MACN Week is about more than just the food

Chef's week delivers delicious food and donations

The Madison Area Chefs’ Network all-chef dinner was as decadent as it was diverse–which could characterize the entire week of chef-hosted food events that make up MACN Week, now in its third year. This year’s week offered 17 events spanning March 5-12, but the spotlight wasn’t only on the decadent dishes served up by some of Madison’s best chefs.

But first–let’s talk about that delicious food.

I had the privilege of attending a dinner in the middle of the week, and probably starring the largest number of chefs in one kitchen. Eleven chefs (yes, you read that correclly) tossed their hats into the ring with unique entrees for the March 9 MACN Tasting Menu dinner at the Madison Club.MACN Week is about more than just the food

Standout dishes and ingredients included the shiro dashi, king trumpet and maitakes dish nestled in a mushroom consomme, prepared by Gil Atschul of Grampa’s Pizzeria. Adam Struebing, who had home field advantage in The Madison Club kitchen, served a wild rice and cocoa rubbed bison loin so tender and perfectly pinked to temperature. And Rob Grisham of Isthmus Dining Company offered a beef heart tartare perched atop its crisp prawn cracker, which was my table’s favorite.

MACN Week is about more than just the food
The night was also about drink pairings, and the libations certainly held their own. Between the Italian prosecco from a winery that utilizes solar generators (prosecco extra dry “Daman” Le Vigne di Alice 2015) to local brews (Tyranena Brewing Co.’s Headless Man, an amber alt, and One Barrel Brewing Co.’s Commuter Kolsch), my palate was overloaded–in the best possible way.

MACN Week is about more than just the food

At the end of the smorgasbord,Laila Borokhim, owner of Layla’s Persian Food with a Local Flair, sat down at my table and casually offered her overall positive impressions of this year’s MACN week. Chefs visiting each other’s kitchens to cook up healthy competition allows for culinary educational growth and the forging of new friendships, which was a big reason for creating MACN in the first place–it is a collective of chefs sharing ideas and resources. Borokhim still had another mash-up to look forward to the following night. Her Friday would include a “Dirty Dancing Winter Luau” themed dinner paired with Madison Sourdough featuring an appearance by drag queen celebrity, Emilay Ulayta.

While the week contains certain chaos for chefs running from kitchen to kitchen, it is orchestrated beautifully–and Madison diners are to benefit.

But those lucky enough to attend such events aren’t the only benefactors.

Important to remember is the support many of these highlighted chefs have for the Dane County community in the form of food donations–this includes donations to area non-profits such as Community Action Coalition’s Double Dollars program. These chefs are dedicated to strengthening our food systems and educating diners; One shining example of this was the March 7 MACN event Meat & Three held at L’Etoile, which was a southern style dinner that utilized foods often wasted in kitchens. This dinner was meant to raise awareness of the food waste epidemic in America.

To note, the Madison Club event donated funds to the Goodman Center’s Fritz Food Pantry. With Tuesday through Thursday weekly hours, this pantry is a gem in our community and supplies food to our neighbors and those in need. On Thursdays, it invites everyone to a pantry dinner of its own. Jon Lica, the food pantry coordinator, is a passionate advocate for volunteering. It’s been on my own list for far too long, as well as the monthly Saturday community cooking classes offered by the pantry. More information can be found at

Special thanks to Bryan Weinstein, the executive director of MACN for his event coordination and offering Madison Magazine a gracious seat at the table. Also, thanks to Dan Fox of Heritage Tavern for contributing his photo of the behind-the-scenes crew that toiled for the MACN Tasting Menu meal.