BUCKTOWN — Some of the city's top chefs came together Monday night to make specialty hot dogs and raise money for one of their own, restaurant worker Michael Davis, who was brutally beaten with a baseball bat last month after breaking up a Rogers Park bar fight.
The benefit, at the Red Door, 2118 N. Damen Ave., raised thousands of dollars to help pay for Davis' medical bills.
Since the June 17 attack, Davis has been in intensive care at St. Francis Hospital in Evanston, and doctors are still unsure whether he suffered permanent brain damage, his family said.
"The thing that really got us was how horrible his situation was," said Jessy Bolt, who organized the benefit. "He obviously needed a lot of help."
Bolt, 26, recently founded nonprofit UN86'D with friend Nicole Ess. Their goal is to help uninsured restaurant workers in times of need.
Davis is their first beneficiary, but their "goal would be to help hundreds of people a year," Bolt said.
A server at Evanston's Bistro Bordeaux, Davis was the "life of the party," said the restaurant's chef Michael Gottlieb.
"It was like complete devastation," the 30-year-old said, when the news hit that Davis had been attacked while walking less than a block to his home from Rogers Park bar Poitin Stil last month. "How could that happen to such a good guy?"
Gottlieb and four other chefs from nearby restaurants — Bangers & Lace, The Bluebird, Three Aces, Publican Quality Meats — faced off in the hot dog competition.
Each dog was judged by Davis' two brothers and niece Alicia Webb.
Gottlieb topped his creation with foie gras, while Adam Wendt, of Bangers & Lace, smeared his with bacon mayonnaise, sriracha hot sauce and coleslaw.
"It's a tight-knit industry," said Wendt, who didn't know Davis personally. "We're just out here to support."
Joseph Webb, Davis' brother-in-law, said the response from both Monday's fundraiser and another held Saturday night at the Poitin Stil that raised more than $9,000 was overwhelming.
"Unbelievable, man," he said. "I just couldn't believe how many people responded."
Davis' story has attracted citywide interest, and now his closest friends are hoping it will motivate people to take a stand against Chicago violence.
Tami Davis, no relation, dated Michael Davis years ago, but finally reconnected with him a month before the attack.
Now she's helping to run the Michael Davis Life Fund.
So far, the group's online fundraiser has raised more than $18,000.
"I believe in God," Davis said, "and there was a reason we were put back into each other's lives."
While Michael Davis is still in the hospital, he's now breathing on his own through an endotracheal tube. He's gained back some control of his right side, which before he wasn't able to move, said Alicia Webb.
"He tries to talk. When I reached to grab his hand," she said, her uncle pulled her hand close and kissed it.
His younger brother, Anthony Davis, 42, said he's humbled.
"Everybody has really responded from their heart," he said. "I think that's truly, truly awesome. I'm overjoyed."
Davis' older brother, Maynird Davis Jr. agreed.
"That's the one thing that makes me really happy," he said, but "He's got a long road."
Added Anthony Davis: "I can guarantee he's coming out of this. He's a fighter."