Our 2014 Meadow Lark Troupe:  
 
Alberto Sabbadini. As a young boy, Alberto's favorite time of year was winter. During these coldest of days, his parents allowed him to skip school to help their friends and neighbors in Magnano in Riviera—a village in view of the hills that hide the border between Italy and Slovenia—slaughter the pig. The entire day was spent cutting, grinding, casing, trussing. The salumi were left to dry in the cantina. Alberto's seasonal ritual with his family and friends taught him how traditions surrounding food can bring community closer together. Determined to make his way into professional kitchens, Alberto attended culinary school in Aviano. His education in food continued across Europe: a couple of years at a mountain resort in the Swiss Alps, a stint at a pasticceria in Sardinia, opening a restaurant in Istanbul. With such broad experience under his belt, Alberto returned closer to home, first to Venice's famed Hotel Monaco, and then a water taxi ride away, to the world-renowned Locanda Cipriani. The inn is situated on the island of Torcello, where its chefs can pick and choose from its extensive vegetable garden and the abundant seafood from the Venetian lagoon. After three years in Torcello, Alberto once again took to the road—this time across the Atlantic and all the way to Colorado. Aspen was his destination, and he spent several years as chef de cuisine at L'Hostaria. From Aspen, Alberto found Boulder. After seven years at the Boulder Country Club, Alberto joined The Kitchen, where he was executive chef at the Café, Upstairs, and Next Door. Being in Boulder, with its community of farms and ranches, rekindled in Alberto his love of cooking the way he knows best: with seasonal, local ingredients. He's forged strong bonds with several local farms and together with his daughters, he's once again planted his own garden. Although an ocean and half a continent separate Alberto from Friuli, the rituals he brought with him keep him close to home.
 
 
Veronica Volny. Veronica's memory maps her rather peregrine history mostly in terms of food. Ask her what it was like to spend childhood summers in Vallauris, Provence, and you'll hear not about the beach, but about pan bagnat sandwiches. Ask about her family in Prague, and she'll tell you first about the apple strudel they make. Ask about high-school in Bavaria, and you'll hear all about biergartens, sausages, and exotic preparations of pork. When she finished high-school in Munich, she moved to California to study biology. While completing her Ph.D. at Stanford and later at U.C. Berkeley doing a postdoc in marine population genetics, Veronica organized and taught courses at the Vermilion Sea Field Station, on the Sea of Cortez. Ask her about that, and you will, in fact, hear about whales and sea turtles—but she's also sure to mention La Pasadita, the roadside fish taco stand you have to visit in San Quintín, on your way down the Baja Peninsula. In Berkeley, Veronica lived wonderfully close to several farmers’ markets—and dangerously close to Chez Panisse—and by the time she moved to Boulder, she decided it was finally time to turn her lifelong passion and avocation into vocation. With her husband, Aaron Hirsh, co-conspirator, China Tresemer, and master sommelier, Nate Ready, she founded Meadow Lark Farm Dinners.
 
       
Bella the Bus. Bella was born in 1995 in Silver Lake, Indiana, and served the Rochester School District for thirteen years. She found us on eBay, and moved to Boulder in January of 2008. After outrunning a snow storm on Interstate 80, Bella spent a happy month being refurbished in Lafayette by her good friend Bill Young (of gypsycoach.com). Bella enjoys her new life visiting all the farms as a mobile kitchen.
 
 
Our 2012 Meadow Lark Troupe:
 
Veronica Volny, Bella the Bus and...    
 
Heath Thomson. Originally from Northern California, Heath first came to Boulder to earn his degree in environmental design at CU. But after spending a full year rendering a single office chair for a design firm in New Zealand, he decided to focus his attention and creativity on his true passion: food. His search for materie prime has taken him to some far flung places—foraging for chanterelles in the woods of Upper Michigan, rounding up livestock at a sheep station downunder, pulling king salmon out of the frigid waters of Alaska. But his cooking experience isn't limited to campfires and cast iron skillets. Heath has cooked in several highly acclaimed Bay Area establishments, including Boulette's Larder, in San Francisco's Ferry Building Marketplace. In fact, when he first crossed his arms and leaned back to inspect our battered wood-burning grill, we worried he might be disappointed to give up his gleaming copper pots for a place in our kitchen bus. But then his gaze gave way to a broad smile and he said, simply, "I can't wait." That's when we knew we'd found our guy.
 
       
Jessica Haden. Jessica is a native Coloradan—but she is thoroughly Italian at heart. After studying Linguistics at CU Boulder, Jessica made the move to the country she called home before she ever set foot there. In Italy, she attended the Slow Food-founded University of Gastronomic Sciences and earned a master's degree in Italian Gastronomy and Tourism. During her program, Jessica tasted her way through the country, from the sheep farms of Sicily to Piemonte's famous vineyards—and she perfected her Italian language, gestures and habits (Jessica's moka percolator would take up permanent residence on Bella's dash, and afternoon espresso became a dinner-day ritual). We were lucky that Jessica was drawn back to Colorado to spend a summer with her family and friends. At Meadow Lark, we learned how to say 'beet' in Italian (barbabietola), became acquainted with berbere, and toasted Jessica's homemade marshmallows over our wood fire one late night after dinner. Only weeks after our season ended, Jessica made her way back 'home'. She now lives and works at Tenuta di Spannocchia, a 1,100 acre estate of forests, animal pastures and crops south of Siena. As Spannocchia Foundation's education director, Jessica oversees the residential farm internship and education program, and she shares her love of Italian culture and conviviality with lucky Tuscan travelers.
 
     
Blake King. Blake has always been destined for a life in food, even though it took him a bit to realize it. As a student at the University of South Carolina, he studied English and Marketing, which led to a position as senior editor at PR Newswire in Washington D.C.. But editorial work left Blake cold, and he sought a way closer to the hearth. Without even attending culinary school, Blake landed a job in the kitchen at D.C.'s Central Michel Richard, and from there joined the small team in the kitchen of Palena. It was at Palena that Blake learned to love the fast-paced environment of a professional kitchen, and where he first experienced whole animal butchery and seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients. He followed the allure of just-picked sweet corn and sun-kissed peaches right out to Colorado, joined Meadow Lark, and immersed himself in Boulder's food and farm scene. At Meadow Lark, Blake foraged for elderflowers which he turned into cordials, and spent a considerable amount of time at Rebecca's Apothecary, returning with angelica and burdock root for his homemade bitters. And in his spare time, he staged in Boulder's best restaurants and volunteered at several of the farms that host our dinners. By the end of our season, he'd moved in at Pachamama! In the end, it was the camaraderie and excitement of a fast-paced kitchen where Blake was most at home—at Meadow Lark, he was perfectly in his element whenever a violent thunderstorm bore down on us! In the fall, Blake left his quiet farm-side abode and headed for the bustling Commander's Palace in New Orleans.
 
     
Shona Paterson. Shona came to Meadow Lark on her bicycle—every day. When we met, she'd never owned an automobile. But that did not keep her from being mobile. To the contrary! After growing up in rural Pennsylvania and earning a degree in Comparative Literature from Penn State, Shona hit the road. She cycled through Europe, wwoofed her way through Central and South America, and eventually found the mountains of Colorado. Here, she began working in mountain kitchens and on gardening crews, and even helped run a crêpe cart pulled by…. a bicycle! It's probably no surprise that Shona found her way to Bella, our mobile kitchen. As part of the Meadow Lark troupe, Shona kept spirits high with her ever-changing flavors of sparkling whey soda, and with her always-cheerful disposition. She even single-handedly cheered Bella out of several feet of mud during a record-breaking rain storm. Since Meadow Lark, Shona has become a reluctant car owner. This acquisition has allowed her to live in the mountains while also working at Lykin's Gulch Farm. And it hasn't slowed her down one bit: at every opportunity, she still makes the leap to South America to sink her hands into the soils of organic farms.
 
     
Whitney Flight. Originally from Connecticut, Whitney attended Miami University in Ohio to study Mass Communication. She put her newly acquired skills to use in Washington D.C. with a job in Marketing & Communications at Rebuilding Together, a nation-wide non-profit that works to preserve affordable homeownership and revitalize neighborhoods. After several years in D.C., Whitney had grown interested in taking her commitment to social values into the world of food and dining, and came to Boulder to participate in a month-long social entrepreneurship workshop. When she learned of a last-minute opening in our 2012 Meadow Lark troupe, she cancelled her return flight and boarded our bus. Whitney brought the grace and glamour of fine dining to the front of our field, welcoming guests and finding the kindest of ways to say "don't even think of setting that iPhone on the table!" And she held her own in the kitchen, too, wielding her sweet new orange-handled chef's knife, which Heath quickly nicknamed Hot Sauce. By the end of our season, Whitney still had no desire to make use of her return ticket. She joined our friends at The Kitchen, and now, as Head Host, Whitney welcomes and herds the steady stream of people vying for a seat at the busy downtown restaurant.
 
       
Our 2011 Meadow Lark Troupe:    
       
Heath Thomson , Veronica Volny, Bella the Bus and...    
       

Drew Duggan. Which of the following is true about Drew: a) he studied voice and can belt out an operatic solo; b) he spent years working in IT at Amazon; c) he toured Germany playing the saxophone with a band; d) he was a cheese buyer for Zingerman's Delicatessen; e) he was arrested after a slow-speed chase in which the bulldozer he was driving failed to outrun two cop cars. The answer, oddly, is f) all of the above. It was only during our late-night staff dinners—particularly those involving a special bottle Drew had brought for us to share—that we began to grasp the extent and strangeness of his multifarious exploits. And between the head-spinning tales, Drew would delve into details of the wine at hand, from the history of the papacy that led to Châteauneuf du Pape, to French wine law and the sixteen grape varietals permitted in the blend. Drew was, after all, Meadow Lark's sommelier, choosing wine pairings and uncorking bottles—oh, and also lifting all those heavy tents and tables—while studying for his Master Sommelier diploma. We were honored that the former wine director of Seattle's renowned Herbfarm—not to mention all those other qualifications—chose to join us in the field for a season.

 
       
Mackenzie Bentley. Mackenzie wants to make the world a better place. As soon as she finished college at the University of Oklahoma, Mackenzie took off to Sierra Leone to work in an orphanage and on various community development projects. But her family and Oklahoma roots—and a serious bout with malaria—drew her back home, and she entered a rigorous culinary internship which soon had her working in several Oklahoma City kitchens. Her work ethic and knife skills landed her a job in Washington's DC's Komi. But working with top-quality ingredients in one of America's best restaurants only made Mackenzie more eager to step out of the stainless steel kitchen and onto a farm, to experience first-hand where all her watermelon radishes and tatsoi leaves were coming from. Mackenzie may believe it was fate that brought her to us—she and Veronica ran into each other in the 14th Street subway station in downtown Manhattan en route to their lunch (read: interview) in the East Village—but it was really her huge heart and her bottomless passion for the causes she believes in.
 
 

Austin Doll. Let's put it this way: If you've got a daughter, Austin is the guy you hope she'll bring home one day. Or maybe this way: If you're an employer—any employer—Austin is your guy. Or maybe just: Vote for Doll! For what? Doesn't matter. He'll be good at anything—that's the thing about Austin. He came to us from Indiana, where he'd just wrapped up his degree in Hospitality and Food Management & Marketing at Ball State University. His studies put him on the line in many a kitchen, and on the floor in big executive dining rooms not entirely like Meadow Lark—including, for instance, those at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Hershey Entertainment & Resorts. But apparently the race cars and even Hershey's 'Circular Dining Room' did not provide enough excitement: Austin spent his school breaks milking cows on family farms, and otherwise kept busy as his Slow Food chapter's student liason, and coordinating donations and collections for local food banks. At Meadow Lark, Austin became Bella's best friend, squeezing her unscathed through narrow passageways and always positioning her just right so that her work surface was exactly level. More importantly, his enthusiasm for everything we do was infectious—he even got Mackenzie to plunge across a river on a rope swing!

 
       
Our 2010 Meadow Lark Troupe:  
   
Heath Thomson , Veronica Volny, Bella the Bus and...  
       
Abby Saunders. Abby grew up along the east coast—on her native Long Island, attending Hamilton College in Upstate New York, and exploring New Hampshire's White Mountains. In search of taller peaks, Abby came to Boulder and found a fancy corporate job at Spyder Sportswear. But she gave it all up to join Meadow Lark last summer. As it turns out, she's a genius when it comes to coordinating the untold number of logistics that go into a farm dinner—and she's got a knack for finding the perfect spot to set our table. Abby couldn't get enough of our circus and, lucky for us, she's come back for more. When she's not running around with a clipboard and checking off to-do lists, she's more than likely backcountry skiiing on the slopes of a 14er, or extoling the virtues of craft beer.
 
       
Anna Sturgeon. As a child, Anna raced home from elementary school to watch 'Great Chefs of the World'. In 5th grade, she threw her first dinner party: Chicken Supreme, mashed potatoes, and salad. After completing a degree in psychology at Kent State, Anna left her Appalachian Ohio home to serve with the Peace Corps. Her experience in Romania had her teaching English and sampling nettle soup, or urizici. When, in her cramped apartment, she found herself painstakingly stuffing a turkey on the kitchen floor due to the lack of counter space, she realized that what she really wanted to do was work with food. So she rolled up her sleeves and headed west to see what she could make happen in the kitchen space of a school bus.
 
       
Erica Romkema. Erica hails from the nation’s breadbasket states of Iowa and Minnesota, where she played hide-and-seek in cornfields, canoed the lakes, and got knee-deep in vegetable and flower gardens. Between ballet lessons and Jane Austen books, she rode along with her veterinarian father from one family farm to another. After some years of wandering through the liberal arts, she finished her education with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and Environment, with emphases in nonfiction and sustainable agriculture. A little polishing of the thesis, and off she went to France to volunteer on organic farms, les fermes biologiques. She thought it would take a lot to woo her away from the Dordogne castles and Normandy cream, but a Farm Dinner internship turned out to be just the thing.
 
       
Our 2009 Meadow Lark Troupe:  
       
Abby Saunders, Veronica Volny, Bella the Bus and...    
       

Dakota Soifer. In 2009, Dakota came on board our kitchen bus, and our Meadow Lark troupe was eager to follow his lead. Before joining Meadow Lark, Dakota cooked and learned at Zuni Café, in San Francisco; at Julia’s Kitchen, the restaurant of Copia, the Napa Institute of Food and Culture; and at The Kitchen, here in Boulder. He was also this close to landing a plum job as back-up dancer for Mariah Carey. Now, Dakota is serving up small plates of Mediterranean-inspired fare, prepared from ingredients sourced as locally as possible, at his own restaurant: Café Aion.

 
       

Jamyra Brown. Jamyra came to Meadow Lark from the middle of the Midwest, Iowa City, Iowa, where she helped open a falafel restaurant—yes, a falafel restaurant. Anyone who can proselytize so successfully for truly great hummus is a hero of ours. And, when she wasn’t assessing the chickpeas or tahini, she was completing culinary school and selling beautiful artisanally produced cheeses, or, as she puts it, “killer barnyard stuff.”

 
       

Katrina Mohr. If you happen to subscribe to Hang Gliding & Paragliding magazine, Alpinist magazine, or the Boulder Daily Camera, you might already know Katrina’s work. What you didn’t know, though, is that she wields her chef’s knife just as deftly as her pen. She’s been working in the restaurant business since she was wee little—she’s done just about every job in just about every sort of dining establishment. We were thrilled to steal her away from her position as a mountain-top pastry chef in Jackson Hole.

 
       

Henry Raphael Hirsh. Henry is a highly perceptive, if not particularly knowledgeable, sommelier; what he lacks in education and communication skills, he compensates for with a wonderful freshness of perspective, a sensitive nose, and terrifically chubby toes. He also enjoys his role as Katrina’s straightman.

 
       
Meadow Lark Founders and 2008 Troupe:  
       
Veronica Volny, Bella the Bus and...    
       
 

China and Veronica have been cooking, gardening, foraging, preserving, and writing about food together for several years. Along with Nate Ready and Aaron Hirsh, they created Meadow Lark Farm Dinners in an effort to connect food and community—and to bring it all to the table in the field.

 
       
China Tresemer. China spent her childhood in Boulder and New England. She started her cooking career at age eight when she opened a restaurant on the beach, serving sand-crusted jellyfish pie and seaweed salad. China lived in New York City for three years, where she earned a degree in Fine Arts at Parsons School of Design and studied cooking at Slow Food USA and La Cuisine Sans Peur. Thereafter, she moved to Europe, and worked in Italy and Morocco with Peggy Markel's Culinary Adventures. China has cooked for campers in the woods of Vermont, for an improv-theater troupe on a farm near Toulouse, and with a handful of Berbers in the Atlas Mountains. In 2008, China and Nate moved to Oregon, where China has had her hands full farming, building hoop houses and chicken coops, curing hams and cooking with all the exquisite produce and artisanal foods Portland has to offer.
 
     
Nate Ready. Nate grew up in California's Napa Valley and graduated from Pepperdine University with a degree in Greco-Roman Wrestling and a thesis on Transcriptions of Baroque Oboe Concerti for the Piccolo Trumpet. He spent several years as a sommelier at Thomas Keller's renowned restaurant, The French Laundry, and then moved to Boulder to help start Frasca Food & Wine. While at Frasca, Nate earned his Master Sommelier Diploma, a feat accomplished by fewer than 100 sommeliers in North America. In 2008, Nate and China moved to Oregon, where Nate has been working as general manager for Antica Terra Winery—and he is still studying for his self-certification as an agricultural theorist.
 
     
Aaron Hirsh. Aaron is a writer and biologist, and a Boulder native. Aaron studied biology at Princeton and earned his Ph.D. from Stanford University. He was a founder of the biotechnology company InterCell, and serves on the board of Roberts & Co. Scientific Publishers. During the past several years, Aaron has turned his attention to writing for a broader audience. His essays on science and the environment have appeared in literary journals, in the New York Times and in The Best American Science Writing. His first book, a literary account of travel and science in the Vermilion Sea, was published in 2013 by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux.
 
     
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