‘Taste of Michiana’ offers culinary experience

Published 9:51 am Thursday, April 24, 2014


Chef Bela Szalay, head chef at Life Treatment Centers, is organizing the Taste of Michiana for the third year running. (Submitted photo)

SOUTH BEND — “If folks are wondering what Weiss Gasthaus tastes like, or what Javier’s Bistro tastes like, or if they’re thinking, ‘I’d like to try that wine,’ that’s what Taste of Michiana is all about,” said Chef Bela Szalay, organizer of the upcoming event and head chef at Life Treatment Centers.

On April 30, the regional culinary event, co-sponsored by Collins & Company, will be returning to the Great Hall of South Bend’s Century Center, located at 120 S. St. Joseph St., for its 24th year. Taking place from 5 to 8 p.m., the event is perfectly timed over the dinner hour.

“We have over 30 restaurants and wineries that will be there. Lemon Creek Winery, Journeyman Distillery, and Baroda Founders Wine Cellar will be representing Michigan’s wines and spirits. Local restaurants include Linden Grill, Villa Macri, and Baker’s,” Chef Bela said. “If you want to taste what these places are like, this is the place to be.”

Other eateries and pubs that will be represented include Tony Sacco’s of Granger, C.J.’s Pub, Swan Lake Resort, Bruno’s Pizza, O’Rourke’s Public House, Between the Buns and Curve Café, just to name a few.

“There will be over 100 different kinds of foods,” Chef Bela said. “The people at Smith’s Downtown Tap and Grill are bringing all kinds of things, including five different kinds of sandwiches, as well as a lot of other things people will love.”

Szalay encourages families to come to the event for dinner as there will be special offerings that will appeal specifically to the children in attendance.

“It’s a family-friendly event,” Chef Bela said. “We’ll have soft pretzels from Ben’s, and the South Bend Chocolate Company is bringing a four-foot chocolate fountain with fruit and marshmallows and all sorts of other things to dip in the chocolate.”

Chef Bela also views the Taste of Michiana as a perfect occasion for trying a variety of locally-produced wines, beer, and spirits.

“It’s a really nice event for southwest Michigan to show off their wines,” Chef Bela said.

While Chef Bela has been involved in the Taste of Michiana for many years, this will be his third year organizing it.

“I’ve always helped out, but then, three years ago, the people who were organizing it pulled out, and I wanted to see it happen,” Szalay said. “So I put it together in just 5 weeks. It usually takes about 3 months to set everything up.”

One reason that Chef Bela stepped up to the plate is that the event benefits a cause that is very dear to his heart: Life Treatment Centers.

“All of the proceeds go to benefit Life Treatment Centers. That agency is the benefactor of the event,” Chef Bela explained. “The proceeds will specifically go to Jane’s House and Kernan’s Heroes. They are both a part of Life Treatment Centers.”

Named after St. Joseph Superior Court Judge Jane Woodward Miller, Jane’s House is a residential treatment center dedicated to assisting women with substance abuse problems. Kernan’s Heroes, on the other hand, is a program designed to assist veterans navigate various challenges, and it is named after former Indiana lieutenant governor Joe Kernan.

Tickets for the event can be purchased at the door, and they include all food, wine, beer and soft drinks. They cost $25 for adults, $10 for children ages 6 to 16, and admission for children age 5 and under is free. More information can be found on the Taste of Michiana Facebook page.