Deborah Madison (NM)

Chef and writer Deborah Madison is one of Chefs Collaborative’s founding Members. Our founders acknowledged their leadership in the celebration of food, and they recognized the impact of food choices on our collective personal health, on the vitality of cultures and on the integrity of the global environment. 

Everyone who loves to cook has a copy of Deborah Madison’s 1997 mega-bestseller “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” (and the more recently updated “New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone”) in their cookbook library. She turbo-charged the vegetarian movement while expanding every food lovers’ understanding of the deliciousness of plant-based dishes. And Deborah was there at the start of Chefs Collaborative.

“When I came home from the very first Chefs Collaborative meeting in Hawaii, I was pretty excited,” she recalls. “This was the first chefs group that cared about locally grown food.” A cook at Chez Panisse for two years before opening San Francisco’s Greens Restaurant in 1979, Deborah offered a farm-driven menu with produce from the restaurant’s own nearby farm, Green Gulch. She later opened Café Escalera in Santa Fe with Chez Panisse chef, David Tanis.

By the first Chefs Collaborative meeting in Hawaii, Deborah had left restaurants to be a writer and food activist, managing Santa Fe’s local farmers market and working on local food issues. Eager to start a Chefs Collaborative chapter in Santa Fe, she tried to bring the local chefs together for a meeting. But hardly any chefs came. They were too busy. “Promoting a sustainable local food system was such a new idea then,” she says with a laugh. “I did manage, eventually, to create an event that connected Santa Fe chefs with local farmers. Both groups work long hours at opposite ends of the day, so it wasn’t easy. But when they came together, they had so much in common. They clicked.”

One of the few chefs who were involved in the early Chefs Collaborative was Lynn Walters, who had The Natural Café in Santa Fe at that time. She also worked with our school cafeterias and their cooks. Her theory was that if children understood good, healthy food, they’d want more of it. And she was right. Her program ‘Cooking with Kids’ is still going strong after 23 years. “It’s not specifically about teaching kids to cook but about engaging the whole community in good, healthy food. If someone’s father is good at making pasta, he’ll show the kids how to make it.”

Chefs Collaborative continues to do great work in New Mexico. “The other night I went to a Meat Matters dinner in Albuquerque co-hosted by Stephanie Cameron, co-publisher of Edible New Mexico. It was such a good program, so much valuable information. I don’t eat a lot of meat, but I am on the board of the Southwest Grass-fed Livestock Alliance and appreciate that we need animals to manage rangeland properly. These ranchers are working very hard to put water back on the land and to bring back native grasses.

“What’s up with me? After attending Grain School in Colorado last January, I’ve been experimenting with ancient grains and sourdough bread baking. I’m milling my own grains and I just planted a plot of Turkey Red and another of Sonoran White. A group of us are doing this and hope to see some good alternative grains become available locally.”

Deborah’s most recent cookbook, “In My Kitchen,” which came out in 2017, is her 14th and last cookbook. “My interests now lay with issues of biodiversity, seasonal and local eating, farmers markets, small and mid-scale farming, farmers and ranchers, gardens and gardeners.”

She’s stayed involved with Slow Food and served on the board of the Seed Savers Exchange and was a co-director of the Monte del Sol Edible Kitchen Garden in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and presently mentors a young woman in cooking from that school.

“Chefs Collaborative’s mission still resonates loud and clear!” she says.