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Foodie fest: DePaul University experts chew over impact of food on health, wine, culture

Italian food
CHICAGO – From “Travel and Leisure​” to the “Travel Channel​,” Chicago has been named as one of America’s best cities for food and foodies. This September, Chicago will be host to “Chicago Gourmet,” a culinary weekend feast filled with celebrity chefs, food tastings, wine pairings and demonstrations.

DePaul University faculty experts are available to provide insight and commentary on the many different ways food impacts our lives, from filling your belly to filling your soul.

Scholarly experts available for news interviews include:

Judson Todd Allen, professional chef and adjunct professor, Driehaus College of Business. A graduate of the Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, with an MBA from DePaul, Allen now leads a premium cuisine firm that provides customized personal event chef services. As an adjunct professor in DePaul’s School of Hospitality Leadership, he will be teaching a new course called “Contemporary Trends in Cuisine and Culture.” “This course is designed to expose students to Chicago's global food scene and how culture and technology impacts food & beverage and hotel restaurant industries. I am beyond excited about what my students, tourists and even my own palate will experience along the food journey Chicago continuously delivers,” Allen said.

“I get overjoyed when friends, family and even individuals I just meet, ask me where they should dine in Chicago. I always let them know up front that the question is a loaded one and to get ready for a verbal roller coaster. Chicago has something to offer a person with the most finicky taste buds to a total connoisseur. I truly believe this is because of the diversity we have in the city. With the many cultures, from Italian and Puerto Rican, to Indian and African, you pick your desired flavor, head to the "right" neighborhood and get ready to enjoy true authentic global fare. With so much to choose from in Chicago, I find that our diversity in food and culture, creates a huge impact on local dining experiences and tourism as a whole — to be viewed as not only a beautiful place to travel, but as an ultimate culinary destination is priceless,” he said. Allen can be reached at​ or 312-362-6777.

Clara Orban, professor, College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. An expert in French and Italian languages and cultures, Orban is a certified sommelier and teaches a geography class: the World of Wine at DePaul. She has written two books on wine, “Wine Lessons: Ten Questions to Guide Your Appreciation of Wine,” and “Illinois Wines and Wineries: the Essential Guide,” the first guidebook to Illinois’ expanding wine industry. “Both food and wine represent the cultures that produce them,” she said.

“Pairing food and wine enhances foods and brings out the hidden aspects of the wines. Elements in wine such as acids or tannins work with food components such as fats or iron to soften sharp edges. When pairing foods and wines, take into account the sauces or spices used to prepare food since they will react with wines almost more so than the pasta or meat base of the dish. Perhaps most important when serving wines, you should take into consideration your preferences. Wine should be a fun part of a meal shared with friends around a table with good food and conversation. That is the real magic of wine: bringing people together,” said Orban. She can be reached at​ or 773-325-1880.

John Psathas, assistant professor, College of Computing and Digital Media. Psathas is an expert in filmmaking and commercial production, focusing in directing and producing. He is in post-production on the latest DePaul University Project Bluelight grant recipient, “Bernadette,” a feature length coming-of-age comedy set in 1994 and looks at the role food plays in multimedia.

“Food can be an amazing part of an identity, from the macro perspective right on down to the individual. Cultures, diaspora and even cities like Chicago have foods that are distinctive and defining. As people, we have foods that instantly trigger memories and emotions and are woven into the fabric of who we are. Film can have a very similar effect; there are movies that entire generations relate to and remember as part of their lives. In turn, those films become part of a common cultural vocabulary. With today’s technology and social media, we’re constantly adding to this global lexicon as storytellers — our identities, narratives and even our foods are out in the world as part of our voice. How many people do you know that Instagram photos of their daily meals?” said Psathas. He can be reached at​ or 312-362-5863.

Karen Larimer, assistant professor of nursing, College of Science and Health. Larimer is an expert in cardiovascular health and the importance a balanced, nutritious, yet flavorful diet. “Many restaurants now in Chicago focus on farm-to-table; this is popular for many reasons, like a focus on locally sourced ingredients. From a health perspective it’s important because we get the most of the seasonal fruits and vegetables available in Chicago. In the fall, we get the most of the fall harvest and what restaurants might be featuring on their menus,” said Larimer.

“Seasonal produce adds zest and flavor to your meals. Fruits and vegetables that are in season are typically fresher and more flavorful. Once we truly enjoy them then the fact that they are some of the healthiest things we can eat becomes less of a focus. It’s a win-win because fruits and vegetables decrease our hunger for other less healthy food, provide vital nutrients to our body, as well as providing fiber for overall good health.” Larimer can be reached at​ or 773-325-8105.

Howard Rosing, executive director, Steans Center for Community-based Service Learning and Community Service Studies. Rosing is a cultural anthropologist whose research focuses on urban food access, economic restructuring, community food systems, and food justice movements in Chicago and the Dominican Republic. He is co-author, with Daniel R. Block, of the book, "Chicago: A Food Biography.”

"While Chicago does house restaurants that focus on traditional cuisines, such as Jean Joho’s Alsatian Everest and Rick Bayless’s Mexican Topolobampo and Frontera Grill, Chicago fine dining often involves pushing limits and combining tastes as well as capitalizing on the agricultural bounty of the Midwest, which particularly in the winter may involve root vegetables and game. The latter, as we shall see, allows for an ironic reemergence of a seemingly nouveau local cuisine that, unknowingly to most diners, has origins in the pre-European food landscapes of the surrounding Great Lakes region." Rosing can be reached at​ or 773-325-7463.


Media Contact:
Maria Toscano​
(312) 362-7740 ​