Meet Sandor Katz, King of Fermentation and UVM Food Systems Summit Speaker

By Alison Nihart

Sandor Katz is the author of The Art of Fermentation, which won the 2013 James Beard Foundation Book Award, and other books on fermentation. Sandor will speak at the UVM Food Systems Summit Conference on June 27.

Can bacteria be revolutionary? Sandor Katz thinks so.

Katz, a self-proclaimed “fermentation revivalist,” is credited for reintroducing the art and science of fermentation to the Western diet. In addition to authoring several books and a zine on fermentation, he has taught hundreds of workshops around the world, and is featured in a DVD on fermentation techniques. A self-taught scholar on the topic, he effortlessly connects the dots between the scientific and biological underpinnings of the fermentation process with anthropology, religion, the industrial agriculture revolution, and modern efforts to reconnect with our food.

Fermentation is a food preservation technique that involves culturing raw foods with bacteria and fungi to make them more flavorful and digestible. Wild fermentation relies on creating the right conditions for naturally occurring microbial organisms to thrive, often simply through the introduction of salt.

In case you’re wondering about the food safety risks of fermentation, you might be surprised to learn that it’s actually relatively safe. Botulism, the most commonly feared bacteria associated with food preservation, can only thrive in anaerobic (oxygen-free) and otherwise sterile environments. The aerobic process used in fermentation encourages “good” bacteria to thrive, thereby out-competing the “bad” bacteria. The result is both tasty and healthy.

Sandor’s fermentation adventure started with one batch of sauerkraut, made with cabbage he harvested from his garden. After that, he was hooked. He began exploring other live-culture foods, including other kimchi, pickles, miso, tempeh, yogurt, kefir, sourdough bread, wines, beers, and vinegars. He also began to research the cultural history of fermentation, which exists as a food preparation method in culinary traditions from around the world.

Sandor’s interest in fermented foods also stems from his interest in nutrition. Sandor is HIV positive and considers eating fermented food as an important piece of his healing. He is also an avid gardener, which supplies him with fresh-from-the-dirt ingredients for his fermenting explorations. Through his books and website,, he provides information that demystifies the value of microbial organisms and empowers people to experiment with fermentation on their own.

We’re excited to have Sandor come to UVM in June for the UVM Food Systems Summit!

Follow Sandor Katz on Twitter @sandorkraut.

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