Food Informants is a week-in-the-life series profiling fascinating people in the food world. We hope it will give you a first-hand look at the many different corners of the food industry. Know someone who would make a great Food Informant? Tell us why.
Shawn Askinosie is the founder and chocolate maker of Askinosie Chocolate. Since founding Askinosie Chocolate after working in criminal law for 20 years, Shawn’s social business model has been featured in O, The Oprah Magazine and numerous other publications. Shawn sells his chocolate throughout the U.S. and exports to stores around the world. He received an Honorary Doctorate of Public Affairs degree in May 2012 to “recognize his contributions as a community leader, an entrepreneur, a role model and an inspiration to students and others.”
Askinosie Chocolate is a small batch award winning chocolate manufacturer located in Springfield, Missouri, sourcing 100% of their beans directly from the farmers. Shawn travels to regions of Ecuador, Honduras, the Philippines and Tanzania to work directly with the farmers and source cocoa beans for his chocolate. This allows the chocolate to be traced to the source and labeled Authentic Single Origin Chocolate. It also enables Askinosie Chocolate to profit share with the farmers, giving them a Stake In the Outcome™. The Askinosie Chocolate mission is to serve their farmers, their neighborhood, their customers and each other; sharing the Askinosie Chocolate Experience by leaving the world a better place than they found it.
Read on to learn about Shawn's trip to Tanzania to source cocoa beans and work with the community farmers.
Sunday, July 1
3:44am: I am not totally sure if this is Saturday or Sunday. My watch says it is Sunday but my body says it's tired as hell. I gently rise from my assisted sleep in 20C as our Kenya Airways 767 from London is over Northeastern Africa as we make our way to Nairobi. I can't take the Bose noise canceling headsets off and am thinking of super gluing them to my ears. Right now I am not "cancelling" but listening to Suspicious Minds for the 54th time doing the drum solo down the aisle of the dark plane. I don't think anyone saw me. I am leading our Askinosie Chocolate University trip to remote Tanzania with 15 students, two teachers, our School Board president, a computer expert, a photographer and hunger relief specialist. This is one of our student outreach programs in Springfield where our family owned, small batch chocolate factory is located. The students had a one week immersion on the Drury University campus to help prepare them to meet our cocoa farmers, experience the culture, and understand our business.
We picked these kids out of many applicants. They're all standouts.
8:40am: We landed late from London to Nairobi. Not good. We scramble to our huddle outside the gate for a count and then run to Gate 9. Security check and lots of stress as I try to find Kenya Air agent who can answer the question about our luggage. "Will they it make it to Dar?" "Probably" was the reply. I start running through in my head what we will do without luggage for 21 people knowing we have to catch another flight in Dar. We are bringing laptops, wiring and the whole set up for the "Khan Academy in the box" for Mwaya Secondary School near where we buy our cocoa beans and this would not be good if they don't make it. Luckily, the flights from Dar are our charters (two single engine planes) and hopefully they can wait. The last two hours have been pretty tense.
3:10pm: We land at the Mbeya Airport in our two single engine Cessna Caravans after a two and a half hour flight from Dar es Salaam.
The flight was not as choppy as the previous time I flew this route. I am so sleepy but the ride was made better by my first Stoney Tangawizi of the trip -- a carbonated ginger soda. I love this stuff and you can't get it in the U.S.
7:49pm: We arrive by coaster (a small bus) at our hotel in Kyela, Tanzania (two hour ride from Mbeya) after starting our journey to get here on Friday. It's been one long Sunday.
9:45pm: Really!? A freaking snake in my toilet (that wont flush down). Toilets here require added water. He won't go away -- he's fighting it. Finally got him to flush after the fifth water pour from my handy plastic pitcher on top of the toilet. He was not that big but big enough to wonder where he is now. I am tucking in my mosquito net and getting into bed for the first time since Thursday night.
Monday, July 2
7:00am: The fan above my bed sounds like a scene from "Apocalypse Now" so I turned it off and did not use it for the night. There actually is a hot water "button" for the shower with one temperature: scalding, like hot enough to brew coffee.
8:30am: Pre-meeting breakfast with Daudi and Kellen Msseemmaa. They helped me organize this trip. They are the co-founders of Empowered Girls and set up clubs at schools in Tanzania. They have been my friends for several years. Kellen also works for us part time working with our farmer group in nearby Tenende. Breakfast is Sambusa, a fried dough with minced meat and spices.
I will have another one of those please. The Africafe instant coffee was actually not that bad (sorry my pour over friends). I can't leave out plain ole bread with some truth-in-labeling "Fat Spread." Good news is that it is rich in vitamin A. Had to have some of that.
10:00am: After the proverbial visit to the local officials we finally head to Mwaya Secondary School about 20 minutes outside of Kyela and our Chocolate University partner school. We were greeted by Headmaster Sedikea. He is always smiling.
There were a couple of short speeches as the students listened and then I presented the school with laptop computers and explained what we would be doing together with the students and teachers over the coming week.
10:30am: Our three groups are now all working at the same time on the school grounds. I hover from group to group. I first go to a classroom and help set up our rice bag stamping and filling assembly line. We previously paid for one metric ton of rice from the PTA (about $1 per kg). This rice is famous throughout Tanzania -- the best. We are making 1,000 bags for them to put on my container of cocoa beans. We will sell the rice and all of the profit will fund a school lunch for one year for these Mwaya students who now have only one meal per day. Our students and the Mwaya students are working together stamping the front and back of the rice bags.
11:15am: I check in on Eric Ham and his team setting the laptops and projectors in five different classrooms. Oh -- and this school does not have electricity. We bought a generator to last until the government brings power to the school, which we hope is soon. Eric is working with a new computer teacher at the school who is funded by one of our donors. They are running wire from the generator site to the rooms now. Our students are helping and this does not look that safe to me with a student standing on a desk.
11:25am: There is not much for me to do with the computer team as they are making progress and certainly don't need my help. I check on the nutrition baseline data team. They are working with Convoy of Hope's David Edson in the courtyard of the school measuring height, weight and arm circumference of the students. A local nurse is learning how to use the arm circumference tool. Soon all 1000 students will be measured before we begin the lunch program so we can see if the meals have an effect on these health data points. I circulate between these 3 groups to see what I can do to help and there is anything they need; spending most of my time in the rice stamping and bagging room. I am beginning to worry that we won't finish all of the rice.
12:10pm: PTA meeting with a larger group than any PTA meeting I can recall back home. We are meeting in what looks like a teacher meeting room and they have clearly decorated it for our visit with beautifully colored fabrics. I am seated at the head table along with the Headmaster. We explain to the assembled PTA members why we are there and what we are doing in partnership with Mwaya. They thank us for books we donated last year. Before that donation they had no books. I don't understand how you have a high school with no books. The main thing I want to discuss is the lunch program funded by our sale of the rice. I explain the background of the program and that the hallmark of this program is that THEY are the ones doing the work -- not us. They are the solution to their students hunger problem and this program will work without donations. They impress me with their quick answers and that they have already developed a "food committee" to handle all of these questions well before we arrived. This is the news I was hoping for.
Then PTA members begin to speak a word of thanks for this project. One parent said in Swahili that "there no words to relate our gratitude." I reiterate that we are doing this together and that they should thank themselves.
2:00pm: We have lunch at the school in the same meeting room as the PTA meeting. The cooks Kellen has hired for the week bring lunch to the school. We all feel conflicted about eating knowing that students are not eating. Thankfully, classes are not officially in session and the students are present helping us are also getting lunch.
3:30pm: We leave the school and head for Matema Beach on Lake Nyasa. This is a nice diversion from a day of intense emotions for our students. We were not prepared for a 2 hour bus ride though and did not know that the main road would be washed out (hello Africa).
8:30pm: Dinner at our hotel. I keep saying "hotel" but I use that term not in the American sense of "hotel" but in the more broad definition of the fact that there are rooms with water and beds. It is actually very nice and perfect for us. We have spice Pilau chicken, vegetables, and potatoes. The Pilau spice is great.
9:00pm: Daudi facilitates an end of day de-briefing. The students are filled with emotion and thoughts. Daudi gets them all out. For me the day was perfect and one of my best. When I put the pictures in my head months ago what this day would look like with all three teams working at the school, our students with theirs, it was exactly what the day looked like in reality. I will sleep well tonight. Just checked and no toilet snake tonight.
Tuesday, July 3
8:20am: Breakfast at the hotel of Sambusa, Andazi, some fruit and Africafe coffee. Andazi is a Tanzanian doughnut ball. These are home made.
9:30am: We arrive in Tenende (small village about 20 minutes from Kyela and practically next door to Mwaya school). At first I did not recognize Mama Kyeja because she has a new hair style. She is the chairperson of the farmer group we buy beans from -- UWATE. She gives me a formal handshake and then a big hug. She shows me their solar drying area, new fermentation boxes and new storage building.
9:45am: Once we are in the meeting room -- also their storage facility -- we all get settled and begin the formal part of our meeting. We start with our bean analysis and comparison from the last crop sent to us compared to the first. This is not easy because we are disappointed with the last crop in some very specific areas. I hand out bean samples from both crops and begin the detailed explanation. They seem to be understanding. It is all in Swahili and Kellen is by my side translating.
We then gave the farmers a complete chocolate tasting of just about everything we make. This is not easy in the heat but we brought polar packs to keep it cool. They loved tasting chocolate from other parts of the world and said that the Tanzania was their favorite.
10:15am: One of the things we do is open our books to farmers and profit share with them. We brought cash to give to the UWATE farmers. We give them this share and explain how we arrived at the calculation by sharing our financial statement with them. This makes a bigger impact than I thought it would. I share with other groups but it seems to really make a difference today.
11:30am: We start to inspect the cocoa beans for our current crop that we are buying now and that we have already advanced some money for. We break the students into three groups of five each and they perform cut tests on 100 beans in each group. We trained the students how to do this in my factory before we left so they knew what to do. We trained them how we grade beans and these kids did a great job. The results of the cut test are acceptable. The next step is a moisture reading on each bag of beans. My heart sinks; the moisture is too high meaning that by the time they sit on a ship for 45 days in a container they will mold and there is nothing we can do to recover them. I am disappointed because we have really worked on moisture with UWATE for the last two crops. I reject 2/3 of the beans. UWATE is not big enough to supply all of our beans so they also buy beans from neighbors and they will need to replace the beans I have rejected. I am glad this is early in the week as I will come back later and re-inspect for moisture.
3:00pm: It's a long hot ride back to Kyela. I have to admit I am kind of bummed at this development of wet beans. We set up a meeting with UWATE leadership for tonight in Kyela.
6:00pm: Kellen and I meet with the five UWATE leaders including chairwoman Mama Kyeja. I spent a lot of time outlining my disappointment with their beans. This was a long meeting where I had to re-tread old ground of our price and terms negotiations for this year's crop. They agreed that they need a better understanding of basic financial literacy. Kellen and I will help them with this. Trust is increasing between us. We pray before Kellen and I go back to our hotel. They promise to have dry beans for me to inspect before I leave. They implored me not to worry.
Wednesday, July 4
8:00am: Dr. Tom Prater, friend, President of our School Board, and one of our leaders on the trip brought a little bit of home with him. He is now placing small American flags on the straw hut patio where we eat our meals. Happy 4th of July!
9:30am: We tour the Kyela Hospital. This is an eye-opening experience for our students. A night's stay is $2.50 -- an amount that many cannot afford. Dr. Prater wanted to see the patient wards but did not want all of the students to follow. I went with him and one of our students followed without us knowing he was there. We observe a kind of pain and misery I have not seen in awhile. Our student is overcome with grief almost immediately. I wish he had not seen this. What we both see is a child who is HIV positive in obvious pain, crying, face crinkled, and there is nothing anyone can do. Nothing to address his pain.
10:15am: We are back at Mwaya school working in our teams getting the work completed. Dr. Charles Taylor of Drury University is talking to the local teachers about the Khan Academy videos on each computer -- 3,000 lessons on each laptop -- and how to maximize efficiency of the computers. He is specifically talking to them about the African School of Excellence model. This is critical because the student to teacher ratio here is 100 to 1.
3:30pm: We're at the Morovian Church in Tenende attending a special service that Mama Kyeja arranged for us. She is not only a cocoa farmer but the leader of her church choir. They sing the 23rd Psalm, among others and it's beautiful. They presented us with gifts and asked me to say a few words. I thank them for their hospitality and example of faith. This example -- I tell them -- is something we can learn from them in America.
Thursday, July 5
8:00am: For breakfast this morning there is a new addition: chapati pancakes. It's a flatbread that I cant get enough of. Why didn't someone ever tell me about this bread? I cut up bananas, fold it over and wow!
8:20am: This morning Bob Linder, Charles Taylor, Tom Prater and I decide to walk the road to school instead of taking the bus. The roads are really not roads and walking them is a different feeling than riding our coaster. We pass by other walkers, bicyclists, rice farmers in the fields, and spend some time in the dusty wake of cars and trucks.
10:00am: The men attended the meeting of the boy's section of Empowered Girls Club at the school which is funded by Chocolate University. The boys are an integral part of the club because their support of the girls is necessary for the success of the club. The idea is to teach the girls about self esteem, sex education, and give them confidence to pursue their dreams. I did not get to hear the girls meeting but am sure it was meaningful. One of the reasons we fund this club is the fact that teen pregnancy is so high here. The reason is that the girls are so hungry that they are willing to trade sex for food. They are forced to drop out of school if pregnant.
3:00pm: We are nearing the end of bagging up 1,000 units of premium Kyela rice but we need more plastic bags. We're only 57 bags short but will have to stop for the day because there no more plastic bags in Kyela and they will have to drive two hours to Mbeya to get more.
Friday, July 6
9:30am: We are at the school and making sure that all of the computers are working in each classroom and that the rice is all bagged up. There is a lot of excitement in the air as the school prepares for the Empowered Girls graduation ceremony that Kellen is putting on. Drummers (called Ngoma here) are getting ready and I start dancing and get the little kids in a conga line.
12:20pm: I am the "guest of honor" at the Empowered Girls graduation where 67 girls are being honored at the school. They perform skits, sing songs, dance and receive certificates. I am in awe of Kellen's work. She is from Uganda and met Daudi in Tanzania. I think that she might be part angel or something. There is an aura about her. She imparts that to the young girls she works with. I am happy we are part of this.
2:45pm: Kellen and I head into Tenende village for a final meeting with UWATE farmers. I am checking the moisture on the new beans; they are all perfect. This is better than I had hoped. I am cautiously optimistic that the remaining beans collected over the coming 2 months will be the same quality. Kellen will be back in September to check for us.
9:00pm: After dinner the Headmaster stops by our hotel and has a special gift for me from the PTA. I greet him and notice he is carrying a plastic shopping bag in his left hand. He reaches in and pulls out my gift: a live chicken. This is a very special gift that is intended as a great honor. I think he might have thought I could just "carry it on." I thank him profusely and ask that he keep the chicken for me until I return. We spend a lot of time de-briefing with our students tonight. Daudi has returned to Arusha so it's up to me. There are lots of emotions and changed lives in such a short time. I cant wait to see what these kids become someday. I am already proud of who they are now!
Saturday, July 7
7:00am: I had the sense we should leave early for the Mbeya Aiport. It was a good thing because we have a flat tire on our coaster in Tukuyu about 1 hour out of Mbeya. It is a chance for some last minute shopping for our students in the marketplace.
11:20am: We are back on our charter single engine Cessna Caravans. I am in the co-pilots seat for the flight back to Dar. He tells me not to touch anything. This plane is brand new and the avionics have drawn me in for the two hour plus flight. I ask the pilot if he will let me land as we approach the runway. It was the first laugh I got out of him. I wasn't kidding. I don't know how to fly but after watching for a couple of hours...
8:10pm: After a few hour layover in Dar and passing through Customs and security we psych ourselves up for a long, long series of flights that wont get us home until Sunday night. Next stop Paris. We'll only be at the airport for 5 hours but I still wish I could speak French.
See previous Food Informants below:
Ann Cooper, School Lunch Reformer
A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, New York, Ann Cooper has been a chef for more than 30 years including positions with Holland America Cruises, Radisson Hotels, Telluride Ski Resort as well as serving as Executive Chef at the renowned Putney Inn in Vermont. She has been featured in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Chicago Tribune, Newsweek, and Time Magazine and has appeared on NPR's 'Living on Earth,' ABC's Nightline, CNN, PBS' To The Contrary and the CBS Morning Show and many other media outlets. Ann has shared her knowledge and experience by speaking at the Smithsonian Institute, the National Restaurant Association, the Heifer Foundation, Chefs Collaborative, the International Association of Culinary Professionals and numerous conferences. She has been honored by SLOW Food USA, selected as a Kellogg Food and Society Policy Fellow, and awarded an honorary doctorate from SUNY Cobleskill for her work on sustainable agriculture. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/09/ann-cooper_n_4038062.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read Ann's diary here</a>.</strong>
Harlen Wheatley, Buffalo Trace Master Distiller
Harlen Wheatley has been the Master Distiller at Buffalo Trace Distillery since 2005. Born in Mount Sterling, Kentucky, in 1969, Harlen has spent almost all of his life in the Bluegrass. After relocating and spending much of his youth in Florence, KY, Harlen attended Northern Kentucky University, attaining his degree in chemistry. He then migrated to work full-time at a chemical company in Central Kentucky while completing a chemical engineering degree at the University of Kentucky, gaining formal training in distillation and separation techniques. Harlen joined the Distillery as a supervisor in 1995. Not long after, the Distillery was rechristened and the flagship Buffalo Trace Bourbon was introduced. It marked a new era in the Distillery's esteemed history and Harlen continued to make his mark as he was promoted to Distillery Manager in 2000. Harlen was named Master Distiller in 2005, becoming Buffalo Trace's sixth Master Distiller since the Civil War. Having worked in every aspect of production from raw materials to barrel aging, as Master Distiller, Harlen has driven many initiatives, including solidifying standards and consistency, quality focus and efficiency gains. He is active in overseeing a number of distilling and aging operations in various locations, all while promoting and educating the public on bourbon whiskeys. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/25/food-informants-harlen-wheatley_n_3977285.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read Harlen's diary here</a>.</strong>
AvroKO, Restaurant Design Firm
New York-headquartered design-and concept firm AvroKO is equally adept at the varied disciplines of architecture, furniture, graphics and even fashion. AvroKO's four partners -- William Harris, Greg Bradshaw, Kristina O'Neal, and Adam Farmerie -- each contribute a unique vision to the firm's multifaceted design mission. The four principals first met at University and officially joined forces to design a client's company from top to bottom, bringing their distinct design backgrounds to bear on the process. Since its creation, AvroKO has grown to a staff of over 46 in its NYC office, 20 in its Bangkok office, and 5 in its recently opened San Francisco office. Their active portfolio of architecture projects, including restaurants, bars, hotels, and retail, are taking place currently in 7 countries and 15 cities worldwide. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/18/avroko_n_3901286.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read AvroKO's diary here</a>.</strong>
Ryan Sutton, Food Critic
Ryan Sutton wishes he were at a Russian bathhouse right now, steaming his face with a bowl of spicy Georgian lamb soup before hitting the banya for some 220F shvitzing. Instead, he's holed up in midtown Manhattan, fact checking an upcoming price increase at one of New York's most expensive restaurants. Such is the life of Bloomberg News' New York food critic and the founding editor of The Price Hike and The Bad Deal. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/11/food-informants-ryan-sutton_n_3900164.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read Ryan's diary here</a>.</strong>
Stella Rankin, Partner At Pinch Food Design Catering
Stella Rankin is a partner of start-up catering company Pinch Food Design. She was recently nominated for the Bizbash Readers Choice Award for Best Caterer in New York City. Originally from Australia, she lives in NYC, has two Pomeranians, and is a big fan of Broadway. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/04/stella-rankin-pinch-food-design_n_3832164.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read Stella's diary here</a>.</strong>
Peter Kim, Executive Director Of The Museum Of Food & Drink
Peter Kim became the Executive Director of the Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD) in May 2012. Before that, he served as counsel to the museum as an attorney at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP. As a Peace Corps volunteer, he founded and directed a rural arts-based public health program in Central Africa. He also served as an Emerson Fellow for the Congressional Hunger Center and worked at the USDA, where he advised state agencies on food stamp outreach. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/28/food-informants-museum-food-drink_n_3823618.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read Peter's diary here</a>.</strong>
Chef Quinn Hatfield, Training For A Cycling Competition
Quinn Hatfield has worked with David Bouley, Wolfgang Puck and Jean-Georges Vongerichten before helming his own kitchen in 2003. In 2006, Quinn and his wife Karen opened Hatfield's -- Karen designed the space, Quinn assembled the kitchen equipment and together they created the menus. In July 2012, the Hatfields opened their newest project, The Sycamore Kitchen: a hip, neighborhood eatery for house crafted, seasonally focused fare, and sweet and savory rustic pastries. When not in the kitchen, Hatfield enjoys outdoor sports including surfing, skateboarding, snowboarding and rock climbing. He is currently training with his Olympic coach and competing in track cycling events, with credits including placing 5th in the men's kilometer time trial at the 2012 USA Cycling Elite Track National Championships and two "top 20" and "top 10" finishes in the Elite National Championships. The Hatfields have two young children, daughter Paige, and son Bennett. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/07/quinn-hatfield_n_3688869.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read Quinn's diary here</a>.</strong>
Jay Gilbertson & Ken Seguine, Hay River Pumpkin Seed Oil Founders
Jay Gilbertson and Ken Seguine produce the first pumpkin seed oil made in the U.S.. With a strong commitment to create jobs in their local community, the long-term vision is for Northwest Wisconsin to become known as where America's pumpkin seed oil is produced. The oil works as a vinaigrette salad dressing, bread dip, or drizzled on soups, cooked vegetables, popcorn or even ice cream. Jay is an author of the Madeline Island series, and is from Eau Claire, WI. Ken is from Los Angeles. The couple has been together 18 years. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/24/food-informants-pumpkin-seed-oil_n_3604767.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read their diary here</a>.</strong>
Izetta Chambers, Alaska Salmon Fisherman
Company founder and managing member Izetta Chambers is the driving force behind Naknek Family Fisheries. She organized the LLC in October 2006 and has been managing it seasonally since that time. Izetta is a graduate of the University of Arizona College of Law, where she earned her Juris Doctorate in 2008. Izetta serves as the MAP Agent/Assistant Professor for the Marine Advisory Program, an extension partnership between the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Alaska Sea Grant program. Izetta lives in Dillingham with her husband, Chet, their children, Noah and Lovina. Izetta (a.k.a. "the fish lady") has participated in the Bristol Bay fishery since the age of 9 years old, when she began setnet salmon fishing with her brother, Everett Thompson. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/17/food-informants-izetta-chambers_n_3562289.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read Izetta's diary here</a>.</strong>
Dominique Ansel, Cronut Maestro
Dominique Ansel served as the Executive Pastry Chef for Restaurant Daniel under chef Daniel Boulud for six years. During his tenure, the restaurant won its first 3-star Michelin rating, a 4-star New York Times review and James Beard's Outstanding Restaurant of the Year Award in 2010. In 2013, Chef Ansel received his own James Beard Award nomination as a finalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef at his eponymous bakery. (Pictured is a DKA, not a cronut). <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/10/food-informants-dominique-ansel-cronut_n_3562955.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read Dominique's diary here</a>.</strong>
Sarah Allman, Pastry Chef At A Diamond Mine
Sarah Allman has been baking in her own kitchen, bakeries and high-end restaurants for the past 12 years. A native of Peterborough, Ontario (an hour outside of Toronto), she developed her passion for baking at a young age, unknowingly apprenticing with her great grandmother at the age of eight. In February, she left her job at a bakery five kilometers from her home to bake her wares over 3500 km away, at Diavik Diamond Mine, 200 km from the Arctic Circle in the Northwest Territories. The only thing she loves more than being in the kitchen is being with her four kids, which is why she took the job with the longer commute. She works a two-week rotation at the Diamond Mine, which allow her to spend two work-free weeks with her kids every month. When she worked at the bakery she was starting her day at 7am and on Saturdays -- this left only one full day with her kids. Working at Diavik for Bouwa Whee Catering, she continues to be a mom at home and it extends to her work family at the mine, who love her baked goods and eat more than their share. Her peanut butter brownie cups have become a mine favorite, to the point that workers stock up before they head home. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/02/food-informants-sarah-allman_n_3518272.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read Sarah's diary here</a>.</strong>
Izabela Wojcik, James Beard Director Of House Programming
Izabela A. Wojcik is the Director of House Programming for the James Beard Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded in 1986 that is dedicated to celebrating, nurturing and preserving America's diverse culinary heritage and future. Wojcik oversees more than 250 special events held at the historic James Beard House, which features chefs, pastry chefs and winemakers from across the United States and beyond. In her role as head of House programming, Wojcik has a rolodex of culinary and beverage professionals from around the world. Part of her responsibility is engaging in constant dialogue with influencers in the epicurean industry, thereby, staying on top of the latest gastronomic trends. Wojcik frequently appears on panels concerning food and cooking. She holds a B.S. degree from the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration in Ithaca, New York. Her culinary experience also includes positions at Marriott and Omni Hotels, Tribeca Grill and Osteria del Circo restaurants. A self-taught chef, she is proud to have been selected to cook at the four-star Chanterelle, as well as First in New York. Wojcik resides in Brooklyn with her journalist husband and son. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/26/food-informants-izabela-wojcik_n_3466547.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read Izabela's diary here</a>.</strong>
Larry Austin, Whole Foods Detroit Store Manager
Larry Austin got his start in the grocery world as a bagger, cashier and stocker at the Detroit chain Farmer Jack's in 1988. He headed to Ann Arbor soon after and stocked the grocery, dairy and frozen sections at Arbor Farms for a few years before joining Whole Foods Market's Ann Arbor store as a receiver in 1999. Larry worked his way up from receiver to grocery buyer and eventually Grocery Team Leader, then went on to manage multiple departments in various stores across the Midwest. Now he's running the show as Store Team Leader -- that's what the people at Whole Foods Market call the store manager -- at the company's highly anticipated Detroit store, which opened June 5. Larry's at the helm. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/12/food-informant-larry-austin-whole-foods-detroit_n_3385005.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read Larry's diary here</a>.</strong>
Jay Isais, Senior Director Of The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
Nearly seven million pounds of coffee beans pass under Jay Isais's eyes and nose each year at The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf's Research and Distribution facility in Camarillo, CA. Isais oversees the blending and roasting of all of those beans. Isais began his career in the early '80s with Hillside Coffee. He then held operations management and buying positions at Brother's Gourmet, Gloria Jean's, Coffee People Worldwide, and Diedrich Coffee before joining The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in 2000. Isais's primary responsibility day to day is making sure the quality of Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf's coffee is, as he says, "perfect from start to finish." To accomplish this, he evaluates shipments of green beans, working with Master Roaster Jesse Martinez-Beltran on finding the perfect roasts for each varietal, or blend, and tasting the brewed product. Isais also spends much of his time sourcing coffee from the finest coffee farms around the world, establishing and maintaining one-on-one relationships with coffee growers at the points of origin -- a hallmark of the company's philosophy. Isais is a founding member of the Roasters' Guild, is a volunteer instructor for the Specialty Coffee Association of America and a certified judge for the Cup of Excellence® program. He is also a licensed Q grader and an APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional. Isais is additionally a judge at cupping competitions around the world, most recently the Hawaii Coffee Association's cupping competition. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/05/food-informants-jay-isais-coffee-bean-tea-life_n_3354978.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read Jay's diary here</a>.</strong>
Aaron Franklin, Barbecue Guru
Aaron and his wife Stacy debuted Franklin BBQ in late 2009 on an East Austin parking lot. From the walk-up window of a travel trailer turned brisket stand, patrons quickly noticed the Franklins were selling the best barbecue around. By spring, the line of admirers snaked around the block, and the press followed. In less than two years, the duo could count contributors from The Washington Post, Texas Monthly, and Cooking Channel among a growing chorus hailing Franklin among America's BBQ elite--mentioned in the breath as Smitty's, Kreuz's and other stalwart temples to the holy craft of smoked meat that line the Central Texas brisket belt. In the summer of 2010, Bon Appetit hailed Franklin BBQ as the best in America. Aaron and Stacy quickly outgrew their trailer, and moved their operation to a brick and mortar location in March of 2011. And despite the new digs and every reasonable effort to increase production, Franklin BBQ's line is as long as ever, and the restaurant has sold out of brisket every day of its existence. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/29/food-informants-aaron-franklin-barbecue_n_3346669.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read Aaron's diary here</a>.</strong>
Daniel Boulud, Chef
Daniel Boulud, a native of Lyon, France, is today considered one of America's leading culinary authorities and one of the most revered French chefs in New York, the city he has called home since 1982. Daniel is chef-owner of db Bistro Moderne, DBGB Kitchen and Bar, Bar Boulud, Café Boulud, Boulud Sud and Épicerie Boulud. In all his restaurants you'll find the warm welcome the chef is renowned for, combined with traces of the soulfully satisfying traditional cooking he grew up with on his family's Rhône Valley farm. Yet Daniel Boulud is best known for New York's exquisitely refined DANIEL, the three Michelin-star Relais & Châteaux restaurant. You'll also discover the chef's French-American cooking in Miami and Palm Beach, Florida and internationally in London, Singapore, Beijing, Montréal and Toronto. Boulud is the author of seven cookbooks, the recipient of three James Beard Foundation awards, including Outstanding Chef and Outstanding Restaurateur and was named a Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur by the French government, as well as Chef of the Year 2011 by The Culinary Institute of America. He is a generous and energetic supporter of Citymeals-on-Wheels, serving on their board of directors since 2000 and is also co-founder and Chairman of the Bocuse d'Or USA Foundation. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/22/food-informants-daniel-boulud_n_3306825.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read Daniel's diary here</a>.</strong>
Josh Reynolds, President Of World's Largest Maraschino Cherry Company
Josh Reynolds is the president of Gray & Company, home of the CherryMan brand and producer of more than two billion maraschino cherries a year. Although Gray & Company started in Oregon in 1908, Josh's family has been involved since 1982. After graduating from Colby College, Josh worked as a producer and on-air talent for one of Portland's top radio stations. He returned to the family business in 1996, earned his MBA from the University of Michigan in 2001, and was promoted to president in 2008. As president, Josh directs sales, marketing, operations strategy and all new product development initiatives. Outside of work and cherries, you'll find Josh spending time with family, volunteering in the Portland community, staying in shape and playing music. Josh is currently involved with the I Have a Dream Foundation of Oregon, the National Cherry Growers and Industries Foundation, and the Young President's Organization Oregon Evergreen Chapter. For all his accomplishments in both business and the community, Josh was named one of Portland Business Journal's "Forty Under 40." Married with two sons, Josh relishes spending their weekends on Mt. Hood where they ski, hike and relax. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/15/food-informants-josh-reynolds-cherry_n_3196199.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read Josh's diary here</a>.</strong>
Debi Mazar & Gabriele Corcos, Living On $1.50 Per Day
Actress Debi Mazar and her Tuscan-born husband, Gabriele Corcos host "Extra Virgin" on the Cooking Channel. They recently participated in the Live Below The Line Challenge, a campaign that encourages people to think about poverty in new ways. They each had $1.50 per day to spend on food -- the U.S. equivalent of the extreme poverty line. As a family of four, their weekly budget was $30 for five days of meals. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/08/food-informants-debi-mazar_n_3209264.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read Gabriele & Debi's diary here</a>.</strong>
Paul Tanguay & Tad Carducci, Cocktail Consultants
Paul Tanguay and Tad Carducci are beverage consultants and partners in Mercadito Hospitality group. In this role, they create and manage the beverage programs at the group's concepts throughout the country, including Tavernita, Little Market Brasserie and Mercadito in Chicago as well as Mercadito in Miami and New York. Most recently, the Bros. and the Mercadito Hospitality group are currently developing Tippling Hall, a new concept in Chicago's River North neighborhood that will debut later this summer. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/01/food-informants-tippling-bros_n_3154728.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read Paul & Tad's diary here</a>.</strong>
Heather Bailie, Fatted Calf Charcuterie Director of Operations
Heather Bailie discovered a passion for all things meat as a young girl. Inspired by her father and grandfather's hunting adventures, Bailie learned at an early age that cooking and butchery are about mindful involvement in what you eat. This philosophy followed her throughout her culinary career. After obtaining a degree from the California Culinary Academy in 2006, she worked in Michelin one-star restaurants -- Acquerello in San Francisco and Ubuntu in Napa -- before changing course to learn butchery and charcuterie full-time. Yearning to get back to her roots, she pursued work with Toponia Miller and Taylor Boetticher at their artisanal charcuterie in Napa, The Fatted Calf. Working at the Fatted Calf that gave Bailie her foundation for cooking, but also life: work hard, work smart, do your best, never underestimate your abilities, and then work even harder! Bailie quickly moved up the ranks; she was promoted to Kitchen Manager and then Production Manager. In 2012, she was made Director of Operations and Partner. She oversees the Fatted Calf's two retail stores in Napa and San Francisco and a team of 40 skilled meat enthusiasts company wide. Together the stores produce a variety of handcrafted salumi, sausage, pates, confits and roasts, as well as fresh cuts of pork, lamb, beef and poultry. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/03/food-informants-heather-bailie-fatter-calf_n_2992356.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read Heather's diary here</a>.</strong>
David Padberg, Executive Chef Of New Restaurant
Raven & Rose Chef David Padberg is a veteran of some of Portland, Oregon's greatest restaurants. Beginning his career as a pastry chef in Kansas City, he quickly moved up the line. In short succession, he trained with James Beard Award winning chefs, at a Swiss chalet, and with Wildwood's Cory Schreiber, developing his palate and skill with seasonal ingredients. In 2003 Padberg became the opening sous-chef at clarklewis. In 2004 he was hired by Park Kitchen's Scott Dolich as Executive Chef, where he was known as "One of the great forces that moved Park Kitchen forward." Now at the recently-opened Raven & Rose, Padberg's menu reflects both the history of the 1883 Ladd Carriage House as well as the traditions of rustic cuisine -- taking inspiration from both early American farmhouse cooking and the culinary traditions of Ireland and the British Isles. <strong>Read David's diary here.</strong>
Thomas Szymanski, Celebrity Cruises' Senior Traveling Corporate Executive Chef
"Working as a chef on a ship is unlike anything I've experienced on land. I spend time in kitchens all over the world's oceans, and from the moment you step onboard, it's rock-and-roll, and I don't mean the ship moving. I mean it's crazy fast, so intense sometimes that you can't even believe the day has passed. And it's like music, fast and rich and full of life. Music is my thing. I cook with it, I hear it even when it's not playing, it's in my head. Food cooked with music stirring the soul is food cooked with extra passion. There's not much difference between a chef and an orchestra conductor. We're both artists in what we do, and we both are at the center of many critical pieces, parts and players. When it all works together, it's pure harmony, from the bottom of the heart. So how did I get here? I was born in the small town of Konskie, Poland. As a little boy, I spent much time in my mother's kitchen. I'll never forget the cheese crepes she made in the mornings, the smell would make sure that I would get out of bed and get right to work. At the age of 15, I discovered my passion for food, when helping on my grandparents' farm, with butchery. I then moved to Germany to help my sisters with their restaurants. Since then, I've worked with many great chefs, and have been trained in French and European techniques. In 20 years as a chef, I've learned many styles, including modern approaches such as molecular gastronomy and sous-vide - and here I am. And it's been a long, road to where I am today, in Hawaii, on Celebrity Century. I can't even begin to count all the countries I've visited in the last 20 years. A few days ago, I was in South America, in Montevideo, Uruguay, where I left Celebrity Infinity, flew to San Diego, and on to Hawaii, where I boarded Celebrity Century to provide leadership to our hardworking team of cooks." <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/13/food-informants-thomas-szymanski_n_2828207.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read Thomas' diary here</a>.</strong>
David Harwell, Loews Concierge
David Harwell joined Loews Miami Beach Hotel four years ago starting out as a Front Desk Agent and then moving to Concierge. He currently belongs to the 100% Club, meaning he has been mentioned by the Corporate Mystery Shopper as someone who has provided outstanding service. In 2012, David was nominated and awarded the most prestigious honor that could be bestowed to any Loews Team member, The Loews Legend Award. David is not only passionate for his job as a Concierge but he also loves living in Miami Beach where he gets the opportunity to walk his beloved and very spoiled Italian greyhound "Samsom." Living in the middle of South Beach, David often thinks about things that would create a more lasting good impression on visitors. He believes a more efficient transportation system would make it easier for them to have access to other popular South Florida destinations such as Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and the Keys. David was born and raised in a small town called Luka in Northeast Mississippi. He was raised by his parents and has a close relationship with his older brother and younger sister, and as David tells us, he is "crazy over his niece and nephew," whom he spoils at every chance he gets. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/06/food-informants-david-harwell_n_2790295.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read David's diary here</a>.</strong>
Maile Carpenter, Editor-In-Chief Of Food Network Magazine
Maile Carpenter is the founding editor-in-chief of Food Network Magazine, a joint venture between Hearst Magazines and Food Network. The magazine launched in 2008 and quickly became the best-selling food title on newsstands. Prior to joining Hearst, Carpenter was the executive editor of Every Day with Rachael Ray. She started her career in newspapers, at the Wilmington Morning Star and Raleigh News & Observer in North Carolina, followed by Time Inc's FYI magazine, San Francisco Magazine and Time Out New York. Carpenter has a journalism degree from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and a culinary degree from the French Culinary Institute in New York. She is a two-time James Beard Award nominee and won a Beard Award for magazine feature writing in 2002. She lives in Manhattan with her chef-husband, Wylie Dufresne, and their two daughters. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/27/food-informants-maile-carpenter_n_2745020.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read Maile's diary here</a>.</strong>
Harley Morenstein, Epic Meal Time Founder
Harley Morenstein, the host of the #1 online cooking show Epic Meal Time, started his career as a substitute teacher surrounding the metropolitan area of Montreal, Quebec. Harley stumbled upon Epic Meal Time after creating a Fast Food Pizza with his sidekick Muscles Glasses. The buzz from the first episode prompted Harley and his team to dedicate their lives full-time to all things Epic Meal Time. Every Tuesday Harley and the EMT team release a new episode of the show. They have also successfully launched a new cooking competition series called Epic Chef, and have grown an audience of over 3.5 million subscribers to date and counting on YouTube. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/20/food-informants-epic-meal-time_n_2697765.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read Harley's diary here</a>.</strong>
Kenneth 'Cat Daddy' Pogson And Tres Shannon, Voodoo Doughnut Founders
Kenneth "Cat Daddy" Pogson and Tres Shannon have been friends for awhile. They always wanted to start a business together. Something that would fit into an extraordinary Portland business climate. Something fun, different and one for the ages. After much searching under rocks, tequilas, and Portland's under belly, they found what they were looking for... doughnuts!! Cat Daddy with his astute business sense, and Tres with his seemingly endless supply of connections, set forth to conquer Old Town, Portland. After a meeting with some Armenians and drumming masters, they were ready to set up shop in the "crotch" of Portland -- Old Town. Voodoo Doughnut is now coming up on it's 10th year of business. Cat Daddy loves spending time with his family and is a former roller derby, game show, & Portland organic wrestling announcer. Tres hosts Karaoke From Hell every Monday night at Dante's and is former owner of the famous all ages club, the X-Ray. Both Cat Daddy and Tres Enjoy life to it's fullest. World Doughnut Domination! <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/06/food-informants-voodoo-doughnut_n_2580998.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read their diary here.</a></strong>
Chris Rivard, Ben & Jerry's Flavor Guru
Chris Rivard graduated from the University of Vermont with a bachelor's degree in Nutrition & Food Sciences and Dietetics. He spent the first four years of his career working for a local nutrition company focused on providing high quality, functional food products to companies in the weight management industry. Chris then joined Ben & Jerry's R&D team, which is made up of five "Flavor Gurus" that are responsible for the product development and the quality problem solving across the business. Chris's primary focus is on global markets (Australia, Singapore and Japan, among others) as well as new market implementation. But R&D is very much a team effort: they all work together on new flavor innovations across all regions. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/30/food-informants-ben-jerrys-chris-rivard_n_2541809.html?1359578771" target="_hplink">Read Chris's diary here.</a></strong>
Ashley Palmer, PETA Employee
Ashley Palmer is the online marketing manager for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Palmer oversees all of PETA's web projects, including the wildly popular "Sexiest Vegetarian" series of contests, online campaign initiatives, and celebrity features and videos. She got her start as the top coordinator for PETA Living, the lifestyle section of PETA's award-winning website, where her efforts resulted in a 1,100 percent increase in traffic to the PETA Living blog and accounts for 50 percent of all traffic to PETA.org. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Kevin, and two cat companions, Bo and Henry. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/23/food-informants-ashley-palmer-peta_n_2495951.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read Ashley's diary here</a>.</strong>
Tink Pinkard, Professional Hunter & Fly-Fisher
Tink Pinkard is a professional hunting and fly-fishing guide located in the Texas Hill Country. His focus is to provide hunters the opportunity to hunt and harvest white tail deer, exotic species and feral hogs in a fair chase situation. He strives to not only educate a hunter on the basics of the hunt and harvest, but to promote and educate on the utilization of the complete animal "from nose to tail." He aims to do the same for his clients on the waters throughout Texas when he guides them fly-fishing. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/02/food-informants-tink-pinkard_n_2372755.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read Tink's diary here</a>.</strong>
Matthew DuTrumble, Executive Chef Of Zynga
Matthew "Matty" DuTrumble has been the Executive Chef for Zynga -- the company that creates online games such as FarmVille and ChefVille -- since joining the team in 2009. At Zynga, Matthew leads a team focused on menu development, local product sourcing and cooking multiple meals and snacks. He joined Zynga after serving as a Chef Instructor at Le Cordon Bleu CCA in San Francisco. At Le Cordon Bleu CCA, Matthew focused on a broad range of disciplines, including Kitchen Production, Butchery, Banquets & Catering and Contemporary Cuisine. Matthew has appeared on The Food Network's "Private Chefs of Beverly Hills," and also ran his own catering company Matty's Fresh Meals Catering. Additionally, Matthew has served as a Chef at the Harker School, and spent time in the kitchens of The West Deck in Newport, Rhode Island, and Caffe Itri in Cranston, Rhode Island. Matthew studied at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, where he obtained his culinary and business degrees. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/28/food-informants-matthew-dutrumble-zynga_n_2193463.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read Matthew's diary here</a>.</strong>
Gregory Hall, Cider Maker
Gregory Hall, a craft brewer, is now at the helm of Virtue Brands, the new Chicago-based branch-to-bottle cider venture that uses Midwestern heirloom apples to produce a series of ciders. In his new role as ciderist, Hall hopes to bring craft cider to the level where craft beer is today in America in terms of quality, variety and accessibility to the consumer. Known for his 20-year tenure as brewmaster at the Goose Island Beer Company, Hall began his brewing career in 1988, the year his father, John Hall, opened the brewery. Greg attended Chicago's brewing school, the Siebel Institute, graduating in 1989. In 1992, Hall become the brewmaster of Goose Island Beer Company and under his direction, the brewery flourished and expanded its draft and bottle beer lines. Hall stepped down as Brewmaster of Goose Island in May 2011 to pursue cider making. He maintains his ties to Goose Island as a consultant. Greg Hall is a long-time supporter Chicago food community and many local organizations such as Slow Food Chicago, Chicago's Green City Market and the Chicago Rarities Orchard Project. He is an avid cyclist and currently resides in Chicago with his two children -- Sofie and Henry. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/21/food-informants-gregory-hall-cider_n_2144649.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read more about Greg's week here.</a></strong>
Christophe Hille, Restaurant Owner Post-Sandy
Christophe Hille is the founder and co-owner of Northern Spy Food Co. in New York's East Village. Before opening Northern Spy, Hille was a personal chef to Annie Leibovitz and the executive chef of A16 in San Francisco. He holds an MS in Nutrition & Food Studies from New York University. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/14/food-informants-christophe-hill-northern-spy-sandy_n_2119497.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read Christophe's diary here.</a></strong>
Steve Smith, Tea Maker
Steve Smith is one of the world's leading tea makers and entrepreneurs. In 1972, Smith was a young partner in the first natural foods store in Portland. Expanding on these roots -- and the joys of tea learned from his grandmother and time spent in Southeast Asia -- he and two partners founded the Stash Tea Company. The trio introduced herbal and specialty black teas to retail and food service accounts throughout North America, eventually growing to become one of the largest-selling food service specialty tea brands in the country. When Stash was acquired in 1993 by Yamamotoyama, the oldest tea company in Japan, Smith left to pursue a new vision, which came to be known as Tazo. Smith is credited in developing over 60 proprietary blends in multiple beverage formats -- many of which remain Tazo's top selling teas today. In January of 1999 Tazo was acquired by Starbucks, and Smith and his team continued to lead the company until January of 2006. Parting ways with Starbucks and Tazo in 2006, Smith moved to Avignon with his wife, Kim and their 10-year-old son. But after a year, the path of tea called them all back to Portland. He's now perfecting his new signature line: Steven Smith Teamaker. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/07/food-informants-steven-smith-tea-maker_n_2065393.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read Steve's diary here.</a></strong>
Jenny McCoy, Pastry Chef
Jenny McCoy is a New York City-based professional pastry chef turned home baker. She's the co-founder of Cissé Trading Company, a cookbook author, culinary instructor and authority on all things sweet. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/31/food-informants-jenny-mccoy-cisse-trading_n_2009096.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read Jenny's diary here.</a></strong>
Lee Schrager, New York Wine & Food Festival Founder
Lee Brian Schrager serves as the Vice President of Corporate Communications & National Events at Southern Wine & Spirits of America, Inc. He joined the company in 2000 and oversees projects for the company in all 35 states in which it does business. Most noteworthy in Schrager's resume is his creation of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival in 2002 and the Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival in 2008. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/24/food-informants-lee-schrager_n_1989586.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read Lee's diary here.</a></strong>
David Venable, QVC Host
David Venable is the host of the popular QVC program "In The Kitchen With David" which airs every Wednesday at 9pm and Sundays at noon. David Venable joined QVC as a program host in 1993 and has since helped establish and build the multimedia retailer's gourmet food business. Venable also serves as a primary host for other QVC programming. Prior to joining QVC, Venable was an anchor/reporter for WOAY -- TV in Oak Hill, W. Va., and CBS-affiliate WTAJ -- TV in Altoona, Pa., where he hosted its weekly public affairs talk show "Action Newsmakers." He also hosted the Children's Miracle Network telethon for four years. Venable earned his bachelor's degree in radio, television and motion pictures from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, N.C. He just released his debut cookbook which has been flying off the shelves. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/17/david-venable-food-informants_n_1959484.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read David's diary here.</a></strong>
Kareem Hajjar, Restaurant Lawyer
Kareem T. Hajjar's bar and restaurant law practice includes the representation of approximately 400 bars and restaurants located throughout Texas and includes the formation of corporate entities, real estate acquisition and leasing, zoning and other land use and municipal issues, trademark acquisitions, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission permit acquisition, employment agreements, mergers, acquisitions, and reorganizations to private offerings of debt and equity securities, venture capital transactions and contract negotiations. Kareem has served on the Board of Directors of the Austin Young Chamber of Commerce, the Advisory Council for the Texas Wine and Food Festival, the Leadership Council for the Ronald McDonald House of Austin, the Board of Directors for FloralBurst, the Membership Committee of the Texas Food and Wine Foundation, and the Bulletproof Committee for the Lone Star of Texas Rodeo. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/10/food-informants-restaurant-lawyer_n_1933294.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read Kareem's diary here.</a></strong>
Carolyn Ottenheimer, Kettle Brand Chip's Chief Flavor Architect
Carolyn Ottenheimer is the Chief Flavor Architect for Kettle Brand Chips in Salem, Oregon. She's responsible for developing and defining the flavor and quality attributes of all Kettle Brand products -- the base snack and the seasoning blends that are applied to the various flavors. She also defines the quality standards of all of the products and ensures that the process facilities have tools with which to monitor chip quality. She confirms that all of the products meet the claims that are being made on the packaging -- like "gluten free." Finally, she checks that production facilities have food safety programs. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/26/food-informants-carolyn-ottenheimer_n_1911190.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read Carolyn's diary here.</a></strong>
Emil Grosso, Balducci's Food Buyer
As Vice President of Business Development for Balducci's, Emil Grosso is in charge of scouring and searching for the purveyors of quality available across the U.S. and around the world. From farms to fields to forests, he selects foods for Balducci's markets and catering services -- handpicking the best coffee beans, artisan breads and produce. Now, Emil is also sourcing quality ingredients for Balducci's Gourmet on the Go Café, the latest Balducci's food destination in New York City. The Café opened this past March, and it marked the return of Balducci's gourmet foods to Manhattan and was conceptualized and realized by Emil over the past two years. The new Café, located in the Hearst Tower on the corner of 56th Street and Eighth Avenue, serves an array of foods, made with locally sourced produce from New York City urban farmers and features breads and pastries from the city's best bakeries. Emil is constantly on the road, meeting new people in the food world and taking a lot of trips to find the best-of-the-best throughout the country to bring back to NYC. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/12/food-informants-emil-grosso_n_1861861.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read Emil's diary here.</a></strong>
Eric Brenner, Gluten-Free Chef
Chef Eric Brenner has multiple food allergies in his family and years of experience cooking for food-sensitive restaurant customers. Named the 2008 Top Chef and Chef of the Year by multiple publications in St. Louis for his former restaurant MOXY Contemporary Bistro, he has now brought his culinary style to BOLD Organics, a line of gluten-free, dairy-free, lactose-free, casein-free, whey-free, egg-free, peanut-free and tree nut-free frozen pizzas that contain no GMOs, preservatives, nitrites, nitrates or trans-fats. Working together with 21-year-old company founder Aaron Greenwald, Brenner has created a new line of gluten- and allergen-free products that meet the dietary restrictions of the tens of millions who suffer with food sensitivities. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/05/food-informants-eric-brenner-gluten-free_n_1846865.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read Eric's diary here.</a></strong>
Rudy Marchesi, Biodynamic Wine Maker
Rudy Marchesi assumed ownership of Montinore Estates in 2006, but has had a hand in the estate since 1992 when he lead the fine wine department of the distribution house of Allied Beverage. In 1998, he began consulting on Montinore's vineyard management, winemaking and marketing. He became Vice President of Operations in 2001 and President in 2003. Marchesi obtained the Demeter Biodynamic certificate in 2008, which certifies wines based on the strict principles of biodynamic farming. This process involves an organic approach that treats the soil with fermented manure, minerals and herbs.
Zach Zamboni, Anthony Bourdain's Cinematographer
Zach Zamboni is a cinematographer. Logging more than 10,000 hours of camera work throughout the world, Zach has been awarded two Emmy's for Non-Fiction Cinematography (2009, 2011), and is nominated for a third. He's shot more than 70 episodes of the highly successful travel series "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations," and "The Layover." Between shooting documentaries and features, he's finishing a screenplay about the spooky side of traveling. Follow his adventures on Twitter @zachzamboni. Find him at www.zachzamboni.com. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/15/zach-zamboni-food-informants_n_1765003.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read Zach's diary here.</a></strong>
Matt Cohen, Food Truck Organizer
Originally from Denver, Matt Cohen moved to Japan and became obsessed with ramen and classic Asian night markets. When he returned to the States, he settled in the Bay Area and founded Tabe, a late-night ramen cart. In 2010, Matt founded <a href="http://offthegridsf.com/" target="_hplink">Off the Grid</a>, a network of street food vendors, effectively bringing much of the feeling of an Asian night market state-side. He does everything from recruiting and approving new vendors, to dealing with the intricate process of acquiring permits and clearance for the growing number of weekly markets. At the heart of Off the Grid is a genuine love for the concept of bringing people together in a social urban environment and providing fledgling operations a jumping-off place for their endeavors. In a week, Off the Grid works with upwards of 100 small businesses, and with 18 weekly markets and growing, that constructive interaction is only bound to grow. Matt's most recent endeavor is The <a href="http://www.sffoodlab.com/" target="_hplink">SF Food Lab</a>, a business launched with two other industry veterans. The Food Lab offers a test kitchen space and dining are for entrepreneurs and small businesses to develop their products and cuisine, with all the tools necessary. That said, quickly approaching Off the Grid's second anniversary, Matt hasn't lost his love for street food -- you can usually find him at one of his markets every night of the week. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/09/food-informants-off-the-grid_n_1759442.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read Matt's diary here.</a></strong>
Adam Keough, Chef Preparing For A James Beard Dinner
Since taking the reins as Executive Chef at Absinthe Brasserie & Bar in late 2010, Chef Adam Keough has garnered a three-star review and inclusion in the 2011 and 2012 "Top-100 Bay Area Restaurants" list from the San Francisco Chronicle, a first for the restaurant since opening in 1998. A Boston native and Michael Mina Group vet, Keough has years of fine dining experience in restaurants across the country. He is also a two-time James Beard Foundation semifinalist for national "Rising-Star Chef of the Year," in 2007 and 2008. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/01/adam-keough-food-informants_n_1710342.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read Adam's diary here.</a></strong>
Ashley Archer, Culinary Producer Of 'The Chew'
Ashley Archer has 10 years of restaurant experience including three years at Prune in New York City. She was a Senior Culinary Producer at Food Network, where she worked on shows including Iron Chef America, Next Iron Chef, Tyler's Ultimate, Guy's Big Bite and more. She was also a food stylist for Emeril Live, Essence of Emeril, Next Food Network Star, Rachael Ray and more. Now, she's the Culinary Producer at The Chew and the co-editor of the new Chew cookbook, which debuts September 25. Archer lives in Washington Heights with her husband and two-year-old daughter. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/25/food-informants-the-chew_n_1689537.html?utm_hp_ref=food-informants" target="_hplink">Read Ashley's diary here.</a></strong>
Shawn Askinosie, Chocolate Maker On A Trip To Africa
Shawn Askinosie is the founder and chocolate maker of Askinosie Chocolate. Since founding Askinosie Chocolate after working in criminal law for 20 years, Shawn's social business model has been featured in O, The Oprah Magazine and numerous other publications. Shawn sells his chocolate throughout the U.S. and exports to stores around the world. He received an Honorary Doctorate of Public Affairs degree in May 2012 to "recognize his contributions as a community leader, an entrepreneur, a role model and an inspiration to students and others." <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/18/food-informants-shawn-askinosie_n_1668658.html?utm_hp_ref=food" target="_hplink">Read Shawn's diary here.</a></strong>
Andrew Zimmern is a James Beard Award-winning TV personality, chef, food writer, teacher and is widely regarded as one of the most versatile and knowledgeable personalities in the food world. As the creator, host and co-executive producer of Travel Channel's hit series, "Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern," "Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre World," and his new series, "Bizarre Foods America," he travels the globe, exploring food in its own terroir. Zimmern is a contributing editor at Food & Wine, an award-winning monthly columnist at Mpls-St. Paul Magazine and a senior editor at Delta's Sky Magazine. He resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife Rishia, son Noah and several un-eaten pets. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/11/food-informants-andrew-zimmern_n_1654620.html?utm_hp_ref=food" target="_hplink">Read Andrew's diary here.</a></strong>
Anthony Butler, Soup Kitchen Director
In June of 2005, Anthony Butler took the position as Executive Director at St. John's Bread and Life. During his tenure there, he has worked to meet the growing need of emergency food in the community, provide those services with the greatest dignity and develop strategies to reduce individuals and families need for emergency food. In June of 2008, Bread and Life moved into a new $8,000,000 state-of-the-art facility; featuring expanded space, a digital choice food pantry, medical offices, a library, a non-denominational chapel, classroom, demonstration kitchen, and proper space to meet the increased demand of Bread and Life's guest, fully paperless data collection, and swipe card system for hot meals. Throughout this, Bread and Life has grown to a $3,000,000 annual budget and has served over 500,000 meals annually. As part of Bread and Life's commitment to providing nutritious food, it has grown its partnership with the sustainable food community. Over the past two years Bread and Life has brought over $200,000 worth of sustainably grown New York State products into the community. It continues to partner with the Brooklyn and New York food community to address the issues of Hunger and poverty. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/03/food-informants-soup-kitchen_n_1643465.html?utm_hp_ref=food" target="_hplink">Read Anthony's diary here.</a></strong>
Jeni Britton Bauer, Ice Cream Maker
Jeni Britton Bauer has created ice cream for more than 15 years. Drawing from her traditional pastry training and a pantry of exceptional ingredients, the Columbus resident continues to perfect the frozen desserts for which her company, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, is known. Jeni first discovered her love for dessert while working at La Chatelaine bakery in Columbus, Ohio. Her passion for ice cream eventually led to the opening of her first ice cream shop, Scream, in 1996 in Columbus' North Market. With the help of her business partner and husband Charly, she founded Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams in November 2002 in the same market where she operated her first scoop. Now, Bauer is the owner and creative director of eight elegant scoop shops in central Ohio, one in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and one in Nashville, Tennessee, with individual pints available online and in freezer aisles throughout the United States. Her ice cream has been praised by Time magazine, the Washington Post, USA Today and countless other media outlets throughout the country. In June 2011, Artisan Books published "Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home." Now in its sixth printing, The New York Times best-selling cookbook has been dubbed "the homemade-ice cream-making Bible" by The Wall Street Journal, while The Washington Post proclaimed Jeni "an ice cream wizard." In May 2012, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home won a James Beard Media Award in the "Cookbook: Baking & Desserts" category. When Jeni isn't developing new flavors, she devotes time to Local Matters (the Columbus-based, fresh-food-for-all non-profit she co-founded), as well as reading, painting at her kitchen table, sewing, drinking wine, cooking and making big messes with her husband and two children at their home in Columbus. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/27/food-informants-jenis-splendid_n_1616712.html" target="_hplink">Read Jeni's diary here.</a></strong>
Amanda Hesser & Merrill Stubbs, Food 52 Founders
Amanda Hesser is an entrepreneur, best-selling author and has been named one of the 50 most influential women in food by Gourmet. As a longtime staffer at the New York Times, Hesser wrote more than 750 stories and was the food editor at the Times Magazine. She has written the award-winning books "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Cook and the Gardener," and edited the essay collection "Eat, Memory." Her last book, a Times bestseller and the winner of a James Beard award, is The Essential New York Times Cookbook. Hesser is a trustee of Awesome Food, and is an adviser to the Spence Foundation, Real Time Farms and Fondu. Merrill Stubbs grew up in New York City and after graduating from Brown University with a degree in Comparative Literature, she honed her cooking skills at Le Cordon Bleu in London. Later, she interned in the test kitchen at Cook's Illustrated and was a private chef and cooking instructor. While she was in Boston, she also worked with Joanne Chang at Flour Bakery + Café. Merrill met her Food52 co-founder Amanda Hesser when she signed on to help research and test recipes for The Essential New York Times Cookbook. She has written for T Living, Edible Brooklyn and Body+Soul, and she was the food editor at Herb Quarterly. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their 4-month-old daughter. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/13/food-informants-food52_n_1586150.html?" target="_hplink">Read Amanda and Merrill's diary here.</a></strong>
Emiliano Lee, Cheesemonger
Emiliano Lee comes from a long line of grocers and his passion for cheese dates back to his childhood in Oakland, where he could be found stealing bites of Rouge et Noir brie from the wheel in his father's desk drawer and spending his allowance at the 6th Avenue Cheese Shop in San Francisco. After working as a cheesemonger throughout the country, Lee is now the Artisan Market Manager for Farmshop in Los Angeles. Since 2009, Lee has served as a judge for the American Cheese Society, affording him the opportunity to taste thousands of cheeses from hundreds of North American producers, and provide them with valuable aesthetic feedback. Additionally, Lee participated in the 2010 Cheesemonger Invitational, served as a panelist at the 2011 Sonoma Valley Cheese Conference, and most recently was a panel moderator at the 2011 American Cheese Society Conference. <strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/06/food-informants-cheesemonger_n_1567473.html?" target="_hplink">Read Emiliano's diary here.</a></strong>