When Geoffrey Boardman, chair of the Southern Maine Community College culinary arts department, told his students about the Maine Seaweed Festival, they looked at him like he “had three heads.”

“But, basically, it’s a vegetable, a very nutritious vegetable and a versatile one,” Boardman said.

After two years in Belfast, the Maine seaweed industry event moved to the SMCC campus in South Portland and broadened in scope to be a festival.

SMCC student Pamela Almodovar seized the opportunity to work as a sous chef for the festival dinner, alongside nationally known chef Barton Seaver.

The 75 guests at the $100-a-person dinner included seaweed scholars, kelp farmers, rockweed processors, marine botanists and people interested in nutrition and food trends.

From cocktails through every element of the meal, including fragrant decor, seaweed was there, with other aquacultured seafood.

“This is a totally manifested dream,” said festival organizer Hillary Krapf.

“Things are shifting, and we’re seeing seaweed starting to be the new hip food,” Krapf said.

“The people who came had very good questions, and the kids were really excited and were eating the seaweed samples,” said Robert Morse, owner of rockweed processor North American Kelp in Waldoboro, the “rockweed capital” of the United States.

“Seaweed is a superfood, and we have it in our own backyard,” Krapf said. “It’s another way that we can all come together to support our fisheries here, and vegetarians and vegans can participate, too.”

Last year, Krapf told Shep Erhart, president of Maine Coast Sea Vegetables, about her idea for a seaweed festival.

Fast forward to the festival’s celebratory dinner, and Erhart, who has been in the industry more than four decades, was toasting Krapf’s success. “What I didn’t realize is that you didn’t only have the vision but the guts and the gumption,” Erhart said. “It wasn’t perfect, but it was great.”

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at:

[email protected]