Welcome to Bootleg Bâtard   See our Kickstarter here


Five years ago, Melina Kelson and Pete Podolsky dug up the sod around their small, suburban Skokie, Illinois, home and transformed it into organic, edible landscaping. Since  then, they have watched their garden (featured in Chicago Magazine) become a place where the community unites.

 Friends of all ages pitch in to help turn the soil, pull weeds, plant and harvest the bounty. Since then, friends and neighborhood “farm hands” are invited back for canning parties and to share and celebrate the harvest each year. Strangers and neighbors ask questions about planting gardens of their own. They share ideas and frequently taste (and bring home) delicious, wholesome varieties of produce and plants they may not have known about before. Neighborhood school kids tour the garden and local scout groups help harvest food to donate to area food banks. 

Pete, a talented chef with experience in some of Chicago's best restaurant kitchens, and Melina, a chef instructor at Kendall College and one of only a handful of Certified Master Bakers in the United States, have worked together on the garden and in their catering business, The Edible Complex. They believe that their garden is their personal entry to  a greater mission: teaching and inspiring the community and others like it with lovingly prepared items that are sustainably grown and minimally processed. Speaking to groups at public libraries and the Chicago Botanic Gardens has helped spread the word. Now the work will go a giant step forward, with the building of a wood-fired brick oven and hosting community workshops. 

 Melina has built two wood-fired ovens: one at The Experimental Station, which is an inner-city community oven, and a second oven at Kendall College that she uses when teaching her culinary students the centuries-old traditions of baking Artisan Breads. 

Melina and Pete, with the help of fellow bakers, a prominent oven builder and hopefully a few volunteers from the community, are planning to build a wood-fired oven in a corner of their backyard  garden. The new oven will produce artisan breads dotted with herbs from the garden, savory tarts made with fruits and vegetables just picked within inches of the oven’s walls, and the wonderful variety of crusty pleasures that nature can provide with three simple ingredients — wheat flour, water, and natural fermentation from the airborne yeasts that cling to the foods we eat. Out of this miraculously simple formula comes an innumerable variety of breads, products that vary by how they’re shaped, left to ferment as they develop their flavors and textures, the ways they’re reshaped, and further enhanced by special ingredients (eggs, herbs, cheeses — you name it!). 

 The oven will be the hub of learning, the place around which conversations will flow, ideas will grow and friendships will build. Those who want to learn the techniques of mixing, kneading, shaping, and baking will have the rare opportunity to learn how people around the world have, through the centuries, imagined and baked and created pizza to sourdough to cream puffs. Community members will take that knowledge, apply their own creativity, under Melina's guide, and come away with their own creations and stories to share with others. Those who simply want to learn - if not do any hands-on baking, still will come away with a deeper understanding of what they eat, how and why it affects them as it does, and a rich appreciation of quality and knowledgeable eating - something they, too, can share with others.

We are fundraising here on Kickstarter and would love your support!

Your support will fund clean running water, electricity, a professional mason to help construct the oven with care, and a shelter to protect the oven from the elements. Should we exceed our goal, additional funding would be used to procure fundamental equipment.

Thank you for being a part of our community!


Building Community by Nourishing Neighbors

Bootleg Bâtard would like to extend our deepest thanks to the following backers:

James & Robin Straus

Sean Knapp

Kent Roberts

Catherine and Ohan Kedjidjian

Leah Berger

Lisa Viane

Meme Hopmayer

Benetta Mansfield

Paul Gottschalk

Julie Koehler & James Mullinex

Pam & Ivan Cofre

Susan & Larry Storck

Bonnie Levin

Suzanne Isenberg

David Kleeman

Bob Winter

Lisa Gotkin

Deedee Straus

Kim Hack

Holly Iftner

Julie & Josh Chernoff

Sue Burnett

Anita & Kousik Krishnan

Mr. & Mrs. Bala

Jonas Dikinis

Nancy Clark

Richard Scott

Denise Quintanilla

Benjamin Shapiro

Kevin Robinson

Len Stewart

Michelle Keane

Frank Walaitis

Jennifer Diamond

Rebecca Wheeler

Cindy Fey

Aaron Finestone

Robin Weiss

Christine Zelenak

Lori Kleiman

Jennifer Greene

Charlene Podolsky

Molly Reisman

Thomas Micklethwait

Nattu Natraj

Margaret Mullinex

David Rossi

Allen & Carla Kelson


Debbie & John Hickey

H.O.P.E. for Pahokee

Meghan Pollard

Heather Bublick

  1. J.Patrick Manley

Daisy Chow

Megan Gissing

Marnie & Greg Pedersen

Shea Montanez

Joe Campagna

Melanee, Adam, Chloe & Jade Cooper

Heather Martello

Lynne O’Connor

Jen Villareal

Betsey Grais

Ron Grais

Blair Cohen Miller

Andrew Rubinstein

Nina & David Feinberg

Andrew Pingul

Siddharth Mangalore

Erika Webb

Carol Scott

Joel Peterson

Nancy Carey

Ted Burdett

Dawn Dolobowsky

Keri Steger

Becky Shanks

Laura Cheng

Scott Weissman

Matt Gismondi

Bernadine Rolnicki

Michelle Martinez

Mitchell Craver

Hagen & Cherie Dost

Erica Johnson

Jay Turley

Alec & Julie Hopmayer

Leila Manoochehry

Joe & Sue Burlini

Craig Goldwyn

Herb Weintraub


Jeff Dixon

Betty Craver

Kate Rau

Sara & Mike Salzinski

Phil Incorvia

Ann-Marie Streibich

Lori Hilbrant

Christine Fredericks

Amy Wolf

Brian Beamer

Cara & John Butler

Melissa Lemen

Jennifer Tinsley

Margaret Rapp

Keith Brown

Andrea Malfitano

Joan Schwartz

Andy Clark

Scott & Felicia Holtz

Sioux Johnson

Ken Clinkman

Sheila Meyer

Hank Greenberg

Luminita Cirstea

Marina & Roger Post

Chef Panza

Georgia Rhind

Nels Nelson

Jim Holmes

Jodi Fox

Audrey Kedziora

Jonathan, Stephanie, Zachary & Jonah Hopmayer

Jeff Hopmayer

Jody Birnbaum

Shanil Fry

Marc Levy

Kevin & Ellen Glassberg

Rich & Martha Melman

Kerri Storck


Dana & Michael Weiner

Irina Napa

Amy & Noah Schatz

Persis Thorndike

Adam Harralson

Namyi Sun

Paulette Bruder-Dorado

Josh Mark

Alan Fischer

Marvin & Marcia Cooper

Kathy Kessenich


Katherine Terban

Andrea Ozzuna

Sarah Dinnocenzo

Erin Shelly

Heidi Gilbertson

Christopher Greene

Iva Freeman

Michael Marcet

Elizabeth Shapiro

Adam Kruvand

Jereme Greenblott

Allison Bastianelli

Stacey & Corky Perlstein

Michael & Sandy Jublinsky

Lynne Bowden

Cengiz Ozelsel

Donny & Stacey Nussbaum

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Fundraising deadline