Student performances and Top Chef stations were the main attractions at "A Taste for the Arts" benefiting the Chicago Academy of the Arts. More than 350 attended the free performances by students and alumni May 10 at the Harris Theater. The show opened and closed with the CAA Repertory Dance Company choreographed by Randy Duncan, CAA artistic director. Soloist Eleri Ward sang "Shy" from "Once Upon a Mattress"; alumna/soprano Jessica Oliver sang a piece from Verdi's "La Forza del Destino"; and classical pianist Su Jin Kang played Chopin. Rock band Semi Precious Weapons, featuring alumnus/frontman Justin Tranter, performed a high-energy number that had the crowd on its feet.
Pamela Jordan, head of school, welcomed the crowd. Following the Harris Theater performances, guests moved to the Millennium Park Rooftop Terrace where Chef Rick Bayless (an event host with wife Deann, Donna LaPietra and Bill Kurtis) had assembled a culinary team who had all been featured on Bravo TV's "Top Chef." It included chefs Sarah Grueneberg, Tony Mantuano, Stephanie Izard, Chris Jones, Richie Farina, Dale Levitski, Amanda Rockman, Heather Terhune and Takashi Yagihashi. Food station highlights included goat empanadas, zucchini cakes and Baha yellowtail with coconut sauce. Bayless enthused, "You will not see a group of this caliber together in one place, for one night, anywhere else in Chicago!"
The Chicago Academy for the Arts was designated a National School of Distinction by theJohn F. KennedyCenter for the Performing Arts. It remains one of the only independent arts high schools in Illinois.
Freelance writer Candace Jordan is involved with many local organizations, including some whose events she covers.