The 2020 Women's Entrepreneurial Leadership Fellows
25 women will learn tools and skills to grow their businessesMaggie Borden
October 15, 2020
We're thrilled to announce the 25 fellows participating in the 2020 Women's Entrepreneurial Leadership (WEL) program, taking place virtually from October 5 to November 19.
Now in its fourth year, the WEL program is part of the Foundation's broader Women's Leadership Programs presented by Audi and aims to support woman-identifying hospitality industry entrepreneurs, restaurant owners, and chefs in order to grow their careers and scale their businesses.
The 2020 class of Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership fellows are:
Lost Lake, Chicago
Shelby Allison co-owns Lost Lake, a tropical cocktail bar in Chicago that is a multiple James Beard Foundation semifinalist and nominee for Outstanding Bar Program, and earned a spot on the World’s 50 Best Bars list (2018). Allison is a co- founder of Chicago Style, a yearly nonprofit conference focused on increasing inclusivity, equity, safety, and sustainability within the cocktail community, and co-founded #Shiftease, a monthly charitable party at Lost Lake that supports local organizations working for progressive racial, economic, and gender justice. Allison was one of Wine Enthusiast’s 40 Under 40 Tastemakers (2018).
Katie Button, Cúrate Tapas Bar and Button & Co. Bagel, Asheville, NC
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. Button has been a semi-finalist and nominee for the James Beard Rising Star Chef, Best Chefs in America, and Best Chef Southeast. She remains dedicated to causes beyond solely culinary pursuits, earning praise for having both restaurants living wage certified, and for her eco-friendly approach to restaurant ownership.
Val Chang grew up in Chiclayo Peru and moved to the United States when she was ten. Her passion for cooking flourished watching her father work in restaurants. Despite his hope that she’d choose a different career, Chang continued to work in kitchens. After stints under Thomas Keller, Albert Adria, and Michael Solomonov—she began exploring her roots cooking and re-discovered her connection with Peruvian food. In 2018, Chang, her father, and her brother opened Itamae, quickly earning praise as one of the best restaurants in Miami. Chang has twice been nominated for Rising Star Chef of the Year
PAGU, Cambridge, MA
Tracy Chang’s fondest childhood memories are those from her grandmother’s Japanese restaurant in Cambridge. While earning her B.S. in finance, Chang worked various culminating in a stint at O Ya. She went on to study at Le Cordon Bleu Paris and work under chef Martín Berasategui in Spain. Returning to the U.S., Chang co-founded Guchi’s Midnight Ramen with her former O Ya co-workers. In 2012, she became a Harvard Science + Cooking teaching fellow, and in 2017, Chang opened PAGU in Cambridge.
Uptown Yolk and Leah & Louise, Charlotte, NC
Subrina Collier is the co-owner and manager of two Charlotte restaurants, Uptown Yolk and Leah & Louise, alongside her husband chef/owner Gregory Collier chef/owner. The Colliers started off in a small restaurant in a strip mall in Rock Hill, South Carolina (about 15 minutes outside of Charlotte), gathering media attention and word-of-mouth buzz before moving to a new location in the city. Now eight years into her career as a restaurateur, Collier takes pride in being able to do her own thing, and has realized how much stronger she is than she thought at first.
Tsunami, New Orleans; Baton Rouge, LA; and Lafayette, LA
Michele Ezell is co-owner of Tsunami, a sushi restaurant with locations in Baton Rouge, Lafayette, and New Orleans. Ezell opened her first restaurant 20 years ago, and credits her success with knowing her own weaknesses and collaborating people
who have the strengths she lacks. She is always looking for a way for guests to get the most out of a visit to her restaurants.
Frichette Winery, Benton City, WA
Shae Frichette is co-owner and assistant winemaker at Frichette Winery, a limited production winery and tasting room in Washington State. She is the head winemaker for her own label, Sashay Wines, focusing on approachable reds and off-dry rosés. Frichette has served on the board of directors for the Red Mountain AVA Alliance and currently serves on the boards of the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce and Visit Tri-Cities. Frichette also volunteers by sharing wine and wine education with more than 20 nonprofits in the area annually.
The Good Batch, NYC
Anna Gordon is the founder, chef, and CEO of the Good Batch, a cookie bakery specializing in ice cream sandwiches, American baked goods, and breakfast pastries. The Good Batch was born in 2010 when Gordon started selling hand-pressed stroopwafels at the Brooklyn Flea. In 2014, the Good Batch opened its flagship bakery in Brooklyn, and in 2019, the company launched a grocery line of ice cream sandwiches. Due to the coronavirus, Gordon was forced to lay off her entire staff. She is actively working on keeping the business alive through nationwide shipping and local pick-up.
Gabriel Hall, Detroit
Ederique Goudia grew up in Wallace, Louisiana, on land given to her grandmother by her employer, a wealthy white family. Discouraged from attending culinary school by her family, Goudia instead earned a bachelor’s in business management/entrepreneurship. After college, she moved to Michigan, where she managed foodservice operations and worked at Sysco. In 2014, Goudia partnered with Dameon Gabriel to open Gabriel Hall, a New Orleans–inspired restaurant, bar, and music venue. In 2017 she became FoodLab Detroit’s program associate, and co-founded a consulting agency, In the Business of Food. In 2018, Goudia finally started culinary school.
Jennifer Hill Booker
Your Resident Gourmet, Lilburn, GA
While studying at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, Jennifer Hill Booker discovered that French and Southern dishes use many of the same ingredients and techniques. This connection inspired her cookbooks, Dinner Déjà Vu and Field Peas to Foie Gras, as well as her restaurant concept, Revival on Holcomb. Hill Booker is an Impact Fellow with the Beard Foundation, a Georgia Grown executive chef, and is the founder of the Cast Iron Chronicles dinner series. She recently designed the Community Rising Culinary Program in partnership with Just Bakery of Atlanta, a nonprofit that trains and employs refugees.
Crafts & Vines, Covington, KY
Lesley Hugo is the owner of wine and beer bar Crafts & Vines in Covington, Kentucky. After years in the corporate world, Hugo took the leap and decided to the explore the hospitality industry. While developing the concept of Crafts & Vines as a business, she took a side job at a local wine bar, and enrolled in formal wine and business education programs. Crafts & Vines launched in 2017 and has grown to be a Cincinnati-area favorite.
La Casita Pupuseria Inc, Silver Spring, MD
Iris Veronica Jimenez is the chef, culinary director, and partner of La Casita Pupuseria Inc. The daughter of Salvadoran-immigrant parents, Jimenez was born in Washington, D.C. and from a young age helped her parents and siblings run their group of local grocery stories and restaurants. After graduating from college, Jimenez returned to work at El Paso Café and La Casita. In an effort to reconnect with her Salvadoran culinary roots she started writing recipes and collecting food stories from her mother and aunts, eventually leading Jimenez to enroll in culinary school. The restaurant group continues to grow, adding La Casita Germantown in 2008, La Casita Cocina CA Gaithersburg in 2016, La Casita Nationals Park in 2018 and La Casita at La Cosecha in April 2020. Jimenez feels her greatest accomplishment is being a chef while raising a family with her husband.
Clementine’s Naughty and Nice Creamery, St. Louis
Tamara Keefe is the founder and CEO of Clementine’s Naughty and Nice Creamery. Growing up impoverished in a large Irish-Italian household, Keefe’s family couldn’t afford weekly trips to the ice cream parlor. The day her mother purchased a $2 hand-crank ice cream maker changed her life forever. In 2014, Keefe left her corporate job, sinking her life’s savings into an ice cream kitchen. She now has three locations in the St. Louis area, an online shop shipping nationwide, and a catering business. She is a 2018 alum of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Businesses program, and a 2019 Tory Burch Fellow.
Garland, Neptunes Parlour, and KINGS, Raleigh, NC
As a child in India, Cheetie Kumar could often be found in the kitchen with her mother and grandmother. A graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Kumar is a self-taught cook who studied recipes while pursuing a career as a guitarist. Now in Raleigh, she has embraced the area's renowned agriculture, and incorporated it into the multicultural menus at Garland, the adjoining music venue Kings, and cocktail bar Neptunes Parlour. Kumar was a semifinalist for the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southeast in 2017, 2018, and 2019, and a nominee in 2020.
Ice Cream Jubilee, Washington, D.C.
Victoria Lai is a former lawyer who discovered a passion for inventing ice cream flavors. As the founder of Ice Cream Jubilee, she dreams up flavors inspired by international desserts, cocktails, and childhood treats. In July 2013, Lai entered her flavors in a competition where she won People's Choice for Best Ice Cream in D.C. Soon after, she left her job to open her first store. Ice Cream Jubilee currently has three locations, and has been named one of the Best Ice Cream Shops in America by Thrillist, Tastemade, and Food & Wine.
Uptowne Café and Bakery, LaCrosse, WI
Adrian Lipscombe is a mother, educator, native Texan, and owner of Uptowne Café and Bakery restaurant. Lipscombe is also the only African-American restaurant owner in LaCrosse. She open Uptowne to create a catalyst of urban change and work with the community to help revitalization. Lipscombe’s food focuses on Southern cuisines by using local ingredients, foraging, and working with farmers in the Coulee Regional and Organic Valley area. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture and is finishing her Ph.D. in community and regional planning.
The Whole Ox, Marshall, VA
Amanda Luhowiak is co-owner of butcher shop/restaurant the Whole Ox in her hometown of Marshall, Virginia. Although Luhowiak is an only child, she grew up in a huge family of aunts, uncles, and cousins cooking family meals after family meal of country cooking. After stints in various hospitality jobs across the country, Luhowiak returned to Marshall, and with her husband Derek opened Local Sixfortyseven, a mobile farm-to-fork kitchen. They opened the Whole Ox in 2011, and expanded to include a evening restaurant in the butcher shop in 2016.
Tenth Ward Distilling Company, Frederick, MD
Monica Pearce is the founder and owner of Tenth Ward Distilling Company. She holds degrees in environmental science and policy and natural resources, and prior to founding Tenth Ward, worked in conservation biology internationally. In 2015 Pearce left her job to start Tenth Ward, but maintained her passion for the environment, ensuring all processes and practices leave the smallest footprint possible. Since opening, Tenth Ward has expanded to a staff of 12, moved to a new location, and added a cocktail bar and event space.
Rossoblu, Los Angeles
Dina Samson is co-owner of Rossoblu, an Italian restaurant in Los Angeles. A first-generation Filipino-American, Samson spent 20 years in various roles as an executive assistant, a marketing professional, an investment banker, an investor relations representative to a hedge fund, chief of staff to P.Diddy, and a video game producer before running Rossoblu’s operations alongside her husband chef Steve Samson.
Decca, Louisville, KY
As an advocate for sustainability and the Louisville community, Annie Pettry is a leader in the renaissance of Louisville’s culinary scene. Pettry’s childhood in Asheville, North Carolina was steeped in influential food experiences including foraging for mushrooms. After graduating from the International Culinary Center in New York City, she worked alongside renowned chefs before moving to Louisville to become chef/owner of Decca in 2012. A Top Chef season 14 contestant and two-time Food & Wine “People’s Best New Chef” nominee, Pettry is also a James Beard Foundation Smart Catch leader and a 2020 James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef: Southeast.
Pure Fare, Philadelphia
Kriti Sehgal grew up in northern New Jersey. After graduating college, Sehgal pursued a career in healthcare, but she became disgruntled with the reactionary, "pill-popping" approach to health vs. preventative methods. In 2010, Sehgal quit and created Pure Fare, a health-forward, fast-casual brand in Philadelphia. In 2013, Sehgal was approached by Bon Appetit to bring Pure Fare to the University of Pennsylvania. Since then, Sehgal has expanded her wholesale and partnership business to include Aramark, Compass, hospitals, fitness centers, businesses and local grocers and shops in the Philadelphia and New York area.
Marisa Seifan is the CEO and co-founder of Honeybrains, the first hospitality brand dedicated to better brain health. Honeybrains opened its first restaurant in December 2016 and its second in October 2019. Seifan and her family members started Honeybrains to translate the growing scientific research about brain health into foods, drinks, nutrient-based supplements, and other products. Before starting Honeybrains, Seifan served as a federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of New York. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Duke University, and a law degree from from Georgetown University Law Center.
Chef Shac LLC, Tallahassee, FL
Chef Shacafrica Simmons a.k.a. chef Shac is the owner of Chef Shac LLC, parent company for Empowered by Food, the North Florida Culinary Incubator, Chef Shac Catering, Life Chef, and the Sensory Experience. She is a Chopped champion, and a contributor to Toques in Black: A Celebration of Black Chefs. Simmons has been awarded the keys to the city and received a Leon County Commission Proclamation, and is the recipient of 2018 African Diaspora Champions and Unsung Heroes Award. She is an advocate for eradicating food insecurity and easing the plight of the local farmer.
Urban Growers Collective, Chicago
Laurell Simms is the co-founder and CEO, finance, for Urban Growers Collective. Founded in 2017, Urban Growers Collective is an urban agriculture nonprofit that aims to address inequities and structural racism in the food system and communities of color. Prior to founding Urban Growers Collective, Simms served as the director for ReVision House Urban Farm, a training program for homeless young mothers in Dorchester, Massachusetts, then moved to Chicago to work for Growing Power for over a decade. She believes growing your own food changes the relationship you have with food from reliance to empowerment.
Osteria la Spiga, Seattle
Chef Sabrina Tinsley’s passion for food was kindled as a child at her mother’s apron strings in Fairbanks, Alaska. During her travels throughout Europe, she found two loves: her husband-to-be, Pietro Borghesi, and the flavorful food from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. The couple opened la Spiga in 1998 and have since dedicated their time to growing the business and sharing their passion. Tinsley donates her time as a mentor to aspiring culinary professionals and to diversity programs advocating for female chefs and chefs of color.