Celebrity Chefs Unite at Nature Center at Shaker Lakes’ Pestival


Celebrity chefs will be cooking up various garlic mustard-inspired dishes at The Nature Center at Shaker Lakes’ annual “Pestival.”
A sell-out crowd enjoys creative cuisine from celebrated Cleveland chefs at Pestival 2016.

Fri 4/7 @ 6-9PM

When one thinks of weed-eating, usually it involves spending the afternoon in the yard searching for pesky, well, weeds. However, weed-eating takes on a different meaning at the Shaker Lakes’ annual “Pestival”  scheduled for April 7 at its Nature Center.

The cocktail-style fundraiser reception includes dishes made from the invasive, non-native garlic mustard by celebrated chefs from local restaurants — Batuqui the Flavor of Brasil, Blue Canyon-Pura Vida, Coquette Patisserie, the Greenhouse Tavern, J. Pistone Market & Gathering Place, Juice Up, Mackenzie Creamery, Mitchell’s Homemade Ice Cream, Ohio City Provisions, SASA and the Sweet Fix Bakery.

CoolCleveland talked to Shaker Lakes events manager Lisa Fredrickson about Pestival, which starts off with a Meet the Chefs affair before the open tasting.

First of all, what exactly is a Pestival?

The event, which has been going on for more than 12 years, started out as a way to educate the community about the invasive garlic mustard that blocks out sunshine and nutrients for other native plants. It’s very prevalent here in the Heights area. Considering we manage 20 acres, we need to pull that out. So, the event started out as a dinner where our staff made pesto for a pasta dinner. Over the years, it’s morphed into this really fun and creative cocktail party where we pull the garlic mustard, clean it, bag it and deliver it to some amazing chefs around Cleveland. They come up with the most creative dishes — everything from noodle dishes to meat dishes, and a couple of desserts, such as an amazing pistachio garlic mustard ice cream — that are served at the party.

Has the affair changed over the years?

I think it’s evolved into this fun cocktail party that the community looks forward to. It really unites people that are environmentalists, as well as people that are foodies, if you will. It kind of combines their passions and helps us educate as many people as we can about the importance of removing invasive species to allow native species to thrive.

How much of a factor is garlic mustard around Shaker Lakes?

It goes in cycles. In some years, we feel like we’ve gotten close to eradicating it, but it’s very pervasive. This year, with our milder winter, we’re seeing a fair amount of it come back. The only way to really deal with it is to pull it out.


Can you give us a little history of Shaker Lakes, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary?

It’s a great story of tremendous grassroots effort that began in the ’60s when a highway was proposed through the Heights connecting I-271 with downtown Cleveland. The route of the highway was proposed directly over the Shaker Lake, which would have just decimated this natural area that’s really important to birds and wildlife, and basically providing a park within an urban area. A group of people got together, the movement started to grow and it really involved everyone from garden club members to attorneys to educators. These people fought with a lot passion, but really with a lot of strategy. The Nature Center was built right where the two freeways, the Clark Freeway and Lee Freeway, would have intersected. It really was the beginning of saving the whole Shaker Lakes land.

Perhaps the term is cliché, but it seems as though Shaker Lakes is a hidden gem.

A lot of people say that. It is kind of tucked away. We’re off South Park Boulevard. It’s 20 acres that is contiguous to Cleveland, Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights. We have longtime supporters that have been coming here when they were children and they brought their children and now they’re bringing their grandchildren. A lot of people do discover the trails are beautiful, the habitats are interesting. Every season it looks different. We get lots of birders, lots of joggers, lots of people that just want to sit down and enjoy nature in a quiet space. We have benches throughout the property.

Just to confirm, eating garlic mustard is good, while eating weeds you may find in your backyard isn’t recommended?

We wouldn’t promote that. (laughs) We’d promote pulling the invasive garlic mustard, but you can’t promote just pulling all sorts of odd things in your yard and eating them.


[Written by John Benson]

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