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Chicago Culinary Awards Ceremony Raises $550,000 to Help Support the Search for a Cure

March 17, 2014

Chicago Grand Chefs Gala

The 17th annual Grand Chefs Gala presented by the Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park raised $550,000 to help support the search for a cure and recognized culinary talent in the Chicagoland area. Photo by Galdones Photography

The Greater Illinois Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation raised $550,000 to help support the search for a cure while recognizing culinary talent in the Chicagoland area at their 17th annual Grand Chefs Gala presented by the Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park.

The Oscars-style, black-tie event was held at the Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park hotel, where 900 guests were invited to taste the signature dishes of some of Chicago’s finest chefs, including Curtis Duffy, Giuseppe Tentori and Fabio Viviani.

Later in the evening, the city’s culinary elite were presented with the Jean Banchet Awards for Culinary Excellence. This year’s event included a special posthumous tribute to Chef Jean Banchet, who made monumental contributions to the culinary world and supported the search for a cure for cystic fibrosis.

Since 2001, the gala has helped raise funds and awareness for cystic fibrosis and remains the only event in Chicago to honor and reward the talents of the local culinary community.

Crossing the Finish Line

The highlight of the evening came when guests watched a heartfelt Bid for a Cure video featuring local children, teens, adults and families affected by the disease.

Greater Illinois Chapter Board President Matt O’Connell’s son, Brady, was among those featured in the film. Brady, 4, was diagnosed with CF as an infant and must take more than 25 different medications and complete more than an hour of CF treatments each day, just to stay healthy.

Matt and Kellene OConnell

Chapter Board President Matt O’Connell and his wife, Kellene, were featured in the night’s Bid for a Cure video. The heartfelt video introduced guests to cystic fibrosis by telling the stories of children, teens and families affected by the disease who live in the Chicagoland area. 


“Twenty years ago, kids with CF were not living past the age of 18, and now nearly half of people with CF are over the age of 18. We’ve made incredible progress,” Matt said. “We’re almost there, but almost doesn’t get you across the finish line. It’s important that we all cross the finish line together. We need your support to get there.”

Colleen Vietengruber, 25, who has CF and was also featured in the video thanked guests in person for their support and urged them to give generously to the CF Foundation’s efforts so that all people with the disease will have a cure.

The Greater Illinois Chapter would like to thank:

Event co-chairs:

  • Jeff & Cidney Golman
  • RV & Sarah Ives

Corporate sponsors

  • Fairmont Hotels & Resorts
  • Newell Rubbermaid
  • Eurest
  • Nielsen Massey Vanillas
  • American Airlines
  • Pagliuco Design Co.
  • LimeGreen
  • Wirtz Beverage Illinois
  • AbbVie
  • Deloitte
  • George & June Block Family Foundation
  • Hollister
  • Jenner & Block
  • Louis Glunz Beer
  • Mesirow Financial
  • Novaspect
  • Tassos
  • Nestle Waters North America
  • Supreme Lobster


  • Doris Banchet
  • American Airlines, Breath of Life recipient
  • Chefs Curtis Duffy and Ryan McCaskey
  • Michael Muser, emcee
  • Nightcap committee co-chair Randell Golman
  • Nightcap committee co-chair David Rekhson



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The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is an accredited charity of the Better Business Bureau.