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Credit: Courtesy of Choose Chicago

Celebrate the city’s vibrant culinary community at the popular kick-off to the 17th Annual Chicago Restaurant Week

CHICAGO – December 6, 2023 – Choose Chicago, the city’s official destination marketing organization, announced tickets are now on sale for First Bites Bash, the celebratory kick-off event for the 17th annual Chicago Restaurant Week. In keeping with annual tradition, the event will be held Thursday, January 18, 2024 at Chicago’s Field Museum from 6 to 9 p.m.

“Chicagoans love First Bites Bash,” said Lynn Osmond, Choose Chicago President and CEO. “It is a signature celebration championing Chicago’s leading role as a culinary destination. The breadth of cuisines and neighborhoods represented on this special night and throughout Restaurant Week provide an unparalleled opportunity to make memorable dining part of a Chicago experience you can’t find anywhere else in the world.” 

Beloved, award-winning Chicago Chef Dominique Leach of Lexington Betty Smokehouse – located in Chicago’s historic Pullman neighborhood – steps into the spotlight, serving as the Host Chef for the star-studded party. Guests will have the opportunity to experience exclusive tasting portions from more than 50 restaurants showcasing their respective Chicago Restaurant Week menus, as well as wine, beer, spirits, entertainment and more.

“I am honored to serve as the 2023 host chef for First Bites Bash,” said Chef Leach. “This event provides such a unique opportunity for Chicagoans to meet some of the most talented chefs in the city and to preview some of the things they’ll experience during Chicago Restaurant Week. My team and I are also passionate about the cause it supports, which bolsters education for our youth – our next generation of leaders.”

Choose Chicago is pleased to continue its longstanding support of local organizations by donating a portion of the proceeds from First Bites Bash. In 2024, a donation will be made to Pilot Light, a Chicago-based nonprofit that partners with teachers to integrate food education into learning. The group’s mission is to support students as they learn and advocate for informed choices by bridging the lessons they learn in their classrooms to the foods on their lunch trays, at home and in their communities. Since its inception in 2010, more than 20,000+ students have engaged in Pilot Light food education lessons; 250+ teachers have received Pilot Light professional development and training; more than 2900 food education lessons have been downloaded from the organization’s Food Education Center; and more than 200 food education lessons have been written by teachers for teachers.

“We are honored and grateful to be selected as the First Bites Bash beneficiary for 2024 ,” said Alex DeSorbo-Quinn, Executive Director, Pilot Light. “Thank you to Chef Dominique and Choose Chicago for your commitment to our mission of food education!”

A donation will also be made to the James Beard Foundation. “On behalf of the James Beard Foundation, I extend our gratitude to Choose Chicago and the First Bites Bash for their generous contribution to our 

scholarship program,” said Kris Moon, President and COO, James Beard Foundation. “This partnership reflects our shared vision of investing in the next generation of culinary leaders — and that the transformative power of a culinary education is accessible to all, regardless of background or circumstance. Thank you to Choose Chicago for being a valuable partner in our journey towards a more inclusive and equitable industry.”

Participating restaurants in First Bites Bash include both longtime Chicago Restaurant Week participants and newcomers alike representing Chicago’s vibrant communities. The complete list of First Bites Bash participants is available here. To date, Chicago Restaurant Week 2024 showcases 364 participating restaurants, including 49 first-time participants representing 31 distinct neighborhoods and 41 suburban locales. Fifty-four restaurants include minority and/or women-owned businesses. These numbers continue to climb, with new participants coming aboard daily. 

A limited number of Flash Sale tickets are now available for $115 per person at until tickets in that category run out. Limited Early Bird tickets will then go on sale for $130 per person, and then General Admission tickets to First Bites Bash will become available for $150 per person until event capacity is reached or until 12:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 18, 2024.

First Bites Bash 2024 is generously sponsored by 97.1 The Drive, Chicago’s Classic Rock, The New 100.3, SHE Loves the ‘90s & 2000s, 101.9 THE MIX, Today’s Variety, Acqua Panna®, Hubbard Inn, the James Beard Foundation, Pepsi, Ritual Zero Proof, S.Pellegrino®, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits and Tock. 

Chicago Restaurant Week, taking place January 19 – February 4, 2024, offers visitors and local foodies a meaningful opportunity to experience some of the area’s most sought-after restaurants. For 17 consecutive, dining-packed days, participating dining establishments will showcase specially curated prix fixe menus with prices set at $25 for brunch and lunch and $42 and/or $59 for dinner (excluding beverages, tax, gratuity). Lending an ideal reason to explore Chicago’s nationally lauded culinary scene, diners can experience new, showstopping restaurants and familiar favorites alike throughout the city’s vibrant communities. on Wednesday, December 13 to view participating restaurants, menus and make reservations online.

Enthusiasts are encouraged to follow @ChooseChicago on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter. Get social using #FirstBitesBash and #ChicagoRestaurantWeek.

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About Choose Chicago

Choose Chicago is the official sales and marketing organization responsible for promoting Chicago as a global visitor and meetings destination, leveraging the city’s unmatched assets to ensure the economic vitality of the city, its residents and our partner business community. Follow @choosechicago on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, and X/Twitter and tag #ChicaGOandKNOW. For more information, visit

About Chef Dominique Leach

Known as one of the most exciting BBQ chefs in her hometown of Chicago, IL, Dominique Leach is a classically trained chef turned nationally recognized pitmaster. First garnering culinary experience in some of the most prestigious kitchens in Chicago under the direction of chef icons such as James Beard award-winning owner/chef Tony Mantuano and Executive Chef Sarah Grueneberg (Monteverde) at MICHELIN starred Italian restaurant Spiaggia, as well as with award-winning author and chef Raghavan Lyer at The Art Institute Museum, Leach then branched out with her wife Tanisha in 2016 to create her own catering company “Cater to You Events & Drop Offs”. Inspired by fond childhood memories of her grandmother, Betty King of Lexington, Mississippi, who filled the house with flavorful aromas of home-cooked meals, Dominique then took those aromas and applied technique to launch a successful food truck, Lexington Betty Smoke House. Her expertise and soulful food would earn her a spot on The Food Network’s show CHOPPED and as a judge/contestant on Food Network Canada FIRE MASTERS, recognition as the “Best Barbecue in Chicago” by Good Morning America, as well as a full brick-and-mortar home for Lexington Betty on the South Side of Chicago following a pilot project to help promote black-owned businesses in the region. Chef Leach and her wife’s hard work and persistence in a male-dominated industry have helped them to carve out a name for themselves in the culinary world in Chicago and beyond. Visit

About Pilot Light

Pilot Light is a Chicago chef-founded Food Education nonprofit that partners directly with educators across the country who integrate food into everyday classroom learning.By making food relevant, exciting, and meaningful to PreK-12 students during the school day, Pilot Light empowers them to become informed and active members of the food system. Learn more and get involved at, and follow @pilotlightchefs on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Discover how to bring Food Education to your classroom by browsing our free lesson plan library in our Food Education Center

About the James Beard Foundation 

The James Beard Foundation (JBF) is the nation’s leading culinary nonprofit dedicated to celebrating, elevating, and supporting the people behind America’s food culture, while pushing for new standards in the restaurant industry where all have the opportunity to thrive. Guided by a mantra of Good Food for Good®, JBF is committed to supporting a resilient and flourishing independent restaurant industry anchored in talent, equity, and sustainability. The Foundation’s impact work comes to life through the annual James Beard Awards, industry and community-focused programs, advocacy initiatives, partnership, and events across the country—including our new Platform by JBF space at Pier 57 in New York City. Learn more at, sign up for our newsletter, and follow @beardfoundation on social media.