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Inspiring Women in Food

In honor of Women’s History Month, the Just For Kicks team wants to applaud and nod in commemoration of the current-day women making history in the food world. These powerful players have paved the way for women in this industry and beyond.

Michelle Korsmo, CEO and President of the National Restaurant Association

At the National Restaurant Association, Michelle Korsmo leads the industry towards innovation and builds a network of strong restaurant and foodservice connections. Michelle is also the CEO of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. Founded in 1987, the foundation provides opportunities for people from all backgrounds to enter the restaurant, foodservice and hospitality industries through training, scholarships and grants. They award more than $1 million in scholarships each year.

Khalilah Cooper, Executive Director of Design at Chick-fil-A

Khalilah Cooper is making Chick-fil-A better every day by leading her team to create and improve new establishments. She also helped to establish the Women in Business Community Group at Chick-fil-A. Since 2014, this group works to further the professional development of women at the company. As of 2021, the group has grown to over 600 members. For her previous role as Director of Service and Hospitality at Chick-fil-A, Khlalilah was recognized on Nation’s Restaurant News’ Power List 2020.

Peggy Cherng, Co-CEO and Co-Founder of Panda Restaurant Group

Peggy Cherng, along with her husband and her father-in-law, founded Panda Restaurant Group in 1973. Their most popular restaurant, Panda Express, now has over 2,200 locations. The Cherngs are charitable donors to a number of organizations, including CalTech. In 2017, the university changed the name of their medical engineering department to The Andrew and Peggy Cherng Department of Medical Engineering. In 2022, Peggy made Forbes’ list of America’s Self-Made Women, which is no small feat.

Nancy Kruse, President and Founder of The Kruse Company

No one knows menu innovation like Nancy Kruse, who, in addition to her work for The Kruse Company, is a regular writer for the magazines, Nation’s Restaurant News and Restaurant Hospitality. Nancy has been a recurring guest lecturer at The Culinary Institute of America and is an in-demand speaker for numerous restaurant and supermarket organizations. She is considered one of the Top Voices at LinkedIn, and she continues to lead the charge on new and interesting menu trends.

Michelle Wolf, CEO and Co-Founder of New Wave Foods

Sustainability is a passion of Michelle Wolf, and as CEO of New Wave Foods, she is constantly pushing the industry towards more plant-based seafood options. Founded in 2015, New Wave Foods launched with a mission to promote sustainable and healthy eating. And released in 2021, their plant-based shrimp does just that. Wolf is a rising star in food, and was featured on Forbes’ Food & Drink 30 under 30 in 2021.

Stephanie Lind, Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Elohi Strategic Advisors

Stephanie Lind founded Elohi Strategic Advisors, a women-owned and women-led business, with a goal to help other foodservice companies thrive. She leads her team to create strategic end-to-end business models and supports for other brands in the foodservice space. For the past 30 years, Elohi has helped everyone from start-ups to global companies and everyone in between, including TiNDLE, Finless Foods, and Tea Forte.

Patty Trevino, Chief Marketing Officer of Red Lobster

Red Lobster is an American staple, from the lobster to the real showstopper, those biscuits. In 2022, Patty Trevino was named as the company’s first Chief Marketing Officer. This past February, Trevino helped lead the launch of a line of frozen foods to be sold in grocery stores. She’s been making waves in the industry even before joining Red Lobster, and was named on Nation’s Restaurant News’ Power List 2020.

Erica Havers, President of Blodgett Oven Group

Erica Havers worked her way up from an Accounts Payable Clerk to the President of Blodgett Oven Group. Blodgett manufactures ovens used for everything from pizzas to cookies and beyond. Havers has worked at Blodgett for close to 30 years and was promoted to President in 2020. She recently oversaw the expansion of the Hoodini Ventless Solution for ovens.

Kristin Bird, President of Foodservice at T. Marzetti

Kristin Bird has over 20 years of foodservice experience and was named President of Foodservice at T. Marzetti in 2019. Kristin is an expert in customer insights and marketing. In addition to her role as President, she is the Executive Sponsor for Marzetti Women’s Employee Resource Group, which recently put on a panel discussion and event for International Women’s Day on March 8th. 

Emily Metz, CEO and President of American Egg Board

Emily Metz has a passion for agriculture, which she has turned into a career as President and CEO of the American Egg Board. The AEB’s mission is to increase demand for U.S. eggs and egg products, and they couldn’t do it without Emily’s leadership. In 2022, Emily was interviewed by Authority Magazine for their “Women of the C-Suite” interview series. She says in the interview, “You don’t have to be 50 years old and a male to be a CEO,” like she and several others on this list have proven.

Angie Goldberg, Chief Growth Officer at Ardent Mills

Ardent Mills is the premier flour-milling and ingredient company, and as the company’s first Chief Growth Officer, Angie Goldberg is passionate about nurturing customers, consumers and communities through innovative and nutritious grain-based solutions. Angie oversees the company’s innovation, quality and technical services, research, and marketing.

Nanette Luningham, VP of Marketing and Channel Development of Foodservice at Tyson Foods

Nanette Luningham has been with Tyson Foods for over 25 years. She became the Vice-President of Marketing and Channel Development in 2017. Nanette also serves on the board for the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA) as the Membership Chair. IFMA is an industry-focused association focusing on improving communication and collaboration in the foodservice space.

Carrie Jones-Barber, CEO of Dawn Food Products

Dawn Foods is a global leader in bakery ingredients, and Carrie Jones-Barber leads the charge as the CEO of the company. Carrie strives for company growth, and she oversaw several large acquisitions in 2021, including Icopa, based out of Portugal, and JABEX, based out of Poland. She was named as a 2021 Powered by Women recipient by D Business.

Women are leaders in every industry, and food and foodservice are no exception. Without these impressive professionals, these fields wouldn’t be where they are today. We can’t wait to see where they lead us next. Happy Women’s History Month to all the badass women out there making history!

(Shout out to the women of Just for Kicks! You’re pretty cool and leaving a real legacy here!)

Courtesy of the Esrock Partners “Just for Kicks” Team: Lucy Staszel, Samantha Gallagher, Aleksandra Kostic, Shawn Rudolph, Karolina Urbas, Morgan Behrens, Logan Scott, Julia Para & Ella Shirk

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