Restaurants ready to set table for G8 summit

February 27, 2012 3:49:00 PM PST
If G8 and NATO are bringing the world to Chicago, then Chicago had best set the table.

"What better way to show the diversity of Chicago to the world than through restaurants," said Dirk Flannigan, executive chef at Henri.

For the month of May, the Illinois Restaurant Association is aiming to drum up enthusiasm for dining out, with an international flavor, all in keeping with the city finding itself on the global stage for the back-to-back summits the third weekend of that month.

While the intent is to give Chicago foodies a taste of the world, the Culinary Crossroads program is also meant to cater to foreign delegations, and most notably, 3,000 journalists from around the world who are covering the summits and the city doing the hosting

"We all know what happens when they go home," said Illinois Restaurant Association's Sheila O'Grady. "They're going to be writing about that experience."

All of which plays into the plan for both real and intangible benefit from hosting the summits. The planners say world attention, over the longer term, will boost the needle of global interest meaning more international visitors.

"And that translates into huge dollars, huge dollars if you can move that a little," said G8/NATO host committee executive director Lori Healey.

One preliminary study suggests a minimal $8 million boost to the local economy from the summits, but that estimate, the host committee boss says, is very conservative, and that more full-blown analyses of both short- and long-term benefits are underway now.

Despite the disruptions and threat of violence, G8 Researcher John Kirton says hosting a summit is like hosting the Super Bowl of world geo-politics.

"If you can have a 30-second clip telling the story of Chicago to a genuine global audience, how much would that be worth?" Kirton asked.