Dante Boccuzzi, Karen Small, Steve Schimoler and countless other Cleveland chefs learned about the West Side Market's Centennial Gala the same way everybody else did: namely, by reading about it Scene and the Plain Dealer. The bash, to be held on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012, is a star-studded event that features as much out-of-town talent as it does local.
The line-up stars co-chairs Michael Symon and Jonathon Sawyer, culinary celebs like April Bloomfield, Paul Kahan and Andrew Zimmern, as well as a handful of other Cleveland chefs.
Naturally, there were plenty of hurt feelings, from both chefs and residents hoping to take part in the momentous celebration.
"We received a lot of calls from people who want to be involved," explains Crop Bistro chef and owner Schimoler. "People were asking, 'Where are the local chefs? Why is the event highlighting a bunch of out-of-town celebrity chefs?'"
And then there's the price tag: At $250 a ticket, most West Side Market shoppers likely will be priced out of the fun. One Scene reader posted this comment after reading the article: "It sucks that the average Clevelander can't even go to this. We are the reason the Market has lasted 100 years."
"A lot of people felt that the $250 price tag is too high a barrier for entry," agrees Sam McNulty, owner of multiple Ohio City businesses. He also alluded to the notable absence of neighborhood talent like Karen Small, whom he describes as an "Ohio City pioneer working in the shadow of the market tower" for 13 years.
So, there was a meeting of the minds, and out of that meeting came the idea to throw another, more inclusive bash. To be held Friday, November 2 (the official 100th birthday of the West Side Market), the "People's Party" will feature any and all chefs who want to participate.
"The tagline for the West Side Market is 'It's the people's market,' says McNulty. "It is literally owned by the people of Cleveland. So we thought, let's do something for the people of Cleveland to come and support the market."
The party will run from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. at Crop — both upstairs in the main dining room and downstairs in the vault. Schimoler and the planning team are shooting for 1,000 guests. The informal potluck-style affair will cost just $25 and feature foods prepared by approximately 50 chefs and restaurants. Live music, silent auctions and a cash bar will flush out the event.
"This isn't meant to be like high school, where when you aren't invited to the cool kids' party you throw your own," explains McNulty.
Adds Schimoler, "There is so much positive energy in the city surrounding the food scene. This is a great way to celebrate one of the most unique assets a city can have, which is the f-ing West Side Market!"
"I think both parties are going to be good for the city, just in different ways," says McNulty. "But ours will be funner and louder."
Tickets can be purchased here.
In response to the above-published article, Eric Wobser, Executive Director of Ohio City Inc. stressed that the Gala was just "one event in part of a year-long celebration that includes a 30,000-person street festival. It was specifically intended to make the Centennial open and accessible to the public."