Michael's latest book, Koshersoul, was named the Jewish book of 2022 by the Jewish Book Council.
Past Speaking Engagements
The Grocery Store Outside
This talk is ideal for those interested in farming/growing, including restaurants/bars
There is a world of food at our fingertips that we overlook and take for granted on a daily basis. With our current food system relying on conventional agriculture, we need to look at every angle we can if we’re ever going to attempt to feed more people with less inputs. A byproduct of searching for the finest ingredients for his restaurants was that Alan discovered the virility and extreme volume with which some particular plants grow, plants that are at our fingertips, and under our feet. We harvest corn and soy, but what if there were products we could harvest up to six times a year? It’s possible, and you don’t need a hobby farm to try out Alan’s ideas! A wide variety of people and organizations: community gardens, small farms, vegetable growers, restaurants/bars, thrifty eaters, vegetarians, and locavores will find great takeaways in this talk.
The culinary world devours new ingredients. Obtaining those that others can’t easily locate is a competitive advantage for chefs and restaurants. Alan (the “Forager Chef”) takes you on a journey into the cutting edge of the culinary world—literally the final frontier of ingredients that he, a handful of chefs, and wild food authors are shedding light on including wild herbs, like kinome and galium, extremely obscure vegetables, like angelica and cow parsnip blossoms, hyper seasonal parts of plants we never knew we could eat, like the shoots of squash, unripe pumpkins, and young elm seeds, and a legion of leafy green plants history has forgotten. Alan shares stories of how he began to forage and the processes he went through serving his unique finds in restaurants. He shares the challenges, including sourcing, the cycle of wild food harvesters that inhibit chef access, and how we might break those cycles to share these things with the world. (That is a picture of Chef Alan Bergo – left – on Hulu’s Chefs vs. Wild – Picture courtesy of Hulu.)
Consulting: Corporations & Restaurants
Alan, a well-trained chef who specializes in the bounty of foraged foods, is available for consulting also. Fill out the form below to inquire.
Alan Bergo: Tastemade – Foraged+Found
Alan Bergo: Chef vs Wild (HULU)
Alan Bergo: Today Show
Alan’s segment is the latter half of a story on Blue Zones. Click to view the full Today Show video.
Alan Bergo: The Wild Harvest
Alan Bergo: Midwest Wild Forest Festival Keynote
- Alan Bergo on Hulu’s Chefs vs Wild!
- UMAiDry PRO spotlight article
- Atlas Obscura article: When Groundhog Was On The Menu
- Cooking Through the Landscape (KCRW)
- The London Economic: How to Make
- GrowlerMag: Advocating for an Underappreciated Protein (Goat)
- Wisconsin Public Radio: Food Friday – Hunting for Mushrooms and Cooking Them
“We booked Chef Alan Bergo speak at American Culinary Federation’s 2022 National Convention in Las Vegas and it was such a cool learning experience. Chef Bergo was so knowledgeable and passionate and it was a joy to work with him as he was very well prepared. You can definitely feel his passion and his presentation was brought to life with beautiful photos and a tasting, while we all learned about foraging wild foods. Our convention room had close to 1000 chefs in attendance who are all culinary experts, and we’ve received great feedback that attendees, and how they are now very inspired to find ways that they can now incorporate foraged ingredients into their restaurants! We learned so much about foraging…… and the ingredients that are growing in our backyards!”
– Jacqui Pressinger, Director of Strategic Partnerships, American Culinary Federation
“Alan is a dynamic and engaging speaker. Well organized and high-interest PowerPoint too. Alan was also incredibly generous with his time at the book signing.”
– Amy Alpine, Chippewa Valley Book Festival
“Alan is my Yoda. He taught me everything I know about the kitchen, and the wild.”
– Jeremy Bechtold, Executive Chef: The Happy Gnome, St. Paul MN
“Few chefs have the sort of culinary and field experience Alan does.”
– Samuel Thayer, Founder of Foragers Harvest and Wildwood Products. Author of The Forager’s Harvest, Nature’s Garden, and Incredible Wild Edibles
“When the Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Department of Agriculture asked me to sit on a task force to help author the statewide certification class for wild mushroom foragers, sellers and buyers, my first call after accepting that appointment was to Alan. I asked him to join me on the task force since I felt his superior knowledge would be valuable to the process. He didn’t disappoint.”
– Chef Leonard P. Russo, Seven-time James Beard Nominee and Former Executive Chef/Owner of Heartland Restaurant, St Paul, MN Author of Heartland: Farm Forward Dishes from the Great Midwest
James Beard Award Winner, (2022), Alan Bergo, is the Forager Chef, a leading authority on culinary uses of mushrooms and plants. Thousands follow his work at Forager | Chef – a website dedicated to wild food seasonal cooking and kitchen industry life – for tips on how to maximize what is available to us via the woods (and our backyards, too). The website started as a journal and evolved into a mycelium-like network of wild food authorities and mushroom hunters from around the world.
A Midwestern native, Alan worked for 10 years under Italian chefs and then served as sous chef to Lenny Russo at St. Paul’s 7-time James Beard nominee Heartland. He led two restaurants as executive chef of the Salt Cellar and then at farm to table cornerstone Lucia’s in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is a consultant on everything from foraging for unique restaurant menus to how mushrooms can be used for wild things like grain-free starch fabrication and even as a condiment.
Alan’s work has been featured in various print and visual media, including REI Coop, The Today Show, FOX, The Daily Beast, Heirloom Gardener, Experience Life Magazine, The Growler, The Heavy Table, Minneapolis St. Paul Magazine, and Women’s Health. 2021 book titled “Forager Chef: Flora” is a study in rare and forgotten plants, herbs, vegetables, and culinary techniques is already in its 4th print run! In 2022, Alan won the James Beard Award for Instructional Visual Media for his online show, The Wild Harvest. You can see Alan in Season 1, Episode 2 of Hulu’s new show “Chef vs Wild” (2022).
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Recruitment & Retention
How organizations can build great teams that last, and how we’ve done it for nearly a decade.
The Importance Of Company Culture
What does it mean and how do you articulate and implement it in a way that feels meaningful?
Inside Out: Why Should A Dishwasher Have Any Less Access To Information Than The CEO? Structuring Organizations Differently.
What’s the reasoning behind transparency, and why does it matter? How a simple change in the way we share information and knowledge can make employees feel empowered and engaged.
Embracing the Change: How To Create A Work Environment Where People Aren’t Living In Insecurity.
We all know that most people are naturally afraid of change. Why? Most change in real life is exciting and looked forward to, so why are people afraid when it happens in a company? How do we shift that perception and make change exciting?
Thinking Differently: Why Best Practices Are The Worst
If you keep doing what everyone wants you to do, you sound like everyone else. How do you break out of that cycle?
How To Make It Easy To Be A Customer
How to gain customer loyalty and make people instinctually return.
Making India Cool, One Restaurant At A Time
Just like there’s no European food in Europe, there’s no Indian food in India. The first time Meherwan had Indian food was when he came to America. He was shocked and he vowed to change that. The story of Chai Pani.
How Well Are You Telling Your Story? Use Your Brand, Culture, And Your Background In An Engaging Way.
No matter what your business is, you have to tell your story. Hear it from Meherwan‘s perspective.
James Beard Awards
Indian Cuisine In America
Chai Pani Restaurant
Making Dosa Potatoes
The Winner Of 2022’s James Beard Award For Outstanding Restaurant
New York Times 50 Most Vibrant and Delicious Restaurants (Yes – Chai Pani is on the list!)
Bon Appetit – Meherwan Irani Wants to Change Stereotypes About the South, Starting with Dinner
Men’s Health – Meherwan Irani Boss Mode Interview
Wall Street Journal’s Slow Food Fast Cooking Class with Meherwan Irani
Time Magazine Names Meherwan Irani one of the 31 People Changing the South
Fortune Magazine Article on Brown in the South
Atlanta Magazine: Brown in the South Supper Series
James Beard: Who Gets to Be Brown in the South?
Food Network/Discovery Plus: Meherwan Irani teaches Ludacris how to cook Indian food
FSR Magazine: Restauranteur Meherwan Irani is a Multi-Market Maven
Meherwan Irani is a chef and restaurateur changing the perception of Indian food in America through his growing restaurant and spice empire in the South’s most essential culinary cities. He is a leading voice in the industry’s conversation around diversity and cultural exchange. Meherwan was named by TIME Magazine as one of the “31 People Changing The South”, the 2022 James Beard award winner for Best Restaurant for his flagship Chai Pani, and a five-time James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef: Southeast.
Meherwan leads a team of more than 300 as Founder, Chef and CEO of Chai Pani Restaurant Group that includes Chai Pani Asheville, Chai Pani Decatur, Botiwalla Atlanta, Botiwalla Charlotte, Buxton Hall Barbecue, Buxton Chicken Palace, Nani’s Rotisserie Chicken in Asheville, Nani’s Piri Piri Chicken in Atlanta, and Spicewalla.
Meherwan grew up in Ahmednagar, in the midwestern state of Maharashtra in India, and he came to the U.S. at age 20. In 2009, he and his wife and business partner, Molly, introduced Asheville, North Carolina, to the colors, flavors and faces of India with Chai Pani.
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No Taste Like Home
In this talk, author Ashley explores telling your personal culinary experiences and journey through your cookbook or menu. Using examples (and tastings when possible!) from her book Southern From Scratch, which showcases how her culinary upbringing informed and shaped the cook she am today. She’ll discuss ways to imbue dishes with both literal and figurative, personal flavor.
So You Want To Write A Book?
Ashley guides you on the journey of creating a book concept, pitching it, working with agents versus being unaffiliated, recipe development and testing (where relevant), and more. She’s learned many helpful steps to catching an editor’s attention along her 11 book journey and she generously shares what insider tips have stuck, and what hasn’t, along the way.
Recipe Development (aka: What’s Your Flavor?)
Ashley invites you to more deeply explore the process of recipe writing. Having authored 11 food-based books, she’s learned quite a few tips and tricks for crafting recipes that are original yet personal, innovative yet familiar. This talk is geared not just for those interested in writing cookbooks of their own, but also for getting out of “safe” culinary ruts.
For centuries, people bonded over food—building long-term relationships based on a need to collaborate in order to grow, harvest, and preserve food. Today, the easy access to food has eliminated the need for those relationships, leaving us with one less reason to interact. In this talk, Ashley discusses how eating together has the power to create scientifically proven social bonds, engender community preservation, and serve as a form of diplomacy.
Using Food as a Catalyst for Memoir Style Writing
This talk is ideal for those food professionals that enjoy writing as much as they enjoy cooking. We’ll discuss ideas for creating and nurturing food-based first person essays, articles, blog posts, and more, and ways to get out of food-writing ruts.
Ashley on Whole Foods – Dark Rye
Ashley on Wassail – A Holiday Toast
“In a time when origin and heritage are finally enjoying the culinary spotlight, Ashley English emerges from the sweet hollars of Southern Appalachia as an honest and refreshing voice. You’ll find no truer heart and account of what it means to reject, embrace, interpret and celebrate the kitchen we come from. As a mountain girl myself and working in the TV food industry, I see many iterations of this new brand of home cook, but y’all, take notice — Ms. English is the real deal.”
– Selena Lauterer, President, Artemis Independent
“As one of the leading local voices on food, Ashley combines a unique message with a relaxed stage presence and an articulate delivery of her thoughts. She is both charming and informative. She attracted a big crowd as the keynote speaker for one of our events in 2018 and wowed the audience with ground-breaking thoughts on our relationship with food. Can’t wait to have her back for an encore!”
– Tennille Tracy, Publisher, Edible Asheville
Ashley English is the author of 11 books, including all 5 books in her “Homemade Living series” (Canning & Preserving, Keeping Chickens, Keeping Bees, Home Dairy, and Home Apothecary), as well as A Year of Pies, Quench, Handmade Gatherings, A Year Of Picnics, The Essential Book of Homesteading, and Southern From Scratch.
She has worked over the years with a number of nonprofit organizations committed to social and agricultural issues, hosted a bimonthly column for several years in the popular blog Design*Sponge entitled “Small Measures with Ashley,” is an ongoing contributor to the quarterly publication “Taproot,” and regularly contributes to a number of international, national, and regional print publications. She has been a frequent guest on Martha Stewart Radio on SiriusFM.
She regularly teaches classes on topics such as chicken-keeping, bee-keeping, canning & preserving, pie-making, creating dairy products, making homemade health & body care items, and crafting homemade beverages.
She holds degrees in holistic nutrition and sociology, and is an alumnus of both The University of North Carolina at Asheville and Clayton College of Natural Health. She lives in Candler, NC with her husband Glenn, their young sons Huxley and Alistair, and a menagerie of animals. You can follow along with Ashley’s writings at Small Measure.
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People, Planet and Profit: Living Your Values in Business
Vimala Rajendran is a chef and restaurateur who deeply believes that we grow our community by engaging intentionally in the farm to fork process and living our vision of creative resiliency. She proudly states that food is a human right and her business motto is “Vimala cooks, everyone eats.” No one is ever turned away at her restaurant – yet she still makes a profit. Her business, Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe, prioritizes worker, environmental, and social justice; accessibility through affordability; and sustainability at every level. Her award winning restaurant, founded rather unexpectedly in 2010, pays a living wage. Their producers and investors are local, and their long-term goals are about transforming the local economy. They source produce and meat from nearby family farms; organize their workplace around joy and liberation; honor the land and our relationship to it; and practice interdependence with other organizations and small businesses with whom common values are shared.
The idea to be a triple bottom line business came naturally to Vimala, given her mission to be sustainable on every level possible. The three areas they focus on are people, planet and profit. The people they are committed to caring for include the farmers who grow the food, the hands at the back of the house that prep the food, and all the others who contribute making the food come to the table and the guests who come to their business to eat. They pay the farmers a fair price for the food, pay the workers fair wages, and have some benefits like flexible hours, allowing staff with kids to be home with their families at dinner time, offer paid sick days and vacation.
Care of the Planet Earth is honored by intentionally reducing waste. Vimala composts all food waste, utilizing all edible parts of vegetables and fruits by trimming off as little as possible, which keeps food costs down. The restaurant is mindful to keep an eye on making a profit. This is surprising to some of their supporters and that is understandable because they are so thoughtful in everything done for the community’s farmers, workers, and guests.
Vimala’s presentation takes us on a journey from India to Canada to the US – telling the story of a woman’s path from memories of her mother cooking, immigration, domestic violence, liberation and how she ultimately became a triple bottom line business owner. Her story teaches us the power of ethical business and intention in our work – and that profit CAN be attainable through this model.
Curryblossom Cafe Feature
“Vimala is a warrior, builder, and weaver all rolled up into one. She fights for women, immigrants, workers, and anyone who wants to participate in the culinary world. She builds community one meal at a time, sharing and teaching people not only how to make beautiful food but how to run a business that centers on equity and inclusion. She weaves together people, ideas, and practices, connecting us to her story, her community, and her food. ”
– Alice Julier, Founding Director of Food Studies, Chatham University
“We sure enjoyed having you with us for our chef training during spring break! You were terrific to work with… both during the planning process and during the training itself. I am so glad that I’ve come to know you!”
– Administrator, Oberlin College
“You are such a great role model to women everywhere. I really enjoyed hearing about how you saw your challenges as opportunities’ to grow and try new things. Also it is so inspiring that you call the US home after not being recognized as a citizen. You are AMAZING!”
– Student, St. Mary’s School (Private High School)
Vimala Rajendran grew up in Mumbai, India where she learned to cook from family, street vendors & friends. In 1994, a single mother of three, Vimala started cooking donation-based community dinners in Chapel Hill, North Carolina home. Sixteen years later, in 2010, thanks to the support of our beloved community, Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe was born. Despite being an “unexpected chef,” her restaurant has won the Best Indian Restaurant in the Triangle (beating out all Indian restaurants in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and Cary) for 9 years and best chef in 2022 She is an immigrant, survivor of domestic abuse, community activist, social entrepreneur, mother of three and mentor to countless people.
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