The summer music festival season is in full swing, and this weekend Lollapalooza, the mother of all modern-day U.S. music fests, returns to Chicago’s Grant Park for three days, August 3-5. And while the field of multi-day concert extravaganzas grows more crowded each year—this summer alone has already bore witness to several new entries, including Catalpa in New York City, Firefly in Delaware and the Metallica-curated Orion Music + More in New Jersey—Lollapalooza possesses at least one component the others do not: Culinary Director Graham Elliot.
A highly lauded Chicago-based chef, Elliot currently runs three acclaimed and successful metro-area restaurants, including his namesake spot, Graham Elliot. He is also one of the judges standing alongside Gordon Ramsay on the Fox TV competition show MasterChef. As Lollapalooza’s Culinary Director—a position he helped to create three years ago—Elliot serves as an ambassador for some of the city’s finest and most eclectic gastronomic offerings. He and his team handpick the more than two-dozen Chicago-area restaurants and chefs that occupy the booths in Chow Town, the festival’s name for its expansive food court.
“It’s an opportunity to showcase the amazing cooking that’s going on in this city, and also put a really cool spin on festival food,” Elliot says.
Indeed, Chow Town’s selections are hardly standard festival fare: Among this year’s lineup is the Australian Truffle booth, where chef Frank Brunacci, formerly of the restaurant Sixteen in the Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago, will serve such staple foods as macaroni and cheese, corn on the cob and grilled cheese sandwiches, all spiked with the aromatic and highly-prized fungi. Other vendor offerings will include everything from gourmet pizzas, burgers and hot dogs to more exotic cuisine like sushi, tapas and Creole dishes. There will be premium-roasted coffee concoctions and a number of craft beers. A separate farmer’s market will feature artisanal cheeses and organic vegetables, as well as savory desserts from a local food purveyor with very rock-and-roll-sounding name: Puffs of Doom.
At Elliot’s own booth, a team from his sandwich shop, Grahamwich, will serve up creations like his famous lobster corn dog, an item that comes complete with its own lore: At last year’s festival, Eminem was so taken with the crustacean on a stick that he was moved to rave about it in a text message to another performer, the Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl.
Elliot, who has a background as a guitarist and performing musician, also does some of his cooking from behind the stage. In past years he has crafted sit-down meals for many of the festival’s headlining acts, including Jane’s Addiction, Soundgarden and Kings of Leon. Among the headliners he plans to cook for this year are the Black Keys and Sunday night’s closing performer, Jack White.
For more information on Graham Elliot and Chow Town, as well as a complete list of Lollapalooza’s musical acts, visit the festival’s official website.
Richard Bienstock, CBS Local