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Local Alumni Recognition

UW–Madison alumni and supporters push boundaries, rise to great heights, and give back. In the spirit of the Wisconsin Idea, WAA chapters and groups have the opportunity to recognize alumni who demonstrate the ideals of progress, discovery, service, and leadership.

The Badger of the Year Award recognizes local alumni who have represented the university positively through success in their profession, community service initiatives, or volunteer activities.


Mile High Chapter Badger of the Year 2023: Natascha Hess ‘01

Natascha Hess ’01, chef and owner of The Ginger Pig in Denver, has been named the WAA: Mile High Chapter's Badger of the Year for 2023.

Natascha earned a bachelor of arts in Chinese and international relations from UW–Madison and a JD from the University of Denver.

Natascha launched her culinary career with an award-winning food truck. With the dream of shifting to a brick-and-mortar restaurant, Natascha studied under James Beard nominee and Top Chef contestant Carrie Baird, then executive chef at Brazen. Natascha and The Ginger Pig have received numerous accolades, including being named Exceptional Newcomer by the Colorado Restaurant Association in the fall of 2022.

Natascha’s inspiration and work is rooted in the Wisconsin Idea. Her dishes are inspired by her time as a UW student living and studying in Beijing, where she learned how to cook traditional Chinese dishes with her host family. Now, through The Ginger Pig, she shares the lessons and love of food she learned from her first and many subsequent visits to Asia.

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