Culinary Breeding Network Variety Showcase

Culinary Breeding Network Variety Showcase: Q&A with Lane Selman

The 3rd Annual Culinary Breeding Network Variety Showcase is coming up on October 3 in Portland. Lane Selman, who we’re fortunate to have part of the LET um EAT Collective, is the mastermind behind the Culinary Breeding Network, whose mission is to bridge the gap between breeders and eaters to improve agricultural and culinary quality in the Northwest. Lane has received some much deserved recognition for the work she’s done and interest in the Variety Showcase has grown. We asked Lane a few questions about this year’s event, what one could expect by attending and the impact it has.

The Variety Showcase is open to the public and ticket are available now. Hopefully this will spark your interest in the event and we’ll see you there in October! See more information below this Q&A.


What is the goal of the Variety Showcase?

Lane Selman: The Variety Showcase is an annual interactive mixer to build community and increase collaboration between breeders, farmers and eaters.

This Culinary Breeding Network event provides attendees the unique experience to taste new and in-development vegetable and grain varieties alongside the breeders that create them, share opinions and break down the walls between eaters and breeders.

Culinary Breeding Network
Winter Squash at the Culinary Breeding Network Variety Showcase

What we really want to do is bring more attention to plant breeding in general. There is little opportunity otherwise for chefs and eaters to learn about breeding and therefore some misconceptions. These breeders are not only considering flavor, but also thinking about what’s best for organic farmers, trying to find varieties that perform better and are bred for organic environments; varieties that are taste good, but are also disease resistant and have a good yield.

The Variety Showcase is a way to develop a network and put people in the room together that should be talking to one another.


How has the Variety Showcase changed & evolved over the years?

Lane Selman: The Variety Showcase is now in its third year. The biggest thing is that more people are hearing about it and are interested, which means we needed to move to a bigger space. The first year there were about 100 people, the second year about 200, which was too many for our previous venue. This has brought us to a whole new level, of needing to find money and sponsorship and a larger space. This year we’re working with the Sage Restaurant Group, which has Urban Farmer and Departure and they’re really into it. They’ve been incredibly supportive and providing a lot to accommodate the event. They’re helping take care of food and some of the infrastructure, all for a very reasonable price.

Now that we have the room, we’re expanding this year and bringing in more breeders and chefs. The past two years there’s been 14 tables and this year there will be 22. Some will be tasting tables, like we’ve had in the past, with multiple finished cultivars for people to try side by side. Some tables will just showcase whatever the breeder wants. Of course the chefs will still be working with the vegetables so eaters can taste them that way too. There’s always so much information to share, but I still like it to be focused and let the breeders speak to what they think is important.


It looks like you’ve invited more participants from out of town this year – how did that come to be and how did you select them?

Lane Selman: The Culinary Breeding Network has gotten a lot of excitement within the research community. People are hearing about it in other places and want to participate, because this doesn’t really exist anywhere else. To this point, there hasn’t been a place for the breeders to find an engaged audience. And as people hear about what we’re doing here, there’s even more interest in the breeding community to bring more chefs in.

Culinary Breeding Network Variety Showcase
Chef Timothy Wastell teamed up with Sarah and Andrew at a past Culinary Breeding Network Variety Showcase.

I was talking to someone at Johnny’s Seeds in Maine and they were asking “how do we make this happen here?” so I like the idea of bringing more people in and showing them that it’s possible for them to do it as well. Of course we’re so fortunate with our community here in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest, that it’s so collaborative and people are engaged, but I think it’s possible anywhere.

So for the breeders that are coming from out of town and they’re already working closely with a chef, then I want them to bring that chef, rather than match them up with someone local.

For example, Julie Dawson, who is an urban food systems professor at UW Madison, and her research assistant Kitt Healy, have started something called the Seed to Kitchen Collaborative. They’re working with this incredibly creative chef Johnny Hunter of the Underground Food Collective. I’m excited to have them out.

There’s another chef coming out from DC, Jonathan Bethany, who has a bakery called Seylou Whole Grain and actually used to work with Steve Jones at the Bread Lab in Washington, then went on to work at Stone Barns. He makes these incredible stone ground wheat croissants. He’s going to have a table that shows the work he’s done with Steve Jones.

John Hart, a breeder who’s done work at Cornell and Puerto Rico and also with [chefs] Dan Barber and Michael Anthony in New York, is now opening a seed company in Florida. He was going up to Vancouver [Canada] and I put him in touch with chef Dave Gunawan from The Farmer’s Apprentice up there. They started talking and have since been working together. It’s great to promote this collaboration. They’ll both be attending as well.

“There’s going to be so much action at that barley table it’s going to be crazy”
– Lane Selman, Founder of the Culinary Breeding Network

What came of the information gathered at last year’s Variety Showcase? Any specific outcomes or results you could share?


Lane Selman: You know this year I do want to be better about following up with everyone and getting their feedback on what they took away and what changes they’ve made or seen. I hear some things, like Frank Morton of Wild Garden Seeds has said “Stocky Red Roaster peppers are selling like crazy because of you. They’ve gone up 500%.” But of course it’s hard to directly attribute that to the Culinary Breeding Network, seed sales are difficult to track.

I do know that we’re raising awareness, making connections and promoting conversation. I know that farmers have made decisions in their work based on what people have told them at the event. But we’re talking about breeding, and so you also don’t see the effects of those decisions for a long time.

This year I do plan on sending out a survey afterwards to ask the breeders what they got out of the experience.

“I do this work to make organic farmers more profitable.” – Lane Selman,
Founder of the Culinary Breeding Network


How many chefs, breeders/seeders and eaters do you expect to attend this year?


Lane Selman: I feel like I’ve got about 70 people involved, which is pretty significant. We’re probably expecting about 250-300 people total.

Culinary Breeding Network Variety Showcase
Tomato tasting at the Variety Showcase. Photo Credit: Cooking Up a Story

A few special guests include Matthew Dillon of Seed Matters, who will also be speaking. Seed Matters is a foundation created by Clif Bar dedicated to organic seed breeding and research. They started a $10 million endowment and Bill Tracy, a corn breeder who is also the head of the Agronomy department at UW Madison, was one of the first recipients of the endowment. Bill Tracy will also be there to speak to how the funding has helped him. Bill’s one of two sweet corn breeders left at the university level. He’s an amazing speaker. He’s worked with both organic farmers and conventional farmers and one of my favorite things I’ve heard him say is that he prefers working with the organic farmers “because they have so much more joy”.


Attend the Variety Showcase

The 3rd Annual Culinary Breeding Network Variety Showcase will be held on Monday, October 3 at Urban Farmer in downtown Portland from 7 pm to 10 pm.

Tickets are now available and are limited!
$35/ticket before September 19
$50/ticket September 19 and later


Participating Plant Breeders and Seed Growers

Bill Tracy, University of Wisconsin
Julie Dawson and Kitt Healy, University of Wisconsin
Pat Hayes, Oregon State University
Alex Stone, Oregon State University
Colin Curwen-McAdams, Washington State University
Jim Myers, Oregon State University
Phil Simon, USDA-ARS Madison, Wisconsin
John Hart, EarthWork Seeds, formerly USDA-ARS
Frank Morton, Wild Garden Seed
Brian Campbell and Eric Budzynski, Uprising Seeds
Andrew Still and Sarah Kleeger, Adaptive Seeds
Alice Doyle, Log House Plants
Anthony and Carol Boutard, Ayers Creek Farm
Anne Berblinger, Gales Meadow Farm
Nathan Kleinman, Experimental Farm Network
Laurie McKenzie and Micaela Colley, Organic Seed Alliance

Participating Chefs

Andrew Mace, Han Oak
Ben Meyer, Old Salt Marketplace
Chris Starkus, Urban Farmer
David Gunawan, The Farmer’s Apprentice (Vancouver, BC)
Dev Patel, Tom Douglas Restaurants (Seattle, WA)
Dillon Debauche, Little T Baker
Erica Jennings, Uprising Seeds (Bellingham, WA)
Eric Joppie, Bar Avignon
Gabe Rosen, Biwa
Jaret Foster, Tournant
Jason French, Ned Ludd
Jonny Hunter, Underground Food Collective (Madison, WI)
Joshua McFadden, Ava Gene’s
Karl Holl, Let Um Eat
Kelly Myers, Xico
Kristen Murray, Maurice
Maya Lovelace, Mae
Mel Darbyshire, Grand Central Baking (Seattle, WA)
Nora Antene, Tusk
Sam Smith, Tusk
Sarah Minnick, Lovely’s Fifty Fifty
Sarah & Dirk Marshall, Marshall’s Haute Sauce
Timothy Wastell, Sweedeedee
Vince Nguyen, Jolie Laide
Will Preisch and Joel Stocks, Holdfast

More on LET um EAT about the Culinary Breeding Network & the Variety Showcase:

Profile: Lane Selman, Culinary Breeding Network
The Culinary Breeding Network Variety Showcase [Oct 2014]
9 Seed Breeders You Should Know [Dec 2014]

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