Meet the Chefs of FEAST 2024

Abra Berens

Abra Berens

Granor Farms, Three Oaks, MI

Abra Berens is a Michigan chef, author, and former farmer. Through every recipe written and meal served, she aims to tighten the connection between eaters and growers. She believes we can invest in a stronger, more equitable food system for everyone, from producers to grocers to consumers. She is the author of Ruffage: A Practical Guide to Vegetables, a 2020 Michigan Notable Book winner and James Beard Award nominee, and Grist: A Practical Guide to Cooking Grains, Beans, Seeds, and Legumes. Her dinners at Granor Farm in Three Oaks, Michigan, made her a James Beard semifinalist for Outstanding Chef: Great Lakes.

Amy Brandwein

Amy Brandwein

Centrolina, Washington, DC

At Centrolina restaurant and market in CityCenterDC, Chef and Owner Amy Brandwein shows Washingtonians the versatility, grace, and overall delicacy of Italian cuisine. The five-time James Beard Award nominee believes food should taste as good as in Italy, plated with pose, and viewed through the seasonal lens of the Mid-Atlantic—tenets she instills in her fast- casual project, Piccolina, an osteria that opened across the alley from Centrolina in July 2019. “I take Italian food and keep it in its raw state but elevate it presentation-wise without complicating it or losing flavor,” Brandwein explains. “There is something inherently captivating about Italian flavors with an artistic and modern edge, while still being fresh and natural.” Brandwein and her flagship restaurant have earned many accolades, including James Beard Foundation Award finalist for five years (2022, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017) in the Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic category; nomination for 2019 Upscale Casual Restaurant of the Year by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington RAMMY Awards; 2018 Chef of the Year at the RAMMY Awards (2018); as well as previous RAMMY Award nominations, including Upscale Casual Restaurant of the Year (2018), Chef of the Year (2018, 2017, 2016), and New Restaurant of the Year (2016). Piccolina was also recognized as one of Esquire’s Best New Restaurants in 2019. In spring 2015, Brandwein opened Centrolina to fanfare not just for her appealing approach to Italian cuisine, but also because of her business savvy and the then-distinctive position of being a sole female chef and owner. Brandwein soon realized her accomplishments meant she needed to play a larger role for the culinary industry: to be an example for women chefs to visualize and realize their own success. In 2017, Brandwein accepted the James Beard Foundation’s prestigious Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Program fellowship. She earned additional scholarships from the foundation, as well as the International Association of Culinary Professionals. In 2023, Brandwein was appointed to the American Culinary Corps, a select group of chefs with a mission to use food, hospitality, and community as diplomatic tools. A participant of President Biden’s Council for Nutrition and an advocate for charities that support access to healthy eating, Brandwein is also an active supporter of So Others Might Eat, DC Central Kitchen, and Martha’s Table. Brandwein is also a proud member of Chef José Andrés’s World Central Kitchen. With a dedication to responsibly and locally sourced ingredients, Brandwein became an early partner with DC Urban Greens, a nonprofit urban farm located in Ward 7 and 8, that provides fresh and affordable produce to the local community—Centrolina and Piccolina are DC Urban Green’s only wholesale client. She is also a longtime member of Les Dames d’Escoffier and Women Chefs and Restaurateurs.

Angelia Drake

Angelia Drake

From the Heart Catering, Lexington, KY

Chef Angelia is a Lexington native, raised around lots of good family cooking. Her passion was sparked early in life as she watched her Aunt Sarah (head cook at Woolworths on Main St). She would help to pick, clean and cook lots of vegetables. She is the proud owner of From the Heart Catering, a company she started 7 years ago. She a member of the EECDC (East End Community Development Corporation) which supports businesses in the East End. She is the founder of Touching From the Heart a non profit organization that provides a day of uplifting and encouraging for ladies in local recovery centers. She offers culinary training for ladies in recovery and homeless shelters, then they go forth and gain employment. She is the grandmother of 16 grandkids, and stays busy supporting their many different activities.

Hannah Arvin

Hannah Arvin

Holly Hill Inn, Midway, Ky

Hannah Arvin attended the University of Kentucky on an agricultural biotechnology scholarship. After graduation, while researching traumatic brain injury, she decided to follow her true calling and went to work in the salad station of a small bistro in downtown Lexington. Even when I was a kid, I wanted to know how things worked.  That’s why I studied neuroscience; I thought the brain was the answer to it all.  But it didn’t explain things like art and love and beauty.  So I turned to cooking.  I found fulfillment there that I couldn’t find anywhere else. Hannah worked her way up through the ranks at Wines on Vine, then earned a coveted spot on Chef Ouita Michel’s team at the newly opened Honeywood Restaurant. While at Honeywood, Hannah progressed from garde manger to the fry station to sauté. In 2020, she moved from Honeywood over to Michel’s flagship restaurant, Holly Hill Inn, where she was promoted to sous chef. Hannah made the national press in 2020 when The New York Times ran a feature story on FoodChain and pandemic relief efforts.  The volunteer work provided by Hannah and other restaurant chefs made it possible for FoodChain to divert thousands of pounds of fresh food from the landfill to family dinner tables. That same year, Hannah joined the third class of mentees in the Lee Initiative, founded by Louisville Chef Edward Lee to empower and advance women in restaurant kitchens through mentorship and networking. While participating in the Lee Initiative, Hannah completed an externship with James Beard award-winning restaurateur Katie Button, and was featured as a guest chef at Edward Lee’s renowned Washington D.C. restaurant, Succotash. Hannah describes the kitchen at Holly Hill Inn as a well-built machine, where “all the gears are in place; now we’re tightening the bolts, finessing its performance.”  She’s looking forward to crafting menus that will get the most out of Kentucky’s local bounty, from the gardens at Holly Hill Inn to the fields of area farms. At home, Hannah is an avid houseplant collector and spoiler of two large “puppies” named Bentley and Kendrick. Her partner, Nick Zaluski, is also a chef and Holly Hill alum; he now owns and operates a successful food truck with Hannah’s brother Micah Arvin. Together Hannah and Nick enjoy smoking meats and outdoor cookery, and discovering dive bars and taco trucks.
Jessica Taylor

Jessica Taylor

Private Vegan Chef and Wellness Educator, Louisville, KY

Today, Jessica masters her many trades, displaying the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle. As a private chef and wellness educator, Taylor teaches creative cooking classes using artistic methods regarding living a whole, healthy life. Her style is simply fun but unique: Using local-sourced ingredients to create plant-based meals. Also, incorporating practices of meditation and fitness that make you feel energized and strong. The launch of her first book, I Once Was Blind, But Now I Veg, helped Taylor embrace her faults and failures, which she refers to as discoveries. Jessica believes proper health embodies the mind, body, and spirit.

Kristin Smith

Kristin Smith

The Wrigley Taproom & Eatery, Corbin, KY

Kristin M Smith is a chef and owner of The Wrigley Taproom & Eatery in Corbin, Kentucky. Her passion for honest, thoughtful food and commitment to creating a sustainable, supportive economy for local foodways in Appalachia sets her apart. Kristin’s leadership and talent have not gone unnoticed in the culinary world. She has been featured in numerous publications, including Food & Wine and Time Magazine, and is a graduate of the James Beard Foundation Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership program. In addition to her work in the kitchen, Kristin is also an active member of her community, using her platform to support local farmers and promote sustainable agriculture

Molly Thompson Costello

Molly Thompson Costello

Otto's Restaurant Group, Covington, KY

Molly was born and raised in Paris, KY, where food and entertaining were a constant fixture. Her mother and aunt ran a small catering business and the family often hosted gatherings, with the menu and hospitality always taking center stage. After graduating with a BA in Sociology from DePauw University in Greencastle, IN, Molly spent five years in Chicago working at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. In the evenings, Molly bartended downtown and got her first glimpse of the service industry. From there Molly returned to her roots in the bluegrass state and enrolled in culinary school at the Midwest Culinary Institute. While studying at MCI, she began working as a server and cook at Otto’s, a neighborhood bistro in Covington’s Mainstrasse Village. As Molly was finishing culinary school, the owners tapped her to be the Chef de Cuisine of Otto’s. With nervous excitement, she stepped into the role and from there her culinary career has flourished. Over the next 15 years, the company grew to 5 concepts and Molly now serves as the Vice President of Otto’s Restaurant Group. She and her husband Joe, who met through Otto’s, live in Mainstrasse with their two children.

Paula Endara

Paula Endara

The Manchester, Lexington, KY

James Beard Foundation bootcamp alum originally from Quito, Ecuador, chef and mixologist Paula Endara has been in the hospitality industry over the last 12 years—from specializing in avant-garde cuisine at the Basque Culinary Center, to working at a nomad restaurant concept in Quito collaborating with Amazonian farmers, all the way to Arkansas where she founded Roots
Restaurant. Throughout all of her endeavors, Paula has focused on identity, culture, and sustainability while advocating for community centered sourcing and improving food systems. Now, at The Manchester Hotel in Lexington, Kentucky, which features two restaurants: Granddam, Culturally Inspired Bluegrass Cuisine and Lost Palm, the rooftop social drinking parlor that boasts an array of Latin inspired small bites, Chef Paula continues her efforts to focus on those same values as Executive Chef at the Gold Key Award winning upscale boutique hotel.

Megan Wall Broussard

Megan Wall Broussard

freight house, Paducah, KY

Raised on the family farm in Western Kentucky, Megan’s passion for pastry blossomed early. Honing her skills at Sullivan University, she danced through renowned kitchens across the South like Cafe Ponte and Bern’s Steak House, each experience adding layers of artistry.

Returning to her roots, she found a warm welcome at Proof on Main before flourishing at Freight House alongside Chef Sara Bradley and a team like family. Here, she weaves local flavors into delectable desserts, crafting edible memories that connect people and celebrate her home state.

Beyond the accolades, Megan finds joy in spending time with her 3 children, menagerie of pets, and their loving extended family.

Stay tuned! More still to be announced!

Agnes Marrero

Agnes Marrero

Smithtown Seafood, Lexington, KY

Agnes Teresa Marrero Rosa was born and raised in Puerto Rico. Growing up in kitchens meant she washed dishes on a stool at the age of five, and graduated to cooking red beans and rice at age seven. She trained at the Culinary Escuala Hotelier de Puerto Rico, continued her education through a scholarship program at the Culinary Institute of America and was mentored by Chef Juan Carlos Vicens. Since coming to the States she has worked in many kitchens and alongside many chefs including Johnathan Lundy, and currently, Ouita Michel. When asked why she cooks she says simply “Because I am Puerto Rican” and her love of the art shines as big as her smile. “Farm to table, sustainability and ending hunger go hand in hand” she says, and it shows in the work she does. As a FoodChain board member Agnes advocates for food justice as well as volunteers her time towards our efforts.

Amber Lawrence

Amber Lawrence

Kitchen Manager, FoodChain, Inc

Amber Lawrence is a Texas native and professional creative who came to Kentucky six years ago to blend her family, and blended her passion for feeding people and commitment to equity right along with it. She worked under chefs Ouita Michel and Tyler McNabb before finding her home at FoodChain at the beginning of the pandemic. She’s helped establish a true farm to table soup kitchen, supporting both local farmers and the community alongside the most incredible team she ever could’ve asked for. She and her wife, Kara, and their eight (8!) kiddos live in Lexington with entirely too many animals. They believe love is love and food is love, and full bellies can change the world.

Babz Goldman Nartowicz

Babz Goldman Nartowicz

Babz Bistro, Maysville, KY

A product of the Ohio River Valley, Babz Goldman Nartowicz is proud to call the town of Maysville, Kentucky home. Her culinary training covers a wide range of regional tastes. All the way from the Himalayas of Northern India where Babz worked with Tibetan Monks,to the Amalfi coast of Southern Italy where she studied the varieties of olive oil curated from volcanic ash. There was something about the river and Appalachian foothills that always pulled Babz back to Mason County. She can be found at the end of the Simon Kenton Bridge with her husband Alex, cooking up the flavors of the seasons and local farms in their gardenside food truck, Babz Bistro. The coolest backyard vibes around are in this creative bistro-on-wheels concept serving up Southern-fused dishes in a tranquil garden. When Babz isn’t at the table eating, she’s usually at it writing about different ways to incorporate the tastes and flavors from her travels and bluegrass heritage. Her recipes and adventures are on full display weekly in her food column Babz Bites featured in the Maysville Ledger Independent as well as Seasons magazine. Babz also teaches kids and adult culinary classes for Maysville Community and Technical College at the Institute of Culinary Arts.

Jane Thompson

Jane Thompson

Dupree Catering + Events, Lexington, KY

Growing up in Bourbon Co. Jane learned a love for cooking on her mother’s apron strings. Chef Jane Thompson is a Kentucky native. She has been a devoted employee of Dupree Catering and Events since 2006, Executive Chef since 2013. Chef Janey (as her staff lovingly refers to her) attained a culinary degree from Sullivan University graduating Magna Cum Laude. Janey enhanced her culinary skills by working in different restaurants throughout the bluegrass region including: Dudley’s, The Village Idiot and Proof on Main in Louisville. She is also dedicated to using locally sourced food and green products. During her time as Executive Chef, she helped Dupree Catering and Events became the first caterer in Kentucky to receive a 2 Star certification by the Green Restaurant Association (GRA) and one of only 13 caterers in the United States to be certified. Chef Janey loves to tie in her southern roots with flavors and techniques picked up from her experiences elsewhere to provide a traditional and eclectic food experiences for their guests.

Joy Crump

Joy Crump

FOODE + Mercantile, Fredericksburg, VA

Joy Crump, a culinary graduate of the Art Institute of Atlanta, honed her skills alongside Atlanta farm-to-table pioneers, Chef Michael Tuohy and Chef Kevin Gillepsie. In 2011, Crump opened her first restaurant, FOODE in Historic Downtown Fredericksburg, Virginia with business partner Beth Black. In 2014, the duo opened their second restaurant, the breakfast-centric Mercantile, also in Fredericksburg. Crump appeared on Season 12 of the Emmy Award-winning competition series, Top Chef. Crump has had the honor of cooking as a featured chef at the James Beard House in both 2016 and 2017, and is actively involved in the James Beard Foundation’s Impact Programs for Food Policy, Chef Advocacy and Change. In September of 2018, Crump appeared in the James Beard Foundation’s Cookbook, “Waste Not: How to Get the Most From Your Food.” The goal of the cookbook is to shine a light on the collective efforts of the food community to tackle the food waste epidemic. Faced with the industry challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, in early 2020, Beth and Joy pooled their resources by merging FOODE and Mercantile into a single location. With the newly co-branded FOODE + Mercantile, the restaurateurs were able to essentially operate two distinct restaurants under one roof, retaining more staff members and remaining steadfast members of their local downtown business community. In 2021, Joy and Beth purchased 718 Venue, a meticulously-renovated 100-guest special events and lodging facility in the heart of downtown Fredericksburg. In 2023, Crump was named a James Beard Foundation Semi-Finalist, Best Chef Mid-Atlantic Boards / Affiliations ● Monticello Heritage Harvest Festival (Advisory Board, 2019 and 2020) ● Atlanta Food & Wine Festival (Advisory Board, 2019). ● James Beard Foundation (Advisory Board and mentor for Open for Good Program, 2019 and 2020) ● Re: Her DC Chapter (Advisory Board, Founding Board Member for DC Chapter, 2022) ● Downtown Greens – Fredericksburg-based non-profit Community Greenspace and Land Advocacy (Advisory Board, 2022) ● University of Mary Washington’s Women’s Colloquium (Advisory Board, 2021, 2022, 2023) ● No Kid Hungry (Chef Participant, Fundraiser, Thinktank, 2017-2021)

Martine Holtzman

Martine Holtzman

Martine's Pastries, Lexington, KY

Martine Holzman founded, and has owned Martine’s Pastries with her husband Jim in Lexington, KY since 1999. Martine’s started as a cake and pastry shop which was located on Industry Road in Lexington through 2017. In 2018, Martine, Jim, Chelsea their longtime manager and team moved and expanded the cake and pastry shop into a bakery, café, and cake shop on East Third Street in the east end of Lexington, KY. Only flavor exceeds the beauty of Martine’s exquisite savories, cakes, wedding cakes, and pastries. Martine is renowned for the rich yet delicate buttercream frosting on her delicious cakes, which come in a variety of flavors. Her café items and desserts are made from the finest ingredients, such as real butter, local ingredients, cake flour, premium flavorings, and European chocolates. Martine’s philosophy from the beginning was to build a business, with a team providing excellence in customer service, using the finest gourmet ingredients and artisanal skill to create a product and environment that is also an experience.

Nokee Bucayu

Nokee Bucayu

Wiltshire at the Speed, Louisville, KY

Nokee Bucayu’s (she/her) passion for cooking started at a very early age, helping her Lola (grandma) make traditional foods like ube halaya and rice cakes in the Philippines. She moved to Kentucky when she was 10 and turned to Filipino food to remedy her homesickness. As she learned more about Kentucky cuisine and produce, she fell in love with merging the two in her own unique way. Nokee is currently the executive chef of Wiltshire at the Speed and Wiltshire Pantry and Bakery on Main. In 2022 she competed in the Food Network’s Holiday Baking Championship Gingerbread Showdown, winning the dessert baking challenge component with her bourbon pecan pie. She was named Best Pastry Chef by the ACF Kentucky Chapter in 2019.

Sam Fore

Sam Fore

Tuk Tuk Sri Lankan Bites & Tuk Tuk Sri Lankan Snack Shop, Lexington, KY

Sam Fore is a Sri Lankan-American chef and recipe developer based in Lexington, Kentucky. Her pop up, Tuk Tuk Sri Lankan Bites, crisscrosses the country to bring her Sri Lanka meets the South dishes to diners far and wide. She started the pop up in 2016, after traditional Sri Lankan brunches in her home outgrew her dining room. Fore’s cooking is a reflection of her Sri Lankan upbringing in the American South; her dishes include her spin on Southern classics as well as new riffs on her family’s time-tested recipes. Her recipes can be found in multiple national publications and across the web — her take on tomato pie graced the cover of Food & Wine in 2019. She was named one of Plate Magazine’s Chefs to Watch (2018), was one of Southern Living’s inaugural Cooks of the Year (2020) and was named one of Taste of the South’s Taste50 (2022). In 2021 she joined the cast of Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street, which airs nationally on PBS stations. In 2023, Fore was honored by the James Beard Foundation Awards as a Finalist for Best Chef: Southeast. Fore opened the Tuk Tuk Snack Shop in Lexington, Kentucky in Fall 2023.

Tanya Whitehouse

Tanya Whitehouse

The Food Connection at UK, Lexington, KY

A lifetime of personal and professional twists and turns prepared Chef Tanya Whitehouse for her position as Chef and Program Manager for The Food Connection at the University of Kentucky. As the former Sous Chef of Holly Hill Inn for Ouita Michel, she brings both her culinary expertise and a passion for Kentucky-grown foods to her cooking classes. You’ll find her both in our learning kitchen and out in the community inviting students and professionals, children and adults to gain new skills, explore new flavors, and enjoy new experiences. Chef Tanya passionately believes that we are inexorably tied to what we eat and that sitting down to a meal together can connect you with other people in a way nothing else can.

Sara Bradley

Sara Bradley

freight house, Paducah, KY

Chef Sara Bradley, raised in Kentucky, blends her family’s Appalachian and Jewish heritage with Southern/Midwestern flavors at freight house. This Michelin-trained chef highlights local ingredients and craft cocktails while advocating for work-life balance in the culinary world. Runner-up on Top Chef Kentucky 16 and World All Stars 20, Bradley tells stories through her food.

Stay tuned! More still to be announced!

Alison Settle

Alison Settle

Assemblage, Louisville, KY

A native of Lexington, Kentucky, Alison studied biology at the University of Kentucky before moving to Munich, Germany. There, Settle’s growing excitement to prepare and serve delicious food matched with her fascination of biology, thus placing her in an advantageous position to enroll in culinary school. During her time at Sullivan University’s Culinary Arts Program in Lexington and Louisville, Kentucky, Settle honed her skills in some of the region’s top kitchens, including Holly Hill Inn, Woodford Reserve, Holy Grale, Portage House, Gralehaus, and Pizza Lupo. Her first executive chef position was at the restaurant and butcher shop Red Hog, where she specialized in continuously rotating menus and tip-to-tail utilization of proteins and produce. After honing these skills, she was tapped by Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown to open culinary operations at Barn8 and Hermitage Farm, a hyper-Bluegrass agritourism project combining the best of Kentucky’s offerings, including bourbon, agriculture, equine operations, food, and hospitality. Her works and interviews have been featured in Forbes, Food & Wine, Garden & Gun, and Southern Living, as well as multiple local tv and media appearances, podcasts, and blogs. In 2022, Chef Alison Settle was named a James Beard Foundation Best Chef: Southeast Semi-finalist. She was selected to participate in multiple television culinary competitions, including Food Network’s Guy’s Grocery Games, Beat Bobby Flay, and Chopped. She was also chosen to compete in the James Beard Foundation’s Women in Culinary Leadership Cookoff, San Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition, and was a 2nd place finalist in Maple Leaf Duck Farm’s student recipe contest. She joins Sullivan University now as Brand Influencer, focusing on utilizing her cooking knowledge, social media skills, and career testament to promote Sullivan’s top-notch culinary program. At home, Alison is a mother to human Arlo, canine Barney, and two felines, Kiki and Steven. She enjoys hiking while mushroom foraging, bass fishing while kayaking, digging holes while metal detecting, and researching food, cultures, and languages. She absolutely NEVER puts away her clean laundry, prefers shooting from the hip over planning, and is infatuated with airplanes and airports, though has smartly paired this with inalienable flight anxiety.

Anetra Polk

Anetra Polk

Woke Junk Food Vegan, Lexington, KY

Introducing Chef Anetra and her innovative plant-based eatery, Woke Junk Food Vegan, located on the University of Kentucky campus since August 2021. After a successful career as a beautician for 15 years, Chef Anetra followed her passion for vegan cooking and established Woke Junk Food Vegan in 2019. Despite having no formal training, Chef Anetra’s dedication to cooking led her to be a showcased chef for Feast Eve in 2020, and then to join Nourish Lexington powered by FoodChain in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. In May 2021, Chef Anetra worked as the executive chef for the opening of The Social Vegan, a current local vegan restaurant, where she curated the menu and helped build a strong, collaborative team before moving on to her own venture. Chef Anetra’s culinary talents have been showcased at numerous events, making her a sought-after chef in the community. At Woke Junk Food Vegan, Chef Anetra offers a wide selection of plant-based dishes ranging from raw to comfort, all prepared with love and dedication.

Brie Golliher

Brie Golliher

The Pie Queen of BG, Bowling Green, KY

Known locally as The Pie Queen, Brie Golliher is a hard-working creative dedicated to her craft and community. She and her husband, Brad, purchased Alvaton’s Boyce General Store in 2012, giving Brie a place to live out her passion of baking. They transformed the small grocery and deli into a restaurant that served burgers, attracting locals, tourists, farmers and business professionals until October 2020 when Brie pivoted and went to solely making pies and even went mobile with the Pie Wagon! Through local partnerships, she has created a brand loved and respected by many, also taking her talents outside of Bowling Green to sell her products at major grocery brands and teach baking demos in New York. While Brie is a small business owner, most importantly, she is a mother and wife, always finding time for her family. Boyce General Store and The Pie Queen have been featured in Where Women Cook, Southern Living, USA Today, Good Grit, and Garden & Gun, along with regional shows and cookbooks.

Jamilka Borges

Jamilka Borges

Lilith, Pittsburgh, PA

Born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico she developed an interest in Art and Food early in her life. After attending University of Puerto Rico, she decided to move to Pittsburgh and enroll in Culinary school. It was then that she applied to work at the recently opened Legume Bistro, which was Pittsburgh first true farm to table restaurant, teaching her valuable lessons on sustainability, butchery and fermentation. She was promoted to Sous Chef and left the restaurant six years later as the Chef di Cuisine to pursue her first Executive Chef job. As Executive Chef at the Livermore and Bar Marco, she led an ambitious preservation program and developed a rotating tasting menu in the Wine Room cellar along side, Sarah Thomas, now Advanced Sommelier at Le Bernardin. Her commitment to a unique “farm to table” dining experience led Bar Marco to be nominated for Best New Restaurant 2013 by Bon Appetit and The Wine Room being named “Best Dining Experience in Pittsburgh”. Her work also includes time as the Executive Chef of Food Revolution Cooking Club, a program that taught nearly 30 high school students cooking techniques and provided them with nutritional guidance. A new opportunity to take on the role of Executive Chef at Spoon, one of Pittsburgh finest restaurants, surged and she partnered with long time friend and mentor Brian Pekarcik to implement a new, simplistic and whimsical menu and décor at the established restaurant. In 2015 she was recognized by the James Beard Foundation as a Rising Star Chef Semifinalist and was honored as Best Chefs America’s Rising Star Chef. In 2016 was named Starchefs Rising Star for the Rustbelt Region. In 2018 she was named Pittsburgh Magazine Chef of the Year, recognizing her commitment with her community, culinary skills and voluntarism. She was also recognized by the James Beard foundation in 2019 as a semi finalist for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic. In the same year she was also recognize as part of the 2019 Pittsburgh Magazine 40’undet 40 class. She opened her new venture Lilith in 2023.

Katie Startzman

Katie Startzman

Native Bagel Company + Nightjar, Berea, KY

Katie Startzman is the founder and creative force behind Berea restaurants Native Bagel Company and Nightjar. She is driven to create community-centric gathering spaces that enrich the culture of her small town thru carefully-sourced, scratch-made food and beverages. Whether it’s hand-rolled bagels, smashburgers with perfectly-cooked fries, or well-balanced cocktails featuring fresh juices and seasonal garnishes, she is creating a new standard for neighborhood restaurants in Berea while cultivating creative staff who provide warm and genuine hospitality.

Michelle Kovach

Michelle Kovach

Crank & Boom Craft Ice Cream, Lexington, KY

Michelle is the Director of Production & Fulfillment for Crank & Boom Craft Ice Cream. She’s been with C&B for over 8 years leading their Manufacturing, Product Development, Wholesale, Online Fulfillment, Quality & FDA Food Safety teams.  Her passion for confections and pastry is the perfect combination for developing unique ice cream flavors, artisanal chocolates and special features for the scoop shops; earning her the nickname the PastryFairy.  She has over 20 years of experience within Lexington’s culinary community.  Michelle is a Culinary Arts graduate from Sullivan University and the Chicago Chocolate Academy. She has two grown daughters, Abigail & Elizabeth.  Michelle lives in Lexington with her four corgis, Gidget, GusGus, Gracie and Greta.  

Ouita Michel

Ouita Michel

Board Member

Since 2001, when Ouita Michel and her husband, Chris, opened the Holly Hill Inn in Midway, Ky., she has made locally grown ingredients a priority in her world-class cuisine. Her restaurants (Holly Hill Inn, Wallace Station, Windy Corner, Smithtown Seafood, and Midway Bakery) have purchased more than $2 million of Kentucky-grown meats, dairy products, fruits and vegetables over the last 16 years. Ouita is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. She is a member of Slow Food USA; Les Dames d’Escoffier; deacon and free community supper programs coordinator for Midway Christian Church. She, Chris and their daughter, Willa, live in Midway. She has been a Board Member since FoodChain was founded in 2011.

 

Sam Sabad

Sam Sabad

Crank & Boom Craft Ice Cream

Samantha (Sam) Sabad is the Assistant Director of Production & Fulfillment at Crank & Boom Craft Ice Cream. She’s a Lexington native and graduated culinary school from Sullivan University.  Sam has over 7 years experience within Lexington’s culinary community.  She is a key member of the “creative brain trust” at C&B since joining the company 3 years ago.  She has been instrumental in launching C&B’s new artisanal chocolate business.  Several of her best known flavor collaborations are Sweet Potato Pie, Lemon Sorghum Cookie, It’s Corn, Rugelach and Yuzu Sake Sorbet.

Toa Green

Toa Green

Crank & Boom Craft Ice Cream, Lexington, KY

Toa Green is the Owner/Operator of Crank & Boom Craft Ice Cream, a premium ice cream company in Lexington, Kentucky. What started as a simple dessert option in the back of Toa’s family restaurant, Thai Orchid Cafe, has since grown to a business with two scoop shops, a soft serve shop called BoBi Cones, 40+ employees, nationwide shipping through Goldbelly, and recognition through national press including PEOPLE Magazine, the New York Times, and Cooking Channel. Crank & Boom’s mission is to Create Joy, Ignite Laughter, and Inspire Compassion. This is accomplished through various community giving programs like FEED Backpack program and our Small Batch Club program that has raised over $90,000 since 2020 for local organizations, and now the Pints for a Purpose Fundraising Program. Having grown up in Frankfort, Toa bleeds Kentucky Blue through and through despite having graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in Journalism and Public Relations. She currently serves as the Vice Chair of Leadership Development on the Executive Board of Commerce Lexington and as the President of the Lexington Distillery District Foundation. She also serves on the Governor’s Commission for Small Business Innovation and Advocacy She has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity in India, Thailand, and Honduras and in various parts of the US. Toa and her husband, Mike, have two toddlers, Bodhi and Bindi, that keep them busy and sleep deprived.

Stay tuned! More still to be announced!