A successful one-night collaboration between two of Chicago’s busiest restaurants, Andros Taverna and Kasama, will bring together Greek and Filipino flavors to benefit charity. The two restaurants, both owned by married couples, will create a special menu next month to benefit Vibrant Emotional Health and its suicide prevention efforts.
The dinner is the organization’s primary fundraiser, and a fall 2021 event raised $50,000 at Michelin-starred Oriole. Organizers are hoping to raise $100,000 for this year’s event, scheduled for Monday, May 2 at Andros Taverna in Logan Square. Tickets for this decadent event are $350 per person.
The team at Kasama, an Eater Best New Restaurant – an all-day cafe that’s part French bakery and modern Filipino restaurant – have found refuge at Andros Taverna. Genie Kwon says they hung out at the restaurant on Mondays and Tuesdays, which is their weekend. This is how Kwon and her husband Tim Flores were introduced to running Andros Taverna. Hsing Chen, like Kwon, is a pastry chef with experience in Michelin-starred restaurants (Chen worked at French Laundry in Napa Valley California, Kwon worked at Oriole and Eleven Madison Park in New York). Beyond dinner, the two are selling a limited-edition baking box filled with their sweet delicacies. Event organizer Rebecca Friedlander describes it as the perfect pick-me-up for the day after the extravagant dinner party, called Pause for the Cause.
“It’s kind of funny, Kasama is our breakfast headquarters,” says Andros Taverna chef Doug Psaltis. “Andros has become Kasama’s late night diner and the place to go at night.”
The ties run even deeper as veteran sommelier Aaron McManus works at Oriole, where Kwon and Flores worked before opening Kasama. McManus, who will be offering his wine pairing skills for the event, consulted Kasama’s wine program. He is also Friedlander’s partner.
Mental health is an important topic in the world of hospitality, as it is a stressful public-oriented job and many workers lack health care resources. most restaurants do not offer insurance coverage. Vibrant offers crisis hotlines and other wellness resources. The nonprofit, which has been around for more than five decades, started out in the Empire State as the Mental Health Association of New York City, Friedlander says it began to take a closer look at the problem in restaurant industry after Anthony Bourdain’s death in 2018: “People related to him, he was raw, unrelenting, engaging and passionate – all those qualities in people we look up to,” she says.
Without much time to plan, the first iteration of the event, held in New York City, raised $20,000. This kind of money can help staff a suicide prevention call center with an extra employee. Friedlander also felt the impact when a friend committed suicide the month before Bourdain’s death.
COVID conditions made clear the need for better resources for Psaltis who reflected on the stressful times of his working life at restaurants in Europe, seeing staff turn up on three-month contracts: “The cooks were nervous wrecks he says.
Friedlander returns to March 2020 when Governor JB Pritzker suspended indoor dining to slow the spread of COVID. Restaurant workers began to lose their livelihoods and their hopes. No one should be surprised to see a slight increase in depression.
The mentality was to take on challenges without giving mind and body a chance to recover. Psaltis says there has been a shift from hiding feelings to creating a more open environment that encourages sharing, and that’s a positive starting point for addressing mental health issues.
Friedlander hopes the May dinner will bring enough success to be able to plan two dinners a year. She also hopes other cities will copy Chicago’s model and hold their own events. For Chicagoans, a one-of-a-kind dinner like this doesn’t happen often, so don’t sleep on tickets.
Take a break for the cause collaboration dinner with Kasama and Andros Taverna at Andros Taverna, 2542 N. Milwaukee Avenue, tickets are $350 per person and available through Tock.