Ann Swanson spent most of her career as a farm to table chef working with high-profile chefs in the southeast. She and her high school friend, Nate Beccue, Natural Area’s Manager for Allerton Park and Retreat Center, founded the Forest to Mansion Dinner in 2013, taking Ann’s culinary experience and pairing it with Nate’s extensive knowledge of local edibles.
Ann created and currently runs a 10-acre vegetable farm west of Champaign for Hendrick House, a company that provides dining services to University of Illinois, Parkland College, Carle at the Fields and Rose Krantz. Her focus is food reform, reduction of food waste, and farm to school. She has partnered with Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation, Unit 4, Unit 116 and DREAAM House to promote community out-reach. Hendrick House CSA’s are available for purchase this year and can be found here.
Summer is a classically trained chef with experience in a wide array of world cuisine, as well as classic American dishes. She is currently the chef/owner of a catering and private dining company in the Chicagoland area. Prior to that, she was a private chef on the North Shore of Chicago for many years. Her love of cooking was sparked at a young age by watching Julia Child and reading “The Joy of Cooking” by Irma Rombauer. Her cooking philosophy is that food is the universal language of humankind; it unites us and allows us to celebrate and share our unique cultures and life experiences.
Leslie Bettridge is a private chef operating out of Champaign/ Urbana. Her and partner, Mark Hartstein, have headed up a number of pop-ups including The Champaign-Urbana Smorrebrod Project, Saru Ramen, Shady Dawgs.
Chris has spent a majority of his life living in the Champaign area. He graduated from Centennial High School and attended Parkland and UIUC to study music. He currently resides in St. Joseph and is the Executive Chef of DESTIHL Restaurant and Brew Works in downtown Champaign.
Chris is a self-taught chef, having found a passion for cooking at a young age. With the influence of his mother, he was always in the kitchen helping out. Chris’ first restaurant job was as a dishwasher at The Ribeye at age 15 where he fell in love with the industry. After attending school for music, Chris fell into a great opportunity to cook at Timpone’s Ristorante while attending UIUC. Under the tutelage of Ray Timpone and Jim Takantjas, Chris became their kitchen manager and absorbed as much knowledge as possible before moving onto become the Executive Chef at Crane Alley in Urbana. Having opened and developed the restaurant, he then became the Executive Chef of Urbana Country Club before accepting the same position at Lincolnshire Fields Country Club where he stayed for almost nine years. He has been with DESTIHL for five years and is looking forward to an amazing adventure in the years to come.
Blake Biggs is the Chef de Cuisine at Bakery & Pickle in Bloomington, part of Epiphany Farms Hospitality Group. Born and raised in Central Illinois, Blake is passionate about using local ingredients to showcase the flavors of the area. After graduating from culinary school in Indianapolis in 2010, Blake returned to Central Illinois and was previously the Sous Chef at Bacaro and Chef at Miga.
Heidi grew up the daughter of parents with wanderlust who believed that culinary experiences were among the best ways to know a place. They traveled the world, dined in people’s homes and ate from hedgerows & tide pools & local markets. As they moved through a delicious world, her mother taught her to preserve seasonal bounty, and be adventurous with flavor pairings from the myriad of places she has lived and visited.
Heidi and her husbanc purchased a home on 7 acres of rich loam soil, and promptly planted native prairie , trees, and wildflowers, an orchard, berries, asparagus, and a “Midwest Hedgerow”. They now prepare seasonal dishes based on what grows in the backyard and on local farms. As a professor of ecology and botany at Parkland College and University of Illinois, Heidi has continued to learn more about native plants, ethnobotany and agriculture. All of these experiences have helped her to become an advocate of food security based on a local food supply.
Heidi started a small bakery that is the synergy of all her passions; culinary skills, ecology of native landscapes, growing of plants, foraging for wild foods, and teaching people about the plentiful Midwest land.
Catie Wiesch is the Brewery Crew Manager at DESTIHL Brewery. Catie has been in the industry six years, working with everything from packaging to cellar work to management. She has a creative passion for pairing unique ingredients through home cooking and baking. Catie brings her creative touch to DESTIHL which can be seen through weekly cask beer creations and showcased variants at their annual Dosvidanya Russian Imperial Stout release event.