's the price tag: At $250 a ticket, most West Side Market shoppers likely will be priced out of the fun. One Scene reader posted this comment after reading the article: "It sucks that the average Clevelander can't even go to this. We are the reason the Market has lasted 100 years."

In response, Eric Wobser, executive director of Ohio City Inc. stresses that the Gala is just "one event in part of a year-long celebration that includes a 30,000-person street festival. It was specifically intended to make the Centennial open and accessible to the public."

Nonetheless, a recent meeting of the minds gave rise to the idea of throwing another, more inclusive bash. To be held Friday, November 2 (the official 100th birthday of the West Side Market), the "People's Party" will feature any and all chefs who want to participate.

"The tagline for the West Side Market is 'It's the people's market,' says Sam McNulty, owner of several Ohio City restaurants. "It is literally owned by the people of Cleveland. So we thought, let's do something for the people of Cleveland to come and support the market."

The party will run from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. at Crop ­— both upstairs in the main dining room and downstairs in the vault. Schimoler and the planning team are shooting for 1,000 guests. The informal potluck-style affair will cost just $25 and feature foods prepared by approximately 50 chefs and restaurants. Live music, silent auctions, and a cash bar will flush out the event.

"This isn't meant to be like high school where, when you aren't invited to the cool kids' party, you throw your own," says McNulty.

Adds Schimoler, "There is so much positive energy in the city surrounding the food scene. This is a great way to celebrate one of the most unique assets a city can have, which is the f-ing West Side Market!"

"I think both parties are going to be good for the city, just in different ways," says McNulty. "But ours will be funner and louder."

Tickets will be available at clevelandfoodrocks.com.

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