Maize, The Heartland’s Corn – Speaker Profiles


The Heartland’s Corn


Speaker Profiles



Cynthia Clampitt, How Corn Changed Itself and then Changed Everything Else


Cynthia Clampitt is a writer and food historian. A fourth generation foodie, Clampitt has always considered food a topic worth studying. She has pursued her love of culture, history, and food in thirty-seven countries on six continents (so far). She began writing about food history in 1996 and joined Culinary Historians of Chicago in 1999. She is the author of Midwest Maize: How Corn Shaped the U.S. Heartland, published by the University of Illinois Press. In addition to CHC, she is a member of the Society of Women Geographers, the Agricultural History Society, and the history section of the International Association of Culinary


Thomas Keith, Beer made from Corn


Thomas Keith is a marketing professional by training, with a specialty in New Product Development. Among many
consumer products he’s helped launch are Equal Sugar Substitute and McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets.

He has also been a self-taught home brewer since 1994, winning numerous awards for beers he’s made along the way.

He is a Cicerone Certified Beer Server, which is vaguely analogous to a sommelier in the wine world.


Donna Langford, Corn and the Innovations that Transformed it


Donna Langford is the Manager of Operations for the DeKalb Area Agricultural Heritage Association in DeKalb, Illinois. Donna received a Master of Arts in Anthropology focusing on bioarchaeology from Northern Illinois University. She also received a Master of Arts in Textile History from the University of Nebraska. She has worked as a museum curator and collections manager for the past twenty years.



Robert Launay, PhD,  Maize avoidance? The French encounter with corn in the New World


Robert Launay, PhD is a Professor at Northwestern University. Robert Launay is a social/cultural anthropologist trained in the United States, England, and France. He has conducted extensive field work in West Africa (specifically in Côte d’Ivoire) with Muslim minorities historically specializing in trade.


Most recently, he has begun a project on French foodways in the Midwest, in collaboration with Aurelien Mauxion, a graduate of the program who wrote his dissertation under his supervision. The project takes as its starting point the fact that the Midwest was colonized by France before it became part of the United States. They are looking at how early French settlers adapted to specifically American foods and environments, and how contemporary descendants of French settlers express their identities in terms of what they cook and eat.


Kantha Shelke, PhD, How corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup differ  


Kantha Shelke PhD, CFS, is a Principal at Corvus Blue, a food science and research firm expediting development and commercialization of honestly healthful products and technologies. She previously held senior positions at ACNielsen, Ben & Jerry’s, Continental Baking and Grand Metropolitan, and is currently an adjunct professor teaching food safety regulation at University (Baltimore), and food law and bioresource technology at MCI (Innsbruck, Austria). She has appeared on television, radio and in print publications as a resource on the science and history of food and nutrition.



Amy Wertheim, How corn farming has changed over the last 50 years.


Amy Wertheim is a sixth generation steward of the land, from a very young age Amy was taught not only the value but the meaning behind the responsibility of her family’s heritage.  Arriving in Central IL in the mid-1800’s, her family not only help to settle the land, but also to build their community, schools, banks and was a trusted friend of Abraham Lincoln.  All those ties make it all that more imperative that the continued success of the family farm and the legacy behind it continues.



Chef Deb Silberstein


I had always been interested in cooking from the time I was young.  As a second career, I decided to go to Kendall College culinary school in Chicago.  I graduated and then moved to New York for 6 months to work in the Food Network Kitchens.  I moved back to Chicago and started teaching professionally at Kendall College which I did for 2 1/2 years.  During that time, I starting working with various non-profits teaching kids both cooking skills and nutrition.  I then took a job running the test kitchen for Rick Bayless which I did for 5 years.  I continued to work with kids of all ages.  Currently I continue to teach and I also work with families dealing with food allergies.