CIW Talks Small Business with Mayor, Celebrity Chef and Journalist

Celebrity chef Mario Batali, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Bill Kurtis of CBS fame discuss how to promote small business at Morningstar during Chicago Ideas Week.
More than 50 Chicago Ideas Week (CIW) attendees joined Mayor Rahm Emanuel and celebrity chef Mario Batali for a lively conversation about fostering businesses and communities in the Windy City during a Sunday morning Master Class at Chicago’s Morningstar office Oct. 20.

In an auditorium overlooking skyscrapers in the Loop, Emanuel, Batali and host Bill Kurtis of CBS fame discussed between banters how the city could promote small businesses and neighborhoods. The event was just one of eight intimate, small sessions structured around in-depth discussions with time built in for questions.

Batali, in a pink dress shirt, black vest and Crocs, unveiled details about bringing his famed “little Italian grocery,” Eataly, to the Second City. The 63,000-square-foot market is scheduled to open in River North this fall, complete with eight specialized restaurants and a produce area. The Food Network star said customers can taste a new dish at the fish restaurant, buy the raw ingredients at the store and learn the recipe from the staff.
“It’s like a town,” he said. “Everything that happens inside supports the retail experience.”

With premier food festivals like Chicago Gourmet and cutting-edge restaurants like Alinea, Batali said the city’s vibrant fine-dining scene was a big draw.

“People are willing to roll the dice, try something new,” he said.

Batali’s new venture, which will employ about 600 cooks, is just one example of how businesses create jobs and growth in local communities, Emanuel said. The mayor vowed to help small business by cutting the red tap around licensing and said the city has streamlined its licensing procedure to create a one-stop shop for small businesses with e-transactions and licensing consolidations. It also created micro loans ranging from $15,000 to $20,000 for about 100 businesses.
Ink Factory captures the Master Class highlights in real time.
“This is the type of things we are trying to do to help our neighborhood businesses get up, compete and become a family success story,” Emanuel said.
Besides policies that directly impact businesses, the mayor also outlined steps to enhance Chicago’s renowned neighborhoods. He said the city plans to build archways in neighborhoods to highlight their ethnic and cultural characters. It would also expand free cultural shows such as those put up by CIW Co-op member, Midnight Circus in the Parks, in communities to create foot traffic.
“Once you bring people out to experience something culturally, crime moves out,” Emanuel said.
Batali couldn’t help chiming in.
Just listening to this, how could you not want to do business in this town?” he said.
The pair also shared their personal stories, including a mutual love for a liberal arts education. Before devoting his life to the culinary arts, Batali graduated Rutgers University with degrees in Spanish Theater of the Golden Age and Finance Theory. Though neither impacts his daily operations, the chef said it allows him to have valuable conversations with a variety of people.
And Emanuel said he cherished studying epistemology and child psychology during his college years.
“The child psychology got handy in dealing with legislators,” the former White House chief of staff joked.
But more importantly, he said it allowed him to pursue his passions freely.
“Having a passion for what you do makes it not a job, but a vocation,” he said. “And that is essential because you bring something to it that other people don’t.”
Though the hour-long exchange slipped by fast, many attendees lingered in the nearby cafeteria to continue the conversation.
Dale Gardner, a 47-year-old Lombard resident who attended the Master Class, said he gained a big picture of happenings in the city.
 “Just how the city really truly is expanding its culture, small business – and I never quite connected them to the safety respect,” he said. “It really did let me see what the city is doing to better itself.”

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Written by: Jia You
Photography by: Jia You


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