As our February 10th deadline for applications is quickly approaching, we want to take a second to introduce you to the selection committee. These women are rock stars in the industry and we are grateful they are sharing their expertise and time with The LEE Initiative.
Melissa Booth Hall
Melissa is the managing director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, where she has worked since volunteering at the Fall Symposium in 2003. In her current role, she handles staff oversight and development, outreach, donor relations, and long-range planning.
Author Ronni Lundy was born in Corbin, Kentucky and has written many books celebrating the food of the American South and Appalachia. Her books include Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes, and Honest Fried Chicken: The Heart and Soul of Southern Country Kitchens Butter Beans to Blackberries: Recipes from a Southern Garden, and Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes. She is the recipient of the Southern Foodways Alliance’s Craig Claiborne Lifetime Achievement Award and her book, Victuals, won the James Beard Foundation’s Award for Cookbook of the Year in 2017.
For over 20 years, Julie DeFriend has been the gracious and talented manager and sommelier who has delighted in overseeing some the most recognized dining rooms in Louisville, KY. She is currently working with Vintner Select, a small wine distributor focusing on boutique and artisan producers. Julie is renowned for her passion for wine and education, is a Certified Specialist of Wine through the Society of Wine Educators and is an Advanced Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers. She will sit for her Master exam this year.
Sarah Robbins is a founder partner of 21c Museum Hotels and oversees food and beverage operations and human resources in her current role as chief hospitality officer. She’s an active member of the James Beard Foundation, the Southern Foodways Alliance, and serves on the board of the Greater Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Collis Hillebrand is an executive director at Wagstaff Worldwide, a hospitality-focused public relations and marketing company. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Le Cordon Bleu. She is a Louisville, Kentucky native and returned to the Bluegrass State in 2016.
Lindsey Ofcacek is both a founder and director for The LEE Initiative and has been the general manager and wine director of 610 Magnolia for over two years. Her experiences in hospitality range from farming and distribution to both the front and the back of the house. She has devoted years of tireless work in the local food community.