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Mindy Segal refined her skills as pastry chef in some of the most prestigious kitchens in the country, with early professional positions stationing her at Spago, Gordon, Charlie Trotter’s, Ambria, and MK. Her Chicago restaurant, HotChocolate is the culmination of nearly 30 years of dedication to her craft and the passion she has for the entire hospitality experience. Despite Segal’s masterful technique, her desserts don’t come off as meticulous, manufactured, or precious, but rather as heartfelt dishes rooted in Midwestern wholesomeness.
Segal was awarded the James Beard Foundation’s “Outstanding Pastry Chef” award in 2016, after five previous nominations. More recently, Segal appeared on “The Today Show,” “The Martha Stewart Show,” The Food Network, The Cooking Channel, and First Look. Her work has been featured in O Magazine, GQ, Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, Bon Appétit, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. Her first book, Cookie Love, was published in 2015.
Now, Segal is taking her pastry prowess to a relatively new industry—marijuana edibles. Through a partnership with Cresco Labs (Illinois’ largest cannabis cultivator) Segal is using a new technique to change the edible landscape. She’s using pure cannabis oil extracted via fractional distillation—a process that extracts 100 percent of the terpene out of the cannabis so that there is no trace flavor of cannabis—and her trademark balance of hot and cold, crispy and smooth, and salty and sweet to change the way we eat, medicate, and play.
Chef/Owner: Bacchanalia, Star Provisions, Floataway Café, and W.H. Stiles Fish Camp
Anne Quatrano has helped steer the trajectory of Atlanta’s dining scene for more than two decades by pioneering a simple principle—she was one of the city’s first chefs to showcase local ingredients prepared with precision and presented artfully. At the core of all her restaurants lies a commitment to the land and the inherent flavors locally and lovingly cultivated produce and products bestow. Much of what she serves at her restaurants comes directly from her own Summerland Farm in Cartersville, and she steadfastly supports wholesome wave, local organic growers and Georgia Organics.
Quatrano is a graduate of the University of Vermont and San Francisco’s California Culinary Academy and her career has taken her through fine dining establishments from the Bay Area to New York City before she relocated to Atlanta. She has won numerous James Beard nominations and awards, including “Best Chef Southeast” in 2003. In 2013 and 2014, Quatrano was nominated for the James Beard “Outstanding Chef Award,” and in 2013 Bacchanalia was nominated for “Outstanding Service Award.”
Outside of her restaurants and farm, Quatrano is very involved in culinary nonprofits, especially those focused on women chefs. She is currently a Director on the Board for the James Beard Foundation, Chairman of the JBF Awards Committee and has served on the Board of Directors for Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, and Georgia Organics, as well as on various committees for the James Beard Foundation and Southern Foodways Alliance.
Quatrano’s cookbook, Summerland: Recipes for Celebrating with Southern Hospitality, was published by Rizzoli in October 2013, and showcases the inspiration and philosophy behind Quatrano and Harrison’s creative processes and their true passion for the kitchen.
Miriam Martinez-Prisciliano is a chef at West Main Crafting Co. located in downtown Lexington, Kentucky. As of December 2018 Miriam is head of the pastry and bread program at West Main, where she writes seasonal dessert menus and bakes all of their house breads. Her career as a pastry chef started at her first professional job working part time at Martine’s Pastries, where she learned cake decorating techniques that have helped her with her own cake business that is now called Prisciliano Cakes. In 2016, she graduated from Sullivan University, where she received her associates of science in culinary arts.
After Sullivan, Miriam worked at Middle Fork Kitchen Bar as garde manger line cook and prep cook, eventually starting to lead the restaurant’s dessert program. Following her time at Middle Fork, she started a second side business called Tamales of the Valley, selling authentic Mexican tamales and from scratch Mexican beverages at pop up events. Tamales of the Valley made its first appearance at the 2018 Bluegrass Fair and soon after that were present at two Night Market events.
Emie Dunagan’s passion for the culinary arts began by baking alongside her grandmother. She enjoyed making simple confections like carrot cake or strawberry jam. From there her curiosity grew, as a teenager she began baking on her own for family and friends. When she was 15, Emie was sponsored by The National Association of Women Business Owners to attend The Young Entrepreneur’s Academy. From there she opened her own business, Em’s Delights Bakery, working out of a small coffee shop until she moved into Chef Space, a kitchen incubator for small businesses in Portland, Kentucky. Emie made custom cakes, and selling baked goods to local companies such as Heine Brother’s Coffee.
At the age of 18, Emie moved into her own kitchen and continued to expand her company, while also starting start culinary school at Sullivan University in 2016, which introduced Emie to the restaurant world, which she found much more thrilling and challenging than her small bakery. Emie decided to close Em’s Delights and pursue a career as a pastry chef. She started her job at The 502 Bar and Bistro while going to college and has since grown to become pastry chef there where she creates and manages the dessert menu, the pasta production and the bread program. She also assists with culinary prep, weekend dinner service and manages some administrative duties within the restaurant. When she’s not at work, Emie enjoys teaching young kids baking at Mesa Kids Cooking School.
Executive Chef, CEO, Katie Button Restaurants
Cúrate and Button & Co. Bagels
Chef Katie Button was born in the South, raised in the North, and educated in Europe. Now, she has returned to her roots as chef and owner of two unique restaurant concepts in Asheville, North Carolina: Cúrate Tapas Bar and Button & Co. Bagels.
Chef Button pursued science degrees at Cornell and earned her master’s in biomedical engineering in Paris, France. She then changed course and devoted her pursuits to the culinary field, working for José Andrés at his restaurants in the United States and then for Ferran Adrià at the world-renowned elBulli in Spain.
After meeting her husband Félix Meana, Chef Button moved to Asheville and created Katie Button Restaurants with Meana and her parents in 2011. Together, they opened Cúrate in 2011. The classic Spanish tapas restaurant received instant attention and accolades, from mentions in The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times to local awards and press. Katie Button and team have since opened Button & Co. Bagels in 2018, also in downtown Asheville.
Chef Button was a semi-finalist for the James Beard Rising Star Chef award in 2012 & 2013, a nominee in 2014, semi-finalist for Best Chefs in America in 2015 and a nominee for Best Chef Southeast 2018 and 2019. Chef Button was one of Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs of 2015 and hosted an international television series, The Best Chefs in the World. Chef Button is a member of Williams-Sonoma’s 2017 Chefs’ Collective.
Button remains dedicated to causes beyond solely culinary pursuits. Her dedication to an eco-friendly approach to restaurant ownership was lauded by Grist.org, and both restaurants are living wage certified and work with local companies and organizations to recycle, compost, and reduce food waste and environmental impact. Among other charitable events, Chef Button cooked for a Human Rights Campaign fundraiser in Washington, D.C., a Chef Action Network summit in Asheville, and works locally with Chefs at Welcome Table and Green Opportunities’ Kitchen Ready Program. She has also attended the James Beard Foundation Boot Camp for Policy and Change, an educational program with Chefs Action Network for select chefs from across the country.
Chef Button published her first cookbook in October 2016. The book, Cúrate: Authentic Spanish Food from an American Kitchen, celebrates the broad appeal of Spanish cooking and shows readers how to recreate and adapt classic dishes in the home kitchen using seasonal local ingredients.
Executive Chef/Owner, Hudson House, The Tripel, Playa Provisions and Da Kikokiko
Los Angeles native Brooke Williamson has carved out an impressive resume full of leading roles and professional achievement, such as being the youngest female chef to ever cook at the James Beard House and a runner-up on Top Chef season 10 in Seattle. As the co-owner and co-chef, along with husband Nick Roberts, of successful ventures including Hudson House in Redondo Beach, and The Tripel, Playa Provisions, and the culinary retail boutique Tripli-Kit in Playa Del Rey, the culinary duo strives to bring a bit of LA’s gourmet beachside vibe to the South Bay of Los Angeles. In October 2016, the wife and husband team debuted their fifth concept, a fast-casual Hawaiian restaurant called Da Kikokiko in Playa Vista, featuring three of Hawaii’s most popular street foods: shave ice, poke, and musubi. Before the success of her hospitality empire, Williamson’s career began as a teacher’s assistant at the Epicurean Institute of Los Angeles, followed by a pastry assistant at Fenix, under the tutelage of Michelin-starred Chef Ken Frank. She later worked as the youngest sous chef at the nationally acclaimed restaurant Michael’s of Santa Monica, before staging at the renowned Daniel restaurant by Chef and Owner Daniel Boulud in New York City.
Two years later, Williamson was appointed her first Executive Chef position at the notable Los Angeles restaurant Boxer, which led her to opening the Brentwood eatery Zax as executive chef, where she began to develop her signature California-inspired cuisine—infused with local ingredients and global flavors. In addition to her experience competing on Top Chef, Williamson has no fear on camera and has also participated on other national TV shows including Top Chef Duels, winning a battle on Esquire Network’s Knife Fight, and hosting MTV’s first foodie series, House of Food.
Since making Raleigh her home, Ashley Christensen has sought to foster community through food, philanthropy and the stimulation of the city’s downtown neighborhood. After working in some of the Triangle’s top kitchens, Ashley opened Poole’s Diner in 2007, which takes its name and décor from the building’s original tenant—one of downtown Raleigh’s first restaurants. In 2011, Ashley opened three new ventures, all housed in a corner building once occupied by a Piggly Wiggly. Beasley’s Chicken + Honey is an ode to fried chicken and classic Southern sides; Chuck’s offers burgers and frites with signature updates; and Fox Liquor Bar, housed in the building’s basement, features a menu of more than 50 craft cocktails, as well as beer, wine and bar snacks. In the spring of 2015, AC Restaurants introduced Death & Taxes, a restaurant celebrating wood-fire cooking with Southern ingredients, and Bridge Club, a private events loft and cooking classroom. Death & Taxes was a 2016 James Beard Award finalist for Best New Restaurant, and Food & Wine listed it as one the Best New Restaurants of the Year. And most recently, in the fall of 2019, Poole’side Pies opened next door to Poole’s Diner, featuring Ashley’s take on Neapolitan-style pizza.
When she’s not in the kitchen, Ashley focuses her time on a number of local and regional charities. She has served as a board member of the Frankie Lemmon foundation and is a co-chair of its annual fundraising event, Triangle Wine Experience. She has also served on the board of Raleigh’s Contemporary Art Museum and the Downtown Raleigh Alliance. She is an active member of the Southern Foodways Alliance and founded the biannual event Stir the Pot, in which she hosts visiting chefs in Raleigh to raise funds for the SFA’s documentary initiatives. Ashley’s work has gained national attention from such publications as Bon Appétit, Gourmet, The New York Times, Southern Living, Wall Street Journal, and Garden & Gun. She has appeared on Food Network’s popular series Iron Chef America and MSNBC’s Your Business.
In 2014, Ashley was awarded the James Beard Award for “Best Chef: Southeast,” and in 2019 she was awarded the James Beard Award in the “Outstanding Chef” category. Ashley was named Chef of the Year by Eater.com in 2017. She is the author of the cookbook, Poole’s: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner, which was published by Ten Speed Press in fall 2016 and named one of the top cookbooks of the fall by the New York Times.
Nina graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. She began her professional journey at Daniel in New York City, working and continuing her culinary education alongside world renowned chef/restaurateur Daniel Boulud and his team.
After moving to Miami, she continued to work with the best, joining the crews of Norman Van Aken at the original/iconic Norman’s then Philippe Ruiz at Palme d’Or at the historic Biltmore Hotel. Eventually Nina moved to Casa Casuarina, a private club and boutique hotel in Miami Beach where she rose from Sous Chef to Executive Chef of the small yet highly acclaimed property.
With the excitement of the 2008 reopening of the refurbished Fontainebleau Miami Beach, combined with the chance to work with Scott Conant at Scarpetta, Nina leapt at the chance to join the pre-opening team as Sous Chef and went on to be appointed Chef de Cuisine, where she earned raves and accolades.
Compton competed on Season 11 of Top Chef. She was the Top Chef, Season 11 runner up and was voted fan favorite by viewers.
In June 2015, Compton opened her own restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana, Compère Lapin. Compère Lapin serves Caribbean-style cuisine and is located in the New Orleans Central Business District.
In March 2018, Compton opened Bywater American Bistro in New Orleans with Husband/Partner Larry Miller and Chef/Partner Levi Rains.
Sarah Grueneberg was Raised in Houston, Grueneberg spent much of her childhood making sausage and baking wild berry pies and cinnamon rolls with her German grandparents. She opened her first business venture, a restaurant called Tastes of the World, under her school’s bleachers in the 4th grade. It was clear from a young age that destiny, and loud steamy kitchens, were calling her name.
Grueneberg attended the Art Institute of Houston and attained her associate’s degree in culinary arts in 2001. That July, Grueneberg joined Brennan’s of Houston under Chef Randy Evans. She began as garde manger and worked her way up to become the restaurant’s youngest female sous chef at the age of 22 in 2003. While at Brennan’s Sarah was exposed to the epitome of southern hospitality and to a well-rounded menu of Texas Creole featuring locally driven foods, game, and fresh farm produce.
In September 2005 Grueneberg joined the award-winning team at Spiaggia, helmed by Chicago Chef Tony Mantuano. Grueneberg started on the line, which afforded her the opportunity to learn about Italian food, culture, and products. With diligence and determination, Grueneberg was promoted to purchasing sous chef in February 2007, where she developed her leadership skills and gained insight into the business operations of a restaurant. In this position, she worked closely with Executive Chef Missy Robbins. Chef Robbins, now of A Voce in Manhattan, taught Grueneberg about sourcing and ingredients, and under her tutelage, Grueneberg’s creativity flourished. In August 2008, Grueneberg was promoted to Chef di Cucina.
Over the past two years, Grueneberg’s growing knowledge of Italian food, culture, and language has enabled her to create one-of-a-kind experiences for Spiaggia guests that ultimately led to her promotion to Executive Chef in January 2010.
In 2016, Grueneberg left Spiaggia to open her own restaurant, Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio, and was awarded the James Beard Foundation Award for “Best Chef: Great Lakes” in 2017.
She started as garde-manger cook at Boston’s renowned Biba restaurant, then worked as a pastry cook at Bentonwood Bakery in Newton, and in 1995 was hired as Pastry Chef at Rialto restaurant in Cambridge.
Joanne moved to New York City in 1997 to work in the cake department of the critically acclaimed Payard Patisserie and Bistro. Returning to Boston a year later with dreams of opening up her own pastry shop, she brought her French and American training to Mistral where she was the Pastry Chef until summer of 2000.
In 2000, she opened Flour, a bakery and café, in Boston’s South End. Flour features breakfast pastries, breads, cakes, cookies, and tarts as well as sandwiches, soups, and salads. There are now 8 locations of Flour in Boston and Cambridge.
In 2007 she and Christopher Myers opened Myers+Chang to bring the food that she grew up with along with the hospitality that Myers was known for to Boston. Myers+Chang was awarded 4 stars by The Boston Globe in September 2017 at their 10th anniversary.
She is the author of four cookbooks: Flour, Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery+Cafe and Flour Too, Indispensable Recipes for the Cafe’s Most Loved Sweets and Savories, Baking with Less Sugar: Recipes for Dessert using Natural Sweeteners and Little-to-No White Sugar, Myers+Chang at Home: Recipes from the Beloved Boston Eatery, and currently working on her fifth cookbook Pastry Love, All my Favorite Recipes, which will be available Fall 2019. Joanne is the winner of the 2016 James Beard Award for Outstanding Baker.
Katie Smith is the sous chef at Pizza Lupo in Louisville, Kentucky and has been cooking professionally for over seven years. Before Lupo, she was the chef de cuisine at Holy Grale. Katie is a strong believer in supporting Kentucky farmers and producers, and using high quality, sustainable ingredients. She enjoys making and working with fermented foods, including bread. She is passionate about using cooking to benefit her community, and has worked with local organizations like the Everything Will Be Okay Project and the Kentucky Refugee Ministries.
When she’s not in the kitchen, she enjoys drawing and gardening.
Breanna Baker’s dedication for the culinary industry is driven by her fascination for food and learning. She attends Sullivan University where she has earned an associate degree in culinary arts and is working on her bachelor’s degree in hospitality management. She has worked as a line cook at 610 Magnolia for two years where she made it a point to train on and learn every station in the kitchen. Breanna also runs events in the restaurant’s neighboring private event space, The Wine Studio, and helps maintain the greenhouse. She has created multiple dishes that have appeared on the menu at 610 Magnolia. She is determined to learn as much as she can about the culinary industry and has a passion to succeed.
Tonya Mays is a culinary graduate of Sullivan University in Lexington, Kentucky. She is currently the pastry chef at Great Bagel in Lexington. Tonya has a strong passion for food and hospitality and her love for the industry stems from being raised by her grandmother, who started Tonya’s passion for food. She grew up in a house where family gathered around meals that her grandmother Joann cooked.
At Great Bagel, Tonya focuses on staying seasonal and local, and highlighting farm to table food that supports her community. With her passion for community and food, she hopes to bring that to every dish she brings to the table.
When she’s not working, Tonya enjoys spending time with her daughter, taking care of her plants, and combing antique stores for interesting vinyls.
Nikkia Rhodes grew up in Louisville and was always interested in food. Her mother, who worked at Volunteers of America, would take Rhodes to work with her where she would sometimes get to work alongside her mother. She began working with Chef Edward Lee at MilkWood and then started working at 610 Magnolia in 2015. Rhodes has always been passionate about teaching and in 2017 began working at Turnip the Beet, where she is a Chef Instructor for children ages 2-17. In 2018, she started a culinary program for all grade levels at Iroquois High School, where she works full time. When she’s not working or at school, Rhodes tries to learn as much about cooking as she can and find inspiration by watching cooking shows and videos, and a lot of reading.
As a chef, AuCo Lai sees food as more just the meal they serve. It’s a foundation on which everything in life is built. AuCo’s work places a heavy emphasis on their Vietnamese heritage and love of their found home in central Appalachia, particularly Eastern Kentucky. Through their fledgling company, Amity Foodworks, AuCo is working to generate dialogues about food insecurity, and the radical activism being done to tackle it in their communities, through inclusive and representational community meals. They are a member of RUX – The Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange, a non-profit that brings rural and urban Kentuckians together to celebrate the state’s diversity and develop connections for mutual aid between our communities.
They are currently living in Lexington, and part of the team at Epping’s on Eastside.
Jen Rock, a Louisville native, began cooking at an early age, learning her way around the kitchen with the help and encouragement of her family. Rock began working in the hospitality industry while attending college in East Tennessee, working in local coffee shops and cafes. After graduating in 2003, she worked for a non-profit mental health care provider as an HIV Prevention Educator, while working second jobs at health food markets, as a private chef for a family of five, and as a traveling musician. Rock moved back to Louisville in 2015 and began working for Gralehaus, where she is now chef de cuisine. She is a former fellow and mentee (2018) of The LEE Initiative’s Women Chefs of Kentucky program. When she’s not at work, Rock enjoys spending time with her partner, Wendy, and their dog, Dixie.
Jenn Louis is the chef/owner of Ray restaurant in Portland, OR. She has competed on Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters,” was named one of Food & Wine’s “Best New Chefs,” and her simple, sophisticated cooking style, utilizing seasonal Pacific Northwest ingredients, has earned her two nominations for the James Beard Foundation Award of Best Chef: Northwest. Her debut cookbook, “Pasta By Hand” published in 2015, which was nominated for an IACP from the International Association of Culinary Professionals in the category of “Single Subject Cookbooks,” and her second book, The Book Of Greens (Ten Speed Press) debuted in April 2017 and has won the James Beard Award in the “Health and Special Diet” category. Jenn is actively involved with nonprofits including Alex’s Lemonade and Share Our Strength.
Lora Smith is the Fund Manager of the Appalachian Impact Fund (AIF), a social impact investment fund located at the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky in Hazard, KY. AIF supports the development of economic opportunity in Eastern Kentucky through grantmaking and place-based impact investments. Lora’s family has been in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky for seven generations and she comes from a background of social justice and community engagement work. Smith is a co-founder of the award-winning Appalachian Food Summit and a published author whose work focuses on Appalachian foodways. Her work has been featured in Gravy, the Daily Yonder, the New York Times, and NPR’s The Salt. In 2015, Lora accepted the Southern Foodways Alliance’s John Egerton Prize for her work supporting regional food systems and economic development in Appalachia.
Kelly Garvey was raised in the Louisville area and is a proud Kentucky native. She is an experienced non-profit professional who has worked in various roles over her career ranging from direct service, community development, program development and management, and in fundraising. She currently serves as a development professional for an long established food security organization in New York City and is married to a native New Yorker from the Bronx. Kelly is honored to bring her non-profit professional skills and passion to help the LEE Initiative promote equality and diversity, and hold a unique space to help build a new community of leaders in the restaurant industry.
Dianne S. Lee is a Strategic Communications Consultant who works with organizations to help them leverage and amplify their corporate messages both internally and externally. For the over 20 years, she has managed teams of creatives and supported Fortune 500 executives to generate breakthrough messaging. She believes in leading through empowering people. Not only because it’s rewarding and effective, but also because it paves the path for developing tomorrow’s leaders. Dianne is a longtime advocate for arts. She sat on the board of the Kentucky Opera for six years and supports several local and national organizations. She passionately believes in accessibility of arts for all, regardless of ability or income, to enhance communities and bring joy through cultural betterment. Her focus on helping people develop, advocating for the arts, and directing clear, authentic communications is why she enjoys working with the LEE Initiative.
Chef Edward Lee has lived in Louisville, KY since 2003 and has three restaurants there – 610 Magnolia, MilkWood and Whiskey Dry. He is also the Culinary Director for Succotash restaurants in Washington, DC and Maryland. He is a multiple finalist for the James Beard Foundation Best Chef Award and won the award in 2019 for writing the best-selling book Buttermilk Graffiti (2018) He also authored the best-selling book Smoke and Pickles (2013). He was nominated for a Daytime Emmy as Host of Mind of a Chef Season 3 and wrote and hosted the documentary Fermented. Chef Lee has been working to promote equality and diversity in the restaurant community for years and The LEE Initiative programs are his passion.
Stephania Sharkey grew up in Lexington, KY and originated in Ottawa, ON. She was raised cooking with her mother, who is a talented cook. Stephania has had the opportunity to work as a cook at Dudley’s on Short, Lock Box at 21C and now as Chef de Cuisine at County Club Restaurant. When she is not working, Stephania enjoys doing pop up dinners via Pomona Pop Up, traveling and learning about different cultures and cuisines.
Stephanie Callihan considers herself a native of Lexington, KY, although born in Richmond KY, she grew up in Lexington. Where she has been inspired by the rich histories of southern food tradition. The creativity and multicultural influences of Kentucky cuisine are what first drew Callihan to the culinary arts. In 2016, she started as a line cook at Lockbox at 21C Museum Hotel, an innovative restaurant that focuses on farm to table contemporary southern fare. Since then, she has moved into the role of lead line cook with the hopes of becoming Sous Chef and then eventually, be the first female executive chef of 21C Museum Hotels.