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Chautauqua’s Week of Food includes a superstar chef—and much more

Presenter Jacques Pepin


It has been nine years since the Chautauqua Institution took up the weighty subject of food and American food culture, and we’re proud to say that former Spree food editor Christa Glennie Seychew is playing an intrinsic role in bringing food back to the Institution's main stage and to tasting tables throughout the CI grounds during the week of August 19–27, which has been dubbed At the Table: Our Changing Relationship with Food.


Seychew has organized an exciting series of lectures, demonstrations, and tastings, including a clambake, a family barbecue, two five-course tasting menus, and a Cuban feast. On the more serious side, there are talks about the philosophy, history, economics, and spirituality of food. Here are some of the highlights:


International food star Jacques Pepin speaks in the amphitheater at 10:45 a.m., August 21. This is a rare opportunity to meet one of America’s most respected food personalities. After surviving a grueling early training (documented in his book, The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen) Pepin crossed the Atlantic in 1959 to work at Manhattan’s iconic Le Pavillon, but left to direct R&D for the Howard Johnson company. He studied literature at Columbia, wrote on food for the New York Times and took part in three PBS cooking shows, two with his daughter Claudine, and one with Julia Child. Pepin is the author of more than twenty cookbooks; he even has a line of whimsical kitchenware. Of everything he has done, Americans are probably most familiar with his warm, humorous, and opinionated presence on his PBS shows. Pepin has a new book out: Heart and Soul in the Kitchen. There will also be two cooking competitions on Monday, as well as demonstrations by visiting chefs from Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Buffalo.


Presenter Michael Ruhlman


Presenter Terry Bryant


Michael Ruhlman is featured in the amphitheater at 10:45, Tuesday, August 22. Ruhlman is known for his book The Making of a Chef as well as for his frequent judging gigs on shows like Cooking Under Fire and The Next Iron Chef. His new book is Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America. Tuesday also features a celebration of Chautaqua area restaurants, wineries, and breweries.


Wine and beer have their day on Thursday, August 23, with a juried show of the best wine and beer from nearby Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania producers. Finally, Friday is Homesteading Day, during which participants can learn food DIY (e.g., making butter, canning pickles), as well as sample fare from farm-to-table restaurants, food artisans, and others. The day ends with a huge clam bake and biergarten featuring James Beard nominee Steve Gedra of The Black Sheep.


There are many more events and activities offered during this entertaining and enlightening week of food immersion. Visit chq.org/foodfestival to learn more.            


Elizabeth Licata is editor of Spree.


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