Press Release

Tasting Unusual Ingredients in the Windy City

The Food Forever Experience heads to Chicago, shedding light on the city’s lesser-known crops for a more diverse, sustainable and delicious future. 

July 8, 2019 – Chicago, USA –  Crops currently being safeguarded inside the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, along with locally sourced specialties and rediscovered foods from around the world, will be on the menu at the Food Forever Experience Chicago—the next stop in a series of global events that aim to solve tomorrow’s food challenges. 

Taking place on July 11, 2019, at Google in Chicago, the Food Forever Experience will showcase what we might be eating in 2050 if we embrace some of the fascinating foods yet to break into the US culinary mainstream. Attendees will have an opportunity to try locally sourced specialties and rediscovered foods from around the world as chefs and leaders from business and politics get together to taste the future of food at Google’s office in Chicago.  Link to the event is online for participants to RSVP.

Notable chefs, including Rick Bayless, Sarah Grueneberg and Christine Cikowski will conceive and prepare inventive dishes using a range of curious and “rediscovered” ingredients. Along with crickets, event-goers can expect to taste crops such as kernza, a type of wheatgrass; cardoons, a Mediterranean favorite with spiky leaves and an artichoke-like flavour; and amaranth, an ancient grain which requires little water and can grow at any elevation. 

The chef challenge, organized by the Food Forever Initiative, is one in a global event series, aimed at highlighting the importance and urgency of conserving and using the vast diversity of our foods. The Food Forever Initiative is an awareness-raising campaign linked to the UN’s goal of achieving Zero Hunger and Improved Nutrition.

Michiel Bakker, Director, Google Global Programs Real Estate and Work Services and Food Forever Champion said: “Working with organizations like the Food Forever Initiative, who truly believe in helping to feed the world sustainably, allows us to make a meaningful impact that neither of us could make alone. Hosting this event at Google Chicago gives the Food team at Google the opportunity to engage with innovative thought leaders – and share the story of our commitment to sustainably shaping our future food system.”

Many of the foods at the event are locally sourced from Spence Farms, the oldest family farm in Livingston County, Illinois, which is working with local chefs to ensure crop and livestock diversity is being grown on the farm and used in local restaurants.  

“I believe in the power of the farmer and the chef”, Said Marty Travis, Founder and Owner of Spence Farms. “If we don’t use it, we lose it. At Spence Farms, we track down and grow as many different crop varieties as we can because we realize the importance they bring to the plate and the food system at large. An event like this sheds light on the active role farmers and chefs can take to enhance biodiversity, respond to climate change, and provide communities with tastier, more nutritious and sustainably sourced foods.”

Rick Bayless, participating chef and founder of Frontera Grill, said: “At Frontera, we specialize in cuisine inspired by regional Mexican kitchens, meaning that we are always introducing our guests to a variety of lesser-known ingredients from the Americas. While foods like Iroquois corn have been beloved and cultivated for centuries throughout Mexico, it’s disappearing from the modern kitchen. This has an impact not only on food culture but also on the environment and our health. The Food Forever Experience is a chance to put these ingredients back in the spotlight and show that the future of food can be surprising, nutritious, sustainable, and best of all, delicious.”

Other crops featured in the Experience, including Spence’s Kickapoo bean, Edmunds Red Blood Beet and others, are backed up for the world inside the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, the world’s largest collection of agricultural biodiversity. The Vault is a safe and secure vault supported by the Crop Trust which can store up to four and a half million samples of crops from all over the world. By preserving duplicate samples of seeds held in genebanks worldwide, the vault provides a “fail-safe” insurance against loss of crop diversity caused by climate change, natural disaster or war.

Prior to the event at Google, local residents are invited to taste diverse snacks made from innovative Chicago entrepreneurs, while listening to a line up of experts from all areas of food and agriculture at a solutions symposium at the Hatchery from 2-5PM. RSVP to attend as soon as you can, as there are only 200 spaces or tune in online via our live stream on Facebook @FoodForever2020. 

The Google event is strictly invitation-only. Please contact Cierra Martin if you are interested in arranging interviews. You can follow the day’s events using the hashtag #LetsPlantTheSeedFollow @FoodForever2020


For media inquiries please contact:

Cierra Martin
Communications Officer
Global Crop Diversity Trust
+1 816 863 9610

Media Resources: 

Participating chefs and featured crops

  • Brian Enyart, Dos Urbana Cantina: pawpaw
  • Chris Pandel, Swift and Sons
  • Christine Cikowski, Honey Butter Fried Chicken
  • Craig Degel, Executive Chef for Restaurant Associates at Google Chicago 
  • Ellen King and Julie Matthei, Hewn Bakery 
  • Greg Wade, Publican Quality Bread: nettles
  • Jody Eddy, Chef, author, and James Beard Award nominee: Edmond’s blood beets 
  • Michael Wurster, Culinary Director in the Northeast for Restaurant Associates at Google
  • Perry Hendrix, Avec: cardoons 
  • Rick Bayless (Symposium speaker) and Andres Padilla (Google tasting) – Frontera: Sunflower heads and purslane
  • Sarah Grueneberg – Monteverde: agretti 
  • Sieger Bayer, The Publican: Spence’s Kickapoo beans 
  • Yasmin Gutierrez, Beatrix: Prickly pear, amaranth 

Chicago Organizing Partners 

The Food Forever Initiative works to highlight the urgency of safeguarding and using crop and livestock diversity in support of Target 2.5 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal on Zero Hunger. It is led by the Crop Trust, the Government of the Netherlands and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and implemented in partnership with high-level Champions from politics, business and civil society as well as a diverse set of relevant partner organizations. The initiative is chaired by the Vice President of Peru, Mercedes Aráoz.

Google: ​At the core of the Food program at Google, is a commitment to contributing to feeding the world sustainably through Food at work program leadership. When presented with the opportunity to support an event that aims to raise awareness on sustainable foods and food security, they gladly accepted. 

Spence Farms: Spence Farm is a bustling center of activity with a wide array of heirloom and native crops, heritage animals, and a huge diversity of agricultural opportunities on the 160 acres. Visitors come from all over the world to enjoy learning about small scale family farming in the Midwest. It is a working small family farm managed today by the seventh and eighth generations – Marty and Will Travis. 

Chicagoland Food and Beverage Network​:​ Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network is a trade association and non-profit founded with the mission of driving inclusive economic growth in Chicagoland by bringing together the region’s food and beverage industry to explore and leverage collaborative opportunities. CFBN acts as a platform to bring industry players together to collaborate, connect, and build. 

Erik Oberholtzer: Chef, Co-founder and Executive Chairman of Tender Greens, is a key partner of the Food Forever Event Series and an integral part of the development and organization of this challenge. Erik also leads the Spice of Life Project in collaboration with the Crop Trust, which aims to introduce unique crop varieties long lost or forgotten back into the food system in Los Angeles and New York City, and a number of other projects aimed at enhancing the integrity of our foods. 

Burlap and Barrel: Burlap & Barrel is building new international spice supply chains that are equitable, transparent and traceable. They connect smallholder spice farmers to high-value markets, educate consumers about the impact of product traceability on human rights, and emphasize unique products with terroir that are grown biodynamically using traditional techniques. 

The Rediscovered Foods Initiative:​ The Lexicon of Sustainability, a US-based NGO that provides communications strategy on food and agriculture with a focus on sustainability is working in partnership with the Food Forever Initiative and other stakeholders around the world, to bring much-needed awareness to the diversity in food systems. The Lexicon conceived Rediscovered Foods as a campaign to highlight 25 forgotten smart foods which could feed the world in 2050. The campaign will share success stories of farmers, scientists and chefs from 14 countries. Some of these “Rediscovered” foods are featured in the Food Forever Experience. 

The Chefs’ Manifesto: ​a chef-led project that brings together chefs from around the world to explore how they can help deliver a sustainable food system. As chefs bridge the gap between farm and fork, the Chefs’ Manifesto empowers chefs with a framework tied to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. As a clear action of Chefs’ Manifesto Area 2: Protection of Biodiversity & Improved Animal Welfare, the Chefs’ Network for the Global Goals is partnering with Food Forever to support he Food Forever Experience. This is facilitated by the SDG2 Advocacy Hub. 

Journey Foods: a team of scientists, innovators, food lovers, and explorers working together to bring better on-the-go nutrition to everyone. They focus on creating the future of nutrient consumption through food technology and biodiversity. At the crucial intersection of science and convenience, Journey Foods has created an entirely new category of plant-derived nutrition delivery: micro foods. Their goal is simple: change the face of traditional nutrition and snacking in offices, schools, homes and more. 

Seed Savers Exchange: Since 1975, Seed Savers Exchange has led a grassroots movement to conserve and share endangered heirloom and open-pollinated varieties of seeds and plants. Seed Savers Exchange preserves more than 20,000 varieties in their collection housed on an 890-acre organic Heritage Farm, located at the organization’s headquarters near Decorah, Iowa. They value partnerships and other opportunities to move these varieties out of their collection and into the hands of gardeners and farmers across the country, where they can thrive, adapt to changing climate conditions, and provide people everywhere with healthy, delicious food. 



Photo by Lance Anderson on Unsplash
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