Chef Johnnie Xel, AKA the Kitchen ShamanRecently I traveled almost 4,000 miles to participate in VeggieFest 2016 in Chicago, which is one of the largest and oldest vegetarian festivals here in the states. My spouse and I drove across the country so I could split open a watermelon and talk about chilies and tofu.

It was an epic journey with lots of stops along the way to see family and friends and visit points of interest. We’ll be writing about our travels over on our sister website Artistic Nomads soon.

The festival itself was wonderful with so many like-minded people gathered together. From the early planning stages thru packing up after the last demo, the event organizers were incredibly helpful in making sure I had everything that I needed to put on stellar food demos, up to and including a tripod for the camera when I left mine in the hotel room.

The volunteers were also extremely supportive and friendly. I’ve yet to encounter so many people who are participating in an event that they love and are giving their full attention.

I was able to take a walk around the festival and talk to some folks, especially the group running Chicago Vegan Mania and one of their representatives, Brian Wcisel. They were very friendly and a lot of fun. The smells from the food court drew me to walk around and see the offerings. I also stopped by the Chicago Vegan Meetup table and visited with their organizer. So many people came out for the festival despite the intense heat and humidity and the threat of rain. It did rain later in the day after we had retreated back to the hotel.

The demos went off well. I did Watermelon Three Ways and Red Chili Tofu Taco Salad (they would have been tacos, but it’s easier to serve “salad” samples to 100+ people). You can watch the full watermelon demo in the video below.

I want to give a shout out to Ellen Jaffe Jones and Beverly Lynn Bennett and Acooba Scott who gave food demos as well. Thanks for being there and being so supportive.

Hopefully, you’ll be able to find me again next year at VeggieFest Chicago.

If you have a vegan or vegetarian festival in your area in 2017 and you’d like to see me present, please let the organizers know and point them to the YouTube channel and the contact page.