Nourishing the links between land and table

Food for Thought Festival History


Chef Showdown - Harvest Madness! Three chefs choose their fresh veggie ingredients and competed to win the best veggie-centric dish! Joey Dunscombe (Weary Traveler Freehouse), Kristy Schwinn (Marigold Kitchen) and Gil Altschul (Grampa's Pizzeria) competed, and Chef Kristy emerged the victor!

Highlights: Along with the Chef Showdown, this year's Thought Tent included presentations on healthy, cost-friendly smoothie making from Willy Street Co-op, healthy soils from Purple Cow Organics, local food preservation from The Creative Vegetable Gardener and, and an important discussion of food justice and community-based food systems in Chicago.


Grilled Cheese Chef Showdown: Three chefs battled to create the best Grilled Cheese Specialty plate with fresh farmers' market ingredients and a selection of mystery cheeses! Jorn Jerabek (Fresco), Patrick DePula (Salvatore's Tomato Pies), and Jesse Matz (Bunky's) entered the showdown, and Chef Matz emerged the victor.

Highlights: This year's festival featured an amazing selection of presentations and workshops, including a panel of dairy experts celebrating local, sustainable dairy farmers, a group of local chefs talking about the importance of using local products, and skill-sharing lessons in topics like homemade kombucha, backyard composting, homebrewing, beekeeping, and more!


First Ever Food Camp: Food Camp offers a unique approach for festival goers to learn about a range of food-related topics straight from fellow members of the community. Interactive presentations run throughout the day.

Local Food Chef Showdown: The Wisconsin Local Foods Journal played host to a fierce competition as local chefs AJ Hurst (Vintage Brewing), Matt Pace (Monty’s Blue Plate) and Shawn Rediske (Water House) competed to create a dish on the spot from fresh Dane County Farmers’ Market ingredients. In the end, Chef Matt Pace came out victorious.


Guest Gardener: Community GroundWorks, a local nonprofit organization that connects people to nature and local food, hosted an organic garden exhibit where they demonstrated techniques for growing a successful garden without the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

Highlights: On-site chile-roasting, Heartland Farm Sanctuary farm animal petting area, and a workshop on apples that included a tasting and instructions on how to make your own cider press.


Keynote speaker: "Renegade Lunch Lady" Chef Ann Cooper. Chef Ann has worked tirelessly to replace the highly-processed, nutritionally-deficient food products that are widely used in America's school cafeterias with fresh, healthy and delicious choices. She is the author of the critically acclaimed book, Lunch Lessons: Changing The Way We Feed Our Children.

School Lunch Showdown Winners:  Kegonsa Elementary principal Fred Trotter and chef Leah Caplan of Metcalfe's Market won first place with a meal of fresh produce, gourmet kebabs and a mini-pumpkin pie baked inside a tiny pumpkin shell.


Keynote speaker: Michael Pollan, food journalist and author of In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. His previous book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, was named one of the ten best books of 2006 by the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Food for Thought Writing Contest Winners:We Eat the First Tomato by Sarah Busse (Poetry); Comfort Food by Sarah Brooks (Memoir); Untitled by Guy Thorvaldsen (Memoir); Renegade Roosters by Julie Loeffler (Short, Short Fiction)


Keynote speaker: Michael Ableman, founder of the Center for Urban Agriculture at Fairview Gardens, based in southern California, where he farmed from 1981 to 2001.

Guest Chef: David Swanson, Chef-Owner, Braise on the Go Traveling Culinary School and Braise Restaurant

Guest Farmer: Kay Jensen, co-owner of JenEhr Family Farm, a 110-acre organic farm where they raise organic fruits and vegetables, operate five hoophouses and raise several thousand pastured poultry and heritage turkeys each year.

Recipe Contest Grand Prize Winner: Beet and Kohlrabi Latkes with Horseradish Sour Cream


Keynote Speaker: Dan Barber, Chef and co-owner of Blue Hill in New York City and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico, NY; and Creative Director of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture

Panelist: Leah Caplan, chef and co-proprietor of The Washington Hotel, Restaurant & Culinary School

Recipe Contest Grand Prize Winner: Kale Crisps


Keynote Speaker: Anna Lappé, leads the Cambridge-based Small Planet Institute, a collaborative network for research and popular education.

Guest Chef: Mollie Katzen, author and food/nutrition/cultural history scholar best known as the author of the Moosewood Cookbook and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest.

Recipe Contest Grand Prize Winner: Summer Sprout Salad "Inspired by Troy Community Farm"


Keynote Speaker: Joan Dye Gussow, author of This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader.

Guest Chef: Odessa Piper, founder of Madison's L'Etoile Restaurant and 2001 recipient of the prestigious James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef - Midwest.

Recipe Contest Grand Prize Winner: Summer Pea Soup


Keynote Speaker: Eliot Coleman, renowned organic farmer and author of Four Season Harvest and The Winter Harvest Manual

Guest Restaurateur: Tod Murphy of the Farmers Diner™

Guest: Barbara Damrosch, Food and Garden Writer, co-owner of the Four Season Farm

Recipe Contest Grand Prize Winner: Green Tomato Mince Spice Bars with Brandy Glaze


Keynote Speaker: Gary Nabhan, Center for Sustainable Environments at Northern Arizona University and author of Coming Home to Eat: The Sensual Pleasures and Global Politics of Local Foods

Guest Chef: Lucia Watson, owner and chef at Lucia's Restaurant and Wine Bar- Minneapolis, MN and author of Savoring the Seasons of the Northern Heartland

Forum Panelist: Barbara Perkins of Vermont Valley Community Farm in Blue Mounds, WI

Recipe Contest Grand Prize Winner: Cheesehead Chawanmushi


Keynote Speaker: Alice Waters, executive chef and owner of Chez Panisse (Berkeley, CA) and "Edible Schoolyard" pioneer

Forum Panelists: Jean Feraca, public talk radio journalist and Mark Voss, teacher and organic farmer


Keynote Speaker: Ruth Ozeki, award-winning filmmaker and novelist, author of the popular novel My Year of Meats

Guest Chef: Rick Bayless, owner of Frontera Grill and host of the PBS series Mexico: One Plate at a Time

Recipe Contest Grand Prize Winner: Round Point Inn Tomato Salad


Keynote Speaker: Frances Moore Lappe, world food and hunger expert and author of Diet for a Small Planet

Guest Farmer: Joseph (José) Bové, French farmer and member of the alter-globalization movement most well known for destroying a McDonalds in protest of U.S. trade policy

Recipe Contest Grand Prize Winner: Fruit Salsa & Cinnamon Chips


Keynote Speaker: Kathleen Falk, Dane County Executive

Guest Chefs: Deborah Madison, cookbook author and local-food advocate and Odessa Piper, founder of Madison's L'Etoile Restaurant and 2001 recipient of the prestigious James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef - Midwest.


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