Madison’s meat mavens cooking vegan food? Why would they want to do that?
The “why” gets to the heart of Chef Week, the flagship event of the Madison Area Chefs Network (MACN), which takes place this year March 5-12. “More chefs are working together on events and pushing each other’s creativity further,” says MACN founding member chef Tory Miller.
On March 8 at at the Green Owl Cafe, Madison’s only strictly vegetarian restaurant, new MACN member chef Jennie Capellaro will be joined by what Miller calls three of Madison’s “meatiest dudes,” chefs Daniel Bonanno of A Pig in a Fur Coat, Dan Fox of Heritage Tavern and Jonny Hunter of Underground Food Collective — all masters of cooked and cured meats.
Together they’ll prepare a five-course vegan meal. Miller is excited for Madison-area vegans and vegetarians to have a tasting menu experience (meat eaters are welcome, too).
As for Capellaro, “I love the Green Owl and we have great food, but it’s not fine dining,” she says. “I’m excited to see if we can rise to the challenge.” Tickets ($75, wine pairing +$25) are available on the Green Owl Cafe website.
Chef Week is smaller this year than the last two years — but fewer events means less competition and overlap. The 15 events will feature over 30 chefs. Other newcomers besides the Green Owl are Dough Baby Bakery and Lucille.
The week kicks off on March 5 with a fundraiser at L’Etoile and Graze for the Double Dollars program, which allows FoodShare recipients to match their FoodShare dollars up to $25 at local farmers’ markets. A ticket includes beer from One Barrel Brewing Co. and small plates from Grampa’s Pizzeria, Dough Baby Bakery, Heritage Tavern, Banzo, Estrellón, Sushi Muramoto and more. Tickets ($65) and more information are available on the L’Etoile website.
There will be more boundary-breaking dinners. Fans of cooking competition shows will recognize the format of the Kosher Chopped event at UW Hillel, on March 6. Chef Jason Kierce of Adamah Neighborhood Table, the kosher restaurant located in Hillel, has invited Laila Borokhim of Layla’s, Gilbert Altschul of Grampa’s Pizzeria and Porter, and Nick Johnson (the James Beard award-nominated chef formerly of Restaurant Magnus and more recently 1847 at the Stamm House) to face off in a Chopped-style competition where each course will include a mystery box of ingredients and all recipes will be prepared following strict kosher guidelines. The winner claims bragging rights and a trophy.
Kierce, who isn’t Jewish, had to learn all of the rules from a 275-page book describing how to cook kosher when he took the job as head chef at Adamah, and now he wants to put his fellow cooks to the test. “We have remarkable chefs here in Madison,” Kierce says. “But can they perform the way I have to every day?” Tickets are available on the UW Hillel website.
There will be twin tropical takeovers — one by the staff of Lucille at the newly reopened Ohio Tavern and one by the Ohio Tavern folks at Lucille.
In addition, there will be a casual Southern-inspired meal at L’Etoile, which will get rid of the white tablecloths and take on a food hall vibe for the night; a luau with a Hawaiian menu (including poke and poi) at Madison Sourdough Company from Laila Borokhim and Molly Maciejewski of Madison Sourdough; a late-night barbecue at Heritage Tavern; and a bagel sandwich contest (customers purchasing a sandwich are eligible to vote) at Gotham Bagels with chefs from Salvatore’s Tomato Pies, A Pig in a Fur Coat, Grampa’s Pizzeria, Heritage Tavern and Deja Food Group.
Patrick Sweeney, co-owner of participating restaurants Merchant and Lucille, says the week is all about celebrating good food and drink and having fun. “We’re all doing serious food, and we care deeply about our craft, but at the end of the day it’s all a celebratory offering,” Sweeney says.
See the MACN website, madisonchefs.com, for details on all Chef Week events.