Lunch With the Chefs honors late Louis Szathmary


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Guests may have rushed into the IMU Main Lounge Thursday expecting just a meal of chicken liver pateĀ  and wild mushroom custard.

However, an event meant to honor larger-than-life cooking legend Louis Szathmary was much more than that.

Renowned Chicago Chef Szathmary, who died in 1996, donated more than 15,000 cookbooks to the University of Iowa Libraries since the early 1980s, which inspired the Thursday Lunch With the Chefs.

“The cookbooks started coming in around the early ‘80s,” said David Schoonover, a librarian emeritus at the UI Libraries. “He wanted the books to have very special care, and the University and Center of Conservation for the books could offer that.”

Szathmary was a Hungary native with a taste for collecting items, especially cookbooks. He visited Iowa City and the UI campus frequently throughout his years after he started his first set of donations, and during his visits, he often met with UI chefs.

“We are featuring Chef Szathmary’s relationship with the department,” said Barry Greenberg, the executive chef for campus dining in the UI Housing & Dining Department. “Most of us were fortunate to meet, train, and work with him years ago before his passing, and he was a good friend to the department.”

Greenberg was one of the chefs who helped organize the event and create the menu. He said Szathmary’s involvement with the UI was enough reason to hold Thursday’s event in his honor.

“Barry had a relationship with Chef Szathmary, and the chef had a great relationship with the UI,” said Kelli Haught, assistant director of campus dining for banquests and catering.

Officials with the UI Libraries were also enthusiastic about honoring Szathmary for the event.

“We thought this would be a great opportunity to educate people, and the private collection was a nice touch to the theme,” Haught said.

Past Lunch with the Chefs events were focused more on cultural themes rather than honoring a single person. This year, those involved wanted to make the event more personal and upscale.

“Past themes were more cultural and related to themes such as Mardi Gras,” Haught said. “We want it to be more upscale and more special, so we’re thinking once a semester to keep people interested, and it will be easier for all chefs on campus involved.”

Although Szathmary has passed away, his participation with the UI continues to this day.

“It’s a living collection, and books are continuing to be added to this day,” said Colleen Theisen, a UI outreach and instruction librarian. “We want to do anything to keep reminding people.”

Szathmary’s cookbooks are available online and in the Special Collections section at the Main Library.

Honoring Szathmary with Lunch with the Chefs allowed the community to be in his presence once again.

“Chef Louis was probably the first celebrity chef before there were even celebrity chefs,” Schoonover said. “He was a large personality and had a large ego, but he enjoyed it.”

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