A letter from Luke Zahm on the new season of ‘Wisconsin Foodie’
January 4, 2024 Leave a Comment
This season of Wisconsin Foodie is filled with stories about Upper Midwestern identity and how it shapes the world.
On Wisconsin Foodie, we’ve been fortunate to witness a fraction of the amazing humans who carry the idea of making the world a better place through food. After all, food is one of the most powerful connective media we have available to us on this planet. Everybody eats!
Wisconsin has been a hot topic in the food world this year. Our farmers, food producers and chefs have long been underdogs in the global perspective for much of my career. In fact, I was once told by executives at a national television channel, “Nobody cares about the Midwest,” which fanned the flames of my desire to tell the stories of this place with even more passion and identity.
We’ve proven we can compete in the food world: We have one of the most amazing dairy industries in the world, a commitment to agriculture, beliefs in equity and diversity, and the celebration of this amazing place we call home. Nuances of culture and belonging can be found all throughout this state, and food is often the easiest place to find these pieces of us at our local farmers markets, in our restaurants, and of course, in the aisles of grocery shelves.
Wisconsin, undoubtedly, is about to have her moment.
Personally, this season was a milestone for me. I managed to leave the country for the first time in my 44 years, and it allowed me to follow a compelling storyline that has deep roots here.
Why would a 400-year-old Japanese company choose Wisconsin for the largest soy sauce manufacturing facility on the planet? It’s simple. Our clean water, agricultural heritage and, of course, our people. Kikkoman celebrated its 50th anniversary as a Wisconsin corporation this summer, and that sparked a thread of interest in connecting Wisconsin foods with a global perspective. I was fortunate to follow the storyline back to Japan to discover the Wisconsin identity with a completely different worldview.
Did you know that some people in Japan often view our prized cheeses with the same skepticism as members of the Midwestern community view sushi? The smells and flavors of the cheese are foreign to their palate, and while there is a growing number of Japanese diners discovering Wisconsin cheese for the first time, it’s certainly the adventurous few that are opening the doors for a more connected world.
Before hosting this show, I never gave much thought to how food brings us together to share, grow and start new conversations about who we are and the traditions we hold. It presents the opportunity to transform our worldview and progress humanity, one plate at a time.
As always, I am honored by the opportunity to bring these stories to life for you and to open our minds to the people who truly make this place great.
Host, Wisconsin Foodie