Catherine Lambrecht

Catherine Lambrecht headshot

For our Road Scholars Speakers Bureau, this scholar is fully booked through 2024. 
However, you may book them outside of any Illinois Humanities affiliation using the contact information in the “Booking Information” section below.

Catherine Lambrecht presents her program on family heirloom recipes in towns all across Illinois. 

Audience members leave her program reminded of the power of family meals and recipes passed from generation to generation, and their ability to engender a feeling of comfort, catalyze memory, and anchor us when we gather.

Presentation 1 of 2
Fully Booked

History of American Pies… and Illinois is well represented!

Pies are as American as pizza is American: we took a great idea, adapted it to our needs, and ran with it. Our ancestors used what they had available locally and made the most from it. You might be thinking that pies are just for dessert, but for our American ancestors, they were often considered survival food. Sometimes, they ate pie for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for months at a time.

Catherine Lambrecht, who achieved Grand Champion and Best of Show at the Lake County Fair for apple pie, will present the history of pies in America and our state.

Illinois’ contribution to our country’s pie culture includes the following:

  • Pumpkin Pie is Illinois’ State Pie, with over 90 percent of canned pumpkin grown in Illinois
  • The pecan pie
  • Did you know Johnny Appleseed roamed our state? Apples originating in Kazakhstan are an introduced crop everywhere in the Americas.

Lambrecht will share a story from the Family Heirloom Recipe Contest at the Illinois State Fair of love, family, a special pie, and a gift of immeasurable value.

Program Logistics

This 60-minute program requires a projector, screen, podium, microphone, and stool. A table and two chairs for a book display is recommended. Upon request, a demonstration on how to make a pie crust, the aspect of pie making that people fear, can be arranged. If the audience wishes to bring a favorite pie, with a recipe and story to share, that’s fine. Those are just suggestions, and this presentation can be effective without audience submissions.

Presentation 2 of 2
Fully Booked

Family Heirloom Recipes from the Illinois State Fair

Since 2009, Catherine Lambrecht has judged Family Heirloom Recipes contests on behalf of Greater Midwest Foodways in Illinois as well as Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Ohio, Minnesota, Missouri, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Contestants would enter their best scratch family heirloom recipe suitable for a family or community dinner. The recipe should have originated 50 years ago or earlier. Contestants would bring to the fair a prepared dish along with a history of who passed the recipe down to them.

This presentation offers an opportunity to follow the judging experience by providing the histories and recipes presented as submitted at the Illinois State Fair (2009-2019) with pictures of the food as presented at the fair. The foods were sometimes submitted simply in their transport container, or more elaborately on the family’s china with relevant props of family pictures, kitchen paraphernalia, and their loved one’s handwritten recipe.

Catherine will highlight the wonderful stories she has collected over the years as an expert culinary judge. Some examples include:

  • How a contestant wanted a judge to settle a long-held family argument about which is better: green or white asparagus soup?
  • A right of passage as a young boy’s pet pig may be his breakfast
  • Dueling pasta salads from the church and community dinner circuit
  • An Italian-American family circling a cutting board mounded with polenta and meat sauce ready to dig in
  • A family of mushroom collectors preserves their old country traditions

If Catherine inspires you to document a family favorite recipe to share with loved ones, then she has accomplished her mission.

All recipes are provided as presented to preserve their historical integrity. Some of these recipes originated when oven temperatures were difficult to regulate, or temperature was taken literally by hand: stick your hand in the oven chamber and count the seconds before your hand cannot tolerate it.

The original histories and recipes collected will be archived with the University of Michigan Library Special Collections Research Center at the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archives in Ann Arbor.

Program Logistics


Catherine Lambrecht is a veteran of culinary competitions at the Lake County and Illinois State Fairs, a former University of Illinois Extension volunteer whose specialties were Master Food Preserver and Master Gardner, and a founder of Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance, Chicago Foodways Roundtable (sister organization to Culinary Historians of Chicago) and, a Chicago culinary chat site.

Catherine is also program director for the Highland Park Historical Society and Illinois Mycological Association (Mushroom Club) and editor of Heirloom Recipes from the Illinois State Fair, A Bicentennial Project. For Catherine, a day spent well is when she learns something new.

Book this Road Scholar

Follow the steps below to book a presentation.
  1. Contact Catherine to schedule a date and time via email at or phone at (312) 380-1665.
  2. Once you and Catherine have agreed upon a date and time, complete the online Road Scholars Host Organization application.
Contact Us

Fairouz AbuGhazaleh
Director of Statewide Programs