Twice named to Time’s “100 Most Influential People” list and recipient of the 2015 National Humanities Medal, José Andrés is an internationally-recognized culinary innovator, New York Times best-selling author, educator, humanitarian, and chef and owner of ThinkFoodGroup, a collective of nearly thirty restaurants throughout the country and beyond. In 2010, Andrés founded World Central Kitchen, a non-profit specializing in delivering food relief in the wake of natural and humanitarian disasters. Notably, his team served 3.7 million meals to the people of Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria and has since served tens of millions of meals worldwide. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, WCK has partnered with restaurants, farmers, and community leaders around the country to combat food insecurity and uplift local businesses. A naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Spain, Andrés has been a tireless advocate for immigration reform.
Cat Cora is a world-renowned chef, author, restaurateur, contributing editor, television host and personality, avid philanthropist, health and fitness expert, lifestyle entrepreneur and proud mother of six. The Jackson, Mississippi native, who trained at the Culinary Institute of America and went on to cook at two 3-star Michelin restaurants in France, has been captivating audiences since she made her TV debut in 1999, as co-host of Food Network’s Melting Pot with Rocco Di Spirito. She went on to host My Country My Kitchen: Greece, Date Plate, and was one of the featured hosts on Fine Living’s Simplify Your Life. Cat Cora is also a woman who holds a series of “firsts” for women in the culinary industry.
Few American chefs, much less female chefs, can boast leading Michelin-starred restaurants abroad. Chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli can make such a boast, having embarked on a culinary journey in France that saw her working in some of that country’s top restaurants, including esteemed chef Guy Savoy’s eponymous three-star kitchen. Today Guarnaschelli is recognized as one of America’s most accomplished top chefs, acclaimed for her work in the kitchen, as an author, and as a popular television personality.
Robert Irvine is a world-class chef, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. The host of Food Network’s hit show Restaurant: Impossible, he has given struggling restaurateurs a second chance to turn their lives and businesses around in over 200 episodes and counting. He would know a thing or two about running a successful business. In addition to his restaurants—Robert Irvine’s Public House at the Tropicana in Las Vegas and Fresh Kitchen by Robert Irvine within the Pentagon—he is the owner of FitCrunch, whose protein bars, powders, and snacks are available nationwide; Robert Irvine Foods, which makes prepared, restaurant-quality dishes available in grocery stores and provides food service to military bases worldwide; and the Lansdale, PA-based Boardroom Spirits, creators of handcrafted vodka, rum, whiskey, and more.
Matthew Kenney is one of the world’s first leading chefs at the forefront of plant based cuisine, an author of 12 cookbooks and a best-selling memoir, a culinary educator, and CEO of Matthew Kenney Cuisine, a multifaceted lifestyle company specializing in plant-based cuisine throughout several unique markets. Kenney graduated from the French Culinary Institute and has earned several awards, including being named one of America’s Best New Chefs by Food and Wine Magazine and was twice nominated as a Rising Star Chef in America by the James Beard Foundation. Currently, Kenney has 28 restaurants operating throughout 15 international cities spanning 5 continents, including PLANT CITY, the world’s first plant-based food hall.
MARCUS SAMUELSSON is the acclaimed chef behind many restaurants worldwide, including Red Rooster Harlem, MARCUS Montreal, Marcus B&P and Red Rooster Overtown in Miami. He has won multiple James Beard Foundation awards for his work as a chef and as host of No Passport Required on PBS. A familiar face on many television programs including Food Network’s popular franchise Chopped, Samuelsson has been crowned champion of Top Chef Masters and Chopped All Stars, and was the guest chef for President Obama’s first state dinner. A committed philanthropist, Samuelsson is co-chair of Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP), which focuses on underserved youth. Author of several cookbooks as well as his New York Times bestselling memoir Yes, Chef, Samuelsson also co-produces the annual Harlem EatUp! festival, which has celebrated the food, art, and culture of Harlem for the past six years. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Samuelsson converted his restaurants Red Rooster Harlem, Marcus B&P in Newark, and Red Rooster Overtown in Miami into community kitchens in partnership with World Central Kitchen, serving over 230,000 meals to those in need. His newest cookbook, The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food, is out now.
Most people know Jon Taffer as a larger-than-life television personality who takes a no-holds-barred approach to helping hotels, restaurants, bars and businesses reach their full potential. He is also an international celebrity, New York Times best-selling author, highly sought-after hospitality, and general business consultant, and is the creator, executive producer and star of Paramount Network’s number-one show, Bar Rescue. For over four decades, Taffer has been at the forefront of the business management industry offering his expertise to hundreds of thousands of properties and Fortune 500 companies, to creating what industry experts call “the greatest nightclub in the world,” and changing the game of football for its fans forever with the creation of football’s “Sunday Ticket.” By no surprise, Taffer has been declared the most influential, trustworthy, and intelligent food & beverage personality on television.
Buddy Valastro is an accomplished fourth generation baker born into the business owned and operated by his parents. Buddy grew up in Hoboken, New Jersey in an old-fashioned Italian family. He showed a flair for cake decorating at an early age.
At the age of 17, Buddy’s father died. Suddenly, the only son had to take on the responsibilities of the patriarch. He thrived under pressure. With the help of his family, Buddy has taken Carlo’s Bakery to new heights, including expanding the bakery across the country and around the world. Growing up in a family of incredible cooks, Buddy brought his family’s classic Italian recipes to the table, opening his first restaurant, Buddy V’s, in the Venetian Las Vegas.
Back in Hoboken, Buddy oversees the day-to-day operations of the bakeries. That entails managing over-the-top bridezillas, dealing with unreliable suppliers and late deliveries, addressing complaints of walk-in customers, drumming up new business and keeping the peace in his family while executing hundreds of elegant cakes. Buddy has a big personality and an even bigger heart. He is the glue that keeps the family together.
Buddy is married to Lisa Valastro and they have four children; Sofia, Buddy Jr. Marco and Carlo. When he’s not at the bakery, Buddy loves nothing more than spending time with his family. He also enjoys bowling and fishing.
Former Major League Baseball player who hated the short hops in baseball but loved the hops of craft beer, Kevin Youkilis’ vision to open Loma Brewing Company came from the perks of traveling across the country and exploring breweries while playing baseball. If you ever saw him play, you can understand why he needed a beer after a game to taper the adrenaline. Once he stopped playing baseball professionally, he wanted to find business ventures that consumed his passion to work and to be on a team. He is currently opening up a coffee roasting facility, Loma Coffee Company, in Portland, OR.
Eric Greenspan is an acclaimed chef and popular TV personality. He is the author of two cookbooks: The Great Grilled Cheese Book: Grown-Up Recipes for a Childhood Classic and Cook Up Comfort with Eric Greenspan. A pioneer in the ghost kitchen industry, he is currently the Culinary Director of Virtual Dining Concepts, which has launched many hugely successful concepts including MrBeast Burger, Tyga Bytes, Mariah’s Cookies, Mario’s Tortas Lopez, and many more.
Chef Antonia Lofaso is the Executive Chef and Owner of three acclaimed Los Angeles restaurants – Black Market Liquor Bar (Studio City, California), Scopa Italian Roots (Venice, California), and DAMA (Downtown Los Angeles, California). Though diverse in cuisine and style, each of her restaurants combine deep-rooted, personal culinary traditions with the influence of her globetrotting adventures and formal French training. Antonia is widely recognized for her recurring roles on Food Network’s Guys Grocery Games, Tournament of Champions, Supermarket Stakeout and, most recently, the docuseries Restaurant Hustle, as well as Bravo’s Top Chef and CNBC’s Restaurant Startup. In addition to her thriving restaurant businesses and television career, Antonia is also an entrepreneur whose line, Chefletics, has redefined the traditional fit and function of kitchen apparel.
Kevin Kearns is the Senior Vice President of Restaurants at Grubhub where he is responsible for sales, fulfillment and the ongoing success of Grubhub’s restaurant partners. In his role, Kevin focuses on building and maintaining a robust restaurant supply while providing exceptional opportunities for restaurant partners to grow. Previously, Kevin held executive positions in sales, marketing, and operations with high-growth companies including 4C insights, Shoppertrak, and Huthwaite Inc. Also an author, Kevin’s book “Escaping the Price-Driven Sale” was published by McGraw Hill in 2007. He holds degrees in economics and business administration from the University of Iowa.
An expert on the consumer finance industry and mortgage markets, Doug provides insight and analysis on the current and future state of consumer lending and how FinTech companies, such as LendingTree, are using cutting-edge technology to change financial services. Doug has been a frequent contributor and guest speaker on major news networks such as Bloomberg, CNBC, Fox Business and The Street. He has been featured on live televised programs such Mornings with Maria, CNBC Squawk Box and Mad Money with Jim Cramer.
A passionate entrepreneur, Doug left business school (which he would return to nearly 20 years later) to start LendingTree during the dot-com era after experiencing his own frustrations with trying to obtain a mortgage. Doug believed that the lack of transparency and confusing process of obtaining a mortgage at the time needed to change.
In the twenty years since, LendingTree has become a leader in empowering consumers and changing how people shop for financing. Doug has a continued passion for entrepreneurship, investing in various business opportunities and start-ups. In addition to his expertise in consumer finance, Doug actively provides expert advice, insight and interviews on entrepreneurship and business development. He currently co-teaches an entrepreneurship class at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, his alma mater.
Mr. Colaneri has held a number of senior positions in advertising, technology & retail over the past 30 years. He has been responsible for running all aspects of the retail, restaurant & hospitality business at AT&T since 2013. In addition to a full suite of AT&T services and analytics, he has assembled an extensive ecosystem of partners providing a comprehensive technology portfolio. Michael serves as lead Retail & Hospitality industry expert, internally and externally, to the AT&T Corporation. He has received numerous awards for his achievements driving growth for the Fortune 100 within these verticals. His compositions are regularly circulated in numerous publications and media.
Prior to joining AT&T, he was Director of US Sales and Operations for Direct Language, Inc., a global multilanguage advertising firm specializing in broadcast and print media where he designed and implemented sales and marketing strategies. Mr. Colaneri serves as a regular Guest Lecturer in the Graduate School of Business at the University of San Francisco and he serves as a graduate business advisor focused on fueling the retail industry with a continual pipeline of fresh talent.
Mr. Colaneri is on the Board of Directors for the National Retail Federation Foundation and he serves as Retail Industry Advisory Board member to Azeti Networks, a machine to machine/Internet of Things solutions firm headquartered in Berlin, Germany. Mr. Colaneri is former Chair on the Board of Governors for the San Francisco Symphony and was President of the Board at Frameline for 5 of a 6 year Term, an international media and film distribution non-profit focused on Diversity Equity & Inclusion in under-served communities.
Michael received dual bachelor’s degrees in Management and Marketing from San Francisco State University and received a Masters in Business Administration in International Business from the University of San Francisco.
Kristine Decker was born and raised in Racine, Wisconsin; she has been married to her husband, Bob, for 23 years and has two children, Matthew age 17 and Mia age 14. Her hobbies include cheering for her kids at their various sports (which are many!), music, reading, traveling, and mentoring others.
Ms. Decker joined Procter and Gamble in 1998 after obtaining an MBA from Indiana University. She started her professional career post college in the Information Technology field, first as a summer intern at SC Johnson and Dow Corning, then as a Systems Analyst at Dow Corning (1992-1996) after graduating with her Bachelors from the University of Notre Dame with dual majors in Information Technology and Anthropology. Her love of human behavior and marketing eventually led her to get her MBA and switch careers into Brand Management at P&G. Over the years, Ms. Decker has held positions of increasing responsibility at Procter & Gamble and has worked in almost every category and business role over her 20+ year career
Morgan Brashear is a Senior Scientist and Science Communicator for Dawn and Cascade. Over the past 10 years, Morgan has worked to understand dishwashing habits and frustrations and to design products that make the overall dishwashing process quicker and easier. By leveraging these consumer insights and technical expertise, Morgan brings the scientifically-backed benefits of Dawn and Cascade to life through scientific communications, influencer marketing, and retailer engagement.
Morgan studied at Indiana University, where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, and Animal Behavior.
Morgan lives in Cincinnati, OH, with her fiancé and labradoodle. When she is not deep in the process of wedding planning, she is passionate about cooking (and cleaning as she cooks!), interior design, travel, and supporting her fiancé’s bread baking hobby.
Derek Lewis is President, South Division, PepsiCo Beverages North America (PBNA). In this role since February 2019, he is responsible for leading market-specific sales and commercial planning for all division retail and foodservice customers while providing centralized oversight of business-critical franchise relationships. He also oversees brand-building and enterprise strategy, using regional economies and end-to-end management, enabling PBNA to make, move and sell products on a local level.
Prior to this position, Mr. Lewis, a 30+-year PepsiCo beverages veteran, has held numerous leadership positions across the organization, including senior vice president and general manager of field operations, and a role as vice president, consumer and category insights.
Outside PepsiCo, he serves on the Board of Directors for YMCA of Central Florida, the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation, and the American Beverage Association. He also serves on the Board of Trustees for Hampton University and Lake Highland Preparatory School. In addition, he is a member of the Executive Leadership Council, National Black MBA Association, and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.
Mr. Lewis holds a Bachelor of Science degree in business management from Hampton University in Virginia and an Executive Master of Business Administration degree from Xavier University in Ohio.