Chef Series

Events will be hosted in our new Culinary Arts demonstration kitchen, located at the Truax campus in Madison, Wisconsin. The Chef Series is free to Madison College Culinary students, $5 for Madison College students and $35 for non-students. 

Kyle CherekDon't miss these exciting talks and culinary presentations for the 2019-20 Madison College Chef Series, presented by The Vollrath Company and hosted by Kyle Cherek - culinary historian, food essayist, and 11 year host of the Emmy Award-winning television show Wisconsin Foodie on PBS. For over a decade, Kyle has chronicled regional food stories, exploring where our food comes from and how it shapes who we are.
  1. Zach Engel - Galit - February 26
    Wednesday, February 26
    5-8 p.m.

    Truax Campus - Diane's Dinner (B1285) 

    Zach Engel

    Zachary Engel is the Executive Chef and Owner of Middle Eastern restaurant, Galit, which debuted in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood in April 2019. Previously, Zach was the Chef de Cuisine at Shaya Restaurant in New Orleans, where he led a talented team to take home the 2016 James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant, a culminating triumph at the end of a year of many “Best New” accolades. In 2017, he followed with winning the James Beard Award for Rising Star Chef of the Year.  

    Since opening Galit, Engel’s cuisine has garnered praise from respected outlets like Food & Wine, People Magazine, and Forbes. His ability to bring forward delicious Middle Eastern flavors using local and seasonal ingredients has led the restaurant to remain at the top of Chicago’s culinary hit lists. Galit also received a glowing review from Chicago Tribune food critic Phil Vettel, calling Galit “a Middle Eastern masterpiece”. 

    His career includes time spent in the kitchens of Zahav in Philadelphia, Catit in Tel Aviv and Michelin-starred Madrona Manor in Sonoma County. Zach’s time growing up in a Jewish household as the son of a rabbi and his many trips to Israel are the grounding elements of his modern Middle Eastern cooking. He lives close by Galit with his wife, daughter and dog. 


  2. Lisa Ludwinski - Sister Pie - March 11
    Lisa Ludwinski
    Wednesday, March 11
    5-8 p.m.
    Truax Campus - Diane's Dinner (B1285)

    Lisa Ludwinski spent her childhood in Milford, Michigan making too-salty cookies and directing her neighbor friends in home movies. She studied Theatre Arts at Kalamazoo College before moving away to Brooklyn, NY to pursue dreams of directing. Naturally, the vibrant food culture of New York led to distraction that resulted in a low-budget cooking show called Funny Side Up that Lisa filmed in the many tiny apartment kitchens she inhabited over the course of her six-year stay. In 2012, she moved back to Michigan with dreams of opening a bakery with a big-hearted mission: make delicious food and treat your community (employees, neighbors, partners) well. Lisa launched Sister Pie out of her parent's Milford kitchen and began to build the business piece-by-piece, with the help of many supporters and a whole lot of dancing. She and a small crew of passionate women opened the doors to the Detroit pie shop in April 2015, and they've been hustling ever since. Lisa currently lives with her pup Ruby Thursday in the West Village of Detroit - an approximate six minute walk away from Sister Pie.  

    Author credit: EE Berger 


  3. Gavin Kaysen - April 15
    Wednesday, April 15
    5-8 p.m.
    Truax Campus - Diane's Dinner (B1285)

    There is nothing quite like the frenetic and fleeting seasonality of the upper Midwest to inspire a soulful cook. For Chef Gavin Kaysen, an old soul at heart, this idea beckoned him back home to Minneapolis to open Spoon and Stable, a 2015 James Beard Award Finalist for Best New Restaurant, in the North Loop neighborhood in fall 2014. 

    Further planting his roots in Minnesota in early 2017, he opened French-inspired bistro, Bellecour, in Wayzata, MN. His second restaurant is a nod to his friends and mentors, Chefs Daniel Boulud and the late Paul Bocuse, and their time spent together in Lyon, France. “Cooking is very emotional for me; I have to cook how I feel,” Kaysen says. “There’s something to be said for how you feel emotionally as one season gives way to the next, when it snows, rains, or is sunny. I never thought about that growing up here, but coming back, I see that now.” The chef refined his dexterity in contemporary American fine dining by dedicating time to some of the world’s best restaurants. After graduating in 2001 from the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, VT, Kaysen worked at Domaine Chandon in Yountville, CA; L’Auberge de Lavaux in Lausanne, Switzerland; and the famed L’Escargot in London, before becoming executive chef at El Bizcocho in San Diego, where he was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs. In late 2007, he joined Chef Daniel Boulud as chef de cuisine of Café Boulud in New York City, where he later earned the James Beard Rising Star Chef award and a coveted Michelin star. While there, he discovered so much more than tangible, technical skills. “It was like getting my master’s and Ph.D. with Daniel and his organization,” he explains. “I learned so much about hospitality, about the business, cooking—but more importantly, I learned a lot about soulful food. When he cooks, it’s all about spontaneity, which I have discovered is how I really thrive, too.” In 2018, Kaysen took home the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Midwest. 

    Today, Kaysen helps the next generation of young culinarians refine their skills in the kitchen. He is one of the founding mentors of the nonprofit ment’or BKB Foundation (formerly Bocuse d’Or USA Foundation), for which he currently serves as Team USA’s head coach in preparing for the famed biennial culinary competition that showcases the world’s best up-and-coming chefs. Kaysen brings an intimate knowledge of the Bocuse d’Or competition, as he proudly represented the U.S. in 2007. In 2015, he successfully led Team USA to a record-breaking Second Place victory, the first medal and podium placement for the United States. 2015 set the stage for future success, and in 2017 Team USA claimed first place for the very first time. 

    Kaysen lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two sons. In his spare time, he is attending his sons’ sports games, cooking dinner at home, and keeping up to date (with the help of his kids) on all Minnesota professional sports. 


  4. Tony and Cathy Montuano - May 6
    Wednesday, May 6
    5-8 p.m.
    Truax Campus - Diane's Dinner (B1285)

    Cathy Mantuano

    Cathy’s Bio 

    A sought-after expert on wine and food pairings from New York to San Francisco and a contributor to Chicago television and radio, Mantuano helps restaurants around the country create distinctive wine lists. 

    Mantuano got her start working in the dining room of a prestigious Milwaukee restaurant during college. There she met a young chef, Tony Mantuano, with a remarkably similar passion for all things Italian. The two went on to work in several Michelin-starred restaurants in Italy—she in the dining room, he in the kitchen—including the three-star Dal Pescatore in Mantova and Da Romano on the Tuscan coast in Viareggio. 

    They then took their experience and passion to Chicago, where they helped turn Spiaggia into one of the world’s premier Italian restaurants. Cathy Mantuano has since gone on to open and operate a number of successful restaurants, teach classes on wine and wine-and-food pairing, and co-author both The Spiaggia Cookbook and Wine Bar Food with Tony Mantuano. 

    Tony Mantuano

    Tony’s Bio 

    Internationally regarded as an influential culinary force, multi-James Beard Award-winning Chef Tony Mantuano has been a trailblazer of defining authentic Italian cuisine in the United States for over three decades. In addition to his role as chef-partner at one of the country’s leading restaurants, Michelin-starred Spiaggia, and its more casual sister restaurant, Café Spiaggia, Mantuano is the chef-partner at River Roast, situated on the Chicago River; Terzo Piano, a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant in The Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago; Terralina Crafted Italian, a waterfront Italian restaurant located in Disney Springs in Orlando, Florida; and Maddon’s Post, an Italian and Polish-inspired restaurant in partnership with Joe Maddon located in Chicago’s iconic Wrigleyville neighborhood.   

    One of Chicago’s most decorated chefs, Mantuano has received a myriad of awards and accolades including the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef, Midwest. He has also dedicated his career at Spiaggia to mentoring and growing a class of powerhouse culinary talents, considered today to be amongst the most revered chefs in Italian cuisine, like James Beard Award winner (Best Chef, Great Lakes) Sarah Grueneberg of Monteverde, James Beard Award winner (Best Chef, New York City) and a Food & Wine Best New Chef (2010) Missy Robbins of Lilia/Misi, and Top Chef Season 15 winner, Joe Flamm.   

    Amidst all his awards and recognitions, one of Mantuano’s dearest honors was when long-time Spiaggia guest, President Barack Obama, celebrated his presidential election victory at Spiaggia in 2008. Mantuano was also asked to cook for First Lady Michelle Obama at the famed Art Institute of Chicago and for the final state luncheon under the Obama administration. In April 2009 he and Cathy Mantuano were honored with the keys to San Martino in the Italian region of Molise for serving authentic Italian cuisine in America. In September 2012, he was named part of the American Chef Corps and a 2012 State Chef by the U.S. Department of State and its new Culinary Diplomatic Partnership program. Mantuano has also been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Food & Wine, Bon Appétit and Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, and has also appeared on popular television segments like “Nightline,” “The Today Show,” “The Early Show,” "CBS This Morning," “The Dish,” “Martha” and the Hallmark Channel. He also served as a judge on Bravo’s beloved "Top Chef” series in 2009, and participated in season two of "Top Chef Masters.”   

    Mantuano’s other projects include co-authoring two cookbooks with wine expert and wife, Cathy Mantuano. Their first book, The Spiaggia Cookbook, was lauded by Food & Wine magazine as one of the top 25 cookbooks of 2004. In 2008, the duo released Wine Bar Food, which has been the inspiration for WINE BAR FOOD outposts at the US Open Tennis Championships in New York.