Veggie U Announces Headliners for 9th Annual Food and Wine Celebration

The splendor of summer is almost here. The sounds of clinking wine glasses and the chatter over which chef is offering the best plate will soon spread over the grounds of The Culinary Vegetable Institute for the eagerly awaited Veggie U Food & Wine Celebration. This annual fundraiser to benefit the children’s education program is the crème de la crème of culinary festivals in Northern Ohio. Over 30 of the nation’s best chefs pour into Milan, Ohio for a festival of gastronomic delights on July 16th!

This year’s headlining chefs include Chef Amanda Freitag (Unique Eats, America’s Next Iron Chef and Chopped) and Chef Lee Anne Wong (Unique Eats and former Bravo Top Chef). The duo will take the stage to show off their talents and entertain foodie crowds.

Also taking the spotlight this year will be master sommelier, Serafin Alvarado of Southern Wine and Spirits (Chicago) who will be conducting a wine education and sampling class. This not-to-miss opportunity is perfect for any wine lover from novice to aficionado.

The Veggie U Food Wine Celebration will again feature a silent auction of incredible and desirable items. Just as enticing will be a live auction hosted by celebrity emcee and entertainer, Billy Harris. Harris has worked with the most prestigious events in the nation and comes to the Veggie U fundraiser eager to create an experience that is unmatched.

Early bird tickets are available at a great savings. To purchase tickets call 419-499-7500 or visit Sponsorship opportunities are still available and food and wine vendor applications are being accepted. All inquiries can be directed to

“The James Beard Foundation Awards shine a spotlight on the best and brightest talent in the food and beverage industry,” notes the website. The theme for this year’s Gala is the “American Melting Pot”, which is very appropriate for this Huron, Ohio based farmer.

To schedule an interview or to request a comment, please contact Melissa Burdick at or call 419-433-4947.

About Veggie U
The mission of Veggie U is to promote the well-being of children through a healthy lifestyle. Veggie U is dedicated to the creation and distribution of curricula nationally, with a focus on making wise food choices, combating adolescent and juvenile disease, and attaining an understanding of sustainable agriculture. Veggie U has placed over 1800 Earth to Table classroom kits across 26 states and our goal is to reach every fourth grade classroom nationwide. More information is available at

About Chef Amanda Freitag

Growing up in New Jersey, Amanda Freitag’s passion for food was fostered by everyone from her grandparents to her high school home economics teacher. Today Amanda Freitag has emerged as one of New York City’s most celebrated chefs.

A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, NY, Amanda’s first position in a New York City kitchen was as rotissier and garde manger at Vong in 1993, under the guidance of Jean-Georges Vongerichten. It was there that she became proficient in French techniques, while being introduced to numerous southeast Asian ingredients and flavors and how the two concepts could blend seamlessly in his dishes.

In 1994, Amanda started working with her mentor and friend Diane Forley at Verbena, where she rose quickly through the ranks to become the restaurant’s chef de cuisine. Diane taught Amanda the importance of using local, organic ingredients and introduced her to the greenmarket in Union Square. It was while she was at Verbena that Amanda realized how much she had yet to learn about the culinary world, and so in 1999 she traveled extensively through France and Italy to explore markets and restaurants.

While in Paris, she spent two weeks working in the kitchen of the venerable Arpege restaurant under chef Alain Passard. While her time there was short, the lessons she learned were life changing. Working in a restaurant where nothing was left overnight in the walk-in except for butter was an eye-opening experience, and further developed her love of fresh ingredients and the flavors of the Mediterranean region.

Amanda came back to New York where she worked at some of the city’s most popular restaurants including Cesca, where she cooked alongside Tom Valenti as his chef de cuisine and earned two stars from The New York Times. Most recently, Amanda was the executive chef at Gusto in the West Village, where she received both critical and popular acclaim.

In late 2007, Amanda was looking for an opportunity to show her versatility as a chef. Jimmy Bradley’s search for a new chef at The Harrison and Amanda’s desire to try something new could not have been better timed, and the two chefs’ shared passion for bold, straightforward cooking made this a natural fit. Since Freitag’s arrival, The Harrison has received numerous accolades from local and national media, including a two-star review from The New York Times, as well as features in Time Out New York, New York Magazine and Forbes Life. Amanda recently battled Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America and has a recurring role as a judge on the new Food Network series, Chopped. In Fall 2009 she graced the Food Network stage again and competed for the title of America’s Next Iron Chef.

About Lee Anne Wong

Since she traded her burgeoning fashion career for the culinary world, Chef Lee Anne Wong, has been bringing her modern-global fusion cuisine to the people. Born and raised in Troy, New York, Lee Anne, a 2nd generation Chinese- American was not drawn to the kitchen, favoring sports – softball and ice hockey – instead. Though her mother encouraged her to eat unique cuisine, Lee Anne’s tastes were intrinsically tied to American favorites such as pizza, jalapeno poppers, and burgers. Lee Anne’s passion for cuisine ignited during her first year studying Fashion Design at FIT and when she started cooking for friends. Once she donned her chef whites she never looked back.

After graduating from The French Culinary Institute (The FCI) Chef Wong jumped into the restaurant world. She immersed herself in New York’s fusion cuisine – working for several years at Marcus Samuelsson’s Aquavit, later serving as an integral part the opening staff at Jean Georges Vongrichten’s Chinese venture, restaurant 66. She has also cooked and staged in kitchens all over the world, including French Laundry, Charlie Trotter’s of Chicago, Nobu, The Four Seasons, Trio, Casa Oaxaca in Mexico and Cap Julaca in the British Virgin Islands – picking up global flavors and techniques along the way.

Lee Anne’s skills go beyond the stove. She returned to The FCI as the Executive Chef of Event Operations –where she honed her event production and recipe development skills, customizing unique menus and events for the clients of the school’s International Culinary Theater. While at The FCI she coordinated the Chef Demonstration program, working alongside culinary heavy-hitters such as Jacques Pepin, Andre Soltner, Ferran Adria, Tyler Florence, and Martin Yan.

Chef Wong brought her culinary skills to an even wider audience when she appeared as a cheftestant on Season One of Bravo’s Flagship Series “Top Chef.” A fan favorite, Wong’s fusion of flavors took her to number four in the competition. The show’s producers saw her innate talent and media experience, and brought her on as the crucially important Supervising Culinary Producer on Top Chef, and its spin-off Top Chef Masters. For the past six seasons she helped shaped the show into the powerhouse that it is today. She also made the show more accessible, demonstrating the winning recipes on’s popular webisode series “The Wong Way to Cook.” She has also worked as a culinary consultant on Warner Brother’s “No Reservations,” as well as PBS’ “Chef Story.” Lee Anne has also garnered attention from numerous publications, including People, The NY Daily News, Food & Wine, and

While developing a media presence, Lee Anne continues to cook: participating in countless events and competitions. Recently, Lee Anne was featured as a chef at the 2009 Scottsdale Food and Wine Festival – where she connected with her audience during a weekend of cooking demos, wine, and tastings. She is an active member of the James Beard Foundation and has hosted and cooked many events at the James Beard House — including an extravagant New Year’s Eve 2006 dinner. A guest chef at The Veggie U Food & Wine Celebration at The Culinary Vegetable Institute at Chef’s Garden, Lee Anne has been a friend of Chef’s Garden for six years and maintains a close relationship with the Jones family. She has also used her culinary skills to help further charitable causes. She participates in Women Chefs and Restaurateurs (WCR), Project By Project – a volunteer based organization that supports Asian-American Non-profits, and she currently serves on the Board of Directors for The Gohan Society, dedicated to fostering US-Japanese culinary and cultural relations.

A culinary polyglot, in her personal time Lee Anne loves to travel and experience new cultures and flavors. Mexico holds a soft spot in her heart. For the past twelve years she has made a yearly pilgrimage to Oaxaca for the food, people and culture. Chef Wong also has a deep love for everything porcine – many of her recipes incorporate pork in its many incarnations. Even with all of her haute-cuisine experience, she is at heart the same girl from Troy – with a passion for all things fast food – including tacos, hamburgers, and fried chicken.

Chef Wong’s role in the culinary industry continues to evolve. She is working on a food art book – Sexy Food – with noted photographer John Mark Sorum and is developing her own travel TV show about her culinary travels around the world. Chef Wong also continues to work with The FCI as a visiting chef and alumni ambassador. While she’s keeping a foot in the media world, Lee Anne has several exciting projects on the horizon that are going to put her back in the kitchen. Whether via TV, web, in print, or in person, Chef Lee Anne Wong will continue to bring her global cuisine to the public as she explores new, exciting areas of the culinary world.

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Author: James McQuiston

Ph.D. in Political Science, Kent State University. I have been the editor at NeuFutur / since I was 15. Looking for new staff members all the time; email me if you are interested. Thanks!

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