Meet Our 2016 Board of Directors
Cortney Ahern, President
Cortney is a passionate patron of good food. She is currently Manager of Corporate Partnerships at Feeding America, the nation's leading hunger-relief organization. She has experience working across the food chain on domestic and international agricultural issues. She has been a featured writer and speaker by National Geographic, Food Tank: The Food Think Tank, the Christian Science Monitor, Slow Food, and has provided consulting services for a range of food and community organizations. Cortney has worked on a family farm in Upstate New York and learned the proper technique for catching red ants in northeastern Thailand. She would do anything for one more xiao-long-bao from Yang’s in Shanghai, and always stockpiles extra butter in her freezer.You can find her on Twitter and Instagram at @ctahern
Naaman Gambill, Education
Naaman Gambill is from Terre Haute, IN where growing up on a small family farm he participated in 4-H and the local Farmers Market, along with tending the family’s chickens, pigs, and bees. This rural upbringing has provided transferable lessons of sustainability and locality, which Naaman has been able to impart to Chicagoans. First as a high school teacher, and then as Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance’s, “Greening Programs Coordinator” where he was able to further pass on urban agricultural endeavors, namely gardening and beekeeping to residents on the Westside.
Naaman currently serves as the Head Beekeeper and Partner for Westside Bee Boyz LLC and is also launching The Hive: Chicago’s Beekeeping Supply Store. When not outside playing with bees, he can be found practicing his homemade charcuterie skills to varying levels of success, playing rugby to the consternation of his family, or fishing.
Stefanie Garcia, preSERVE Garden
Growing up in a food-centric family and culture, Stefanie learned early on the importance of food and its ability to bring people together. She decided to pursue her passion for food and received her Bachelor Degree in Foodservice Management from Johnson & Wales University. In 2006 Stefanie began working for Whole Foods Market which brought her to Chicago where she currently works as the Local Purchasing Coordinator and supports small farms and local businesses who wish to bring their products to market. Through her career and personal experience, Stefanie has learned the ins and outs of the food industry and is passionate about creating a more sustainable food system that will benefit the environment and future generations.
Sara Gasbarra, VP of External Affairs & Events
Sara Gasbarra, is the founder and “lead garden girl” for Verdura, a garden design company that cultivates culinary gardens for Chicago restaurants. Her kitchen production plots have been featured in several publications including Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, Chicago Magazine and Crain’s Chicago Business. Sara also co-founded Green City Market's Junior Board, serving as Chair for four years. Her inspiration for cultivating edible green spaces for her chef clientele is drawn directly from childhood memories of summers spent gardening and cooking with her Italian-born father. Sara's favorite edibles to grow for her restaurant clients include garnet mustard, cime di rapa, Kyoto red carrots, violetto fava beans, chiles, lavender, anise hyssop, nasturtium and lemon basil.
Heidi Hedeker, Education
Heidi Hedeker is passionate about the social mission of food. With her non-profit, It Bakes a Village, she works with mothers and daughters to rekindle the tradition of baking together, with all its relationships. She holds a Master's in Clinical Social Work from University of Chicago and is a Certified Master Baker. She grew up in the apartment above her family's bakery in Chicago, Gladstone Park Bakery, and remembers the mixers being turned on every night at 3 am to make buttercrust white bread. Heidi is a full-time pastry instructor at Kendall College, Chicago. Her favorite foods to make are green tomato pies and jam.
Kate Holst Test, VP of Internal Affairs & Treasurer
Kate, originally from Michigan moved to Chicago in 2009 after completing her masters in Theatre Management. During the day she works at as the Company Manager at Writers Theatre in Glencoe. Since she was very young, she been interested in living sustain-ably and close to the earth. As a theatre maker, she is excited about food’s ability to tell a story and bring people together. From the best beer at a baseball game to a dinner party among friends, the community around food has always interested her and she couldn't be more excited to be serving on the board of Slow Food Chicago.
Katie Johnson, Communications
Katie is a Chicago native who got her start after college working in marketing + advertising for a Chicago newspaper. After obsessively day-dreaming of farmers market sourced dinners and desserts to make at home after work between emails, data mining and power points (oh my) she decided to try her hand at working in the food industry. Working her way through positions from cashier to management, she has gained experience in restaurants, at grocery stores, in a bakery and even at a local food broker. Along the way, she also obtained a certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from eCornell a took a week-long "Pastry Camp" at the French Pastry School in Chicago. Katie is also the founder of an allergy friendly centered baking business called Smashed Muffin, which has led to adventures both at local farmers markets throughout Chicago as a vendor as well as a curious taster in her own home kitchen. She is thrilled to take on a communications role as the curator of content for the Slow Food Chicago blog - proof that you can take the girl out of the newspaper, but not the other way around. You can find her on instagram at @smashedmuffingoods or @katydid_katiejohnson.
Cheryl Muñoz, Stewardship
Cheryl is the Founder and Marketing + Outreach Lead at Sugar Beet Food Co-op, a full service grocery store in Oak Park, and the Founder and Executive Directors of Sugar Beet Schoolhouse which serves Chicagoland with food literacy programming including cooking classes and farm tours. Her passion for education and community building motivates her to inspire everyone to participate in the Good Food Movement through growing, preserving, cooking, sharing and eating good food. Cheryl loves a good tomato and lives in Oak Park, IL with her little farmers, Cedar and Cora, and her husband, Anthony.
Jose Oliva, Fair Food
Jose Oliva is from Xelaju, Guatemala. Jose founded the Chicago Interfaith Workers’ Center in 2001 and then became the Coordinator of Interfaith Worker Justice’s National Workers' Centers Network. In 2008 he went on to run the Center for Community Change’s worker justice program. Jose held several leadership positions at the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United the national organization of restaurant workers. He is currently the Co-Director of the Food Chain Workers Alliance a national coalition of food worker organization that represents over 250,000 workers.
Leigh Omilinsky, Chef and Restaurant Relations
Leigh Omilinsky considers Italy her first love, making Nico Osteria a natural fit. Growing up in Chicago’s north suburbs, her childhood dream of becoming a jazz piano player quickly changed after a pivotal crème brulee experience at San Francisco’s Top of the Mark restaurant. Stunned by its simplicity and delivery of flavor, at the ripe age 10 years old she stumbled upon her passion and pastry philosophy. Hooked, Omilinsky spent her teenage years working at bakeries and watching Julia Child and Jacques Pepin on television.
After receiving degrees in Baking & Pastry Arts and Food Service Management from Johnson & Wales University, Omilinsky began as a pastry cook at the JW Marriott in Denver. In 2006, she ventured back to Chicago where she worked for James Beard award winning chefs Rick Tramonto and Gale Gand; first at Tramonto’s Steak and Seafood as the lead pastry cook and then at TRU restaurant as pastry tournant. Omilinsky began working at L2O restaurant in 2009, where she worked as chef de partie under celebrated chef Laurent Gras. In 2010, Leigh Omilinsky joined Sofitel Chicago Water Tower where she oversaw the hotel’s pastry program including private dining, amenities and the plated desserts at Café des Architectes and Le Bar. In 2013, Omilinsky was included on Zagat’s 30 Under 30 list and received the Jean Banchet award for Rising Pastry Chef. She recieved Jean Banchet's "Pastry Chef of the Year" in 2014. After five years working with French pastry, Omilinsky jumped at the opportunity to venture further south and explore all that Italian cuisine has to offer. As Nico Osteria’s pastry chef, Omilinsky continues her pursuit of mastering the balance between simplicity and depth of flavor.
Beth Osmund, Terra Madre & Slow Meat
and her husband Jody left corporate jobs in 2002 and moved their family from the Chicago suburbs to rural Ottawa, IL to start Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm. This launched an avid interest in the production and politics of food. As a presenter at food & farming related events she works to communicate her experience and passion. She is committed to inspiring others to make real food an everyday pleasure. Slow Food’s focus on “Good, Clean, and Fair” food and the joy that it brings drew her to the organization and its wonderful members have inspired her to become more involved.
Alison Parker, Ark of Taste & Producer Relations
Alison co-owns Radical Root Farm, an organic vegetable and small livestock farm north of Chicago. She is passionate about food activism, food education, and creating more access to healthy food for all. At the farm, she also grows medicinal herbs, and teaches workshops and classes on herbalism, healthy cooking, fermentation and canning. Her interests include ecological living, growing interesting foods and herbs, foraging, creating interesting ferments, being as DIY as possible, riding her bicycle, writing, blogging, and reading. (She reads a lot about food.)
Brianna Parry, Volunteers
Brianna Parry has loved slow food since long before she knew about Slow Food. During the day, she works in production at Steppenwolf Theatre Company where some days are spent sourcing fake snow and others are spent giving tours to high school students. She represents STC on the Chicago Green Theatre Alliance and the national Production Managers Forum Diversity & Inclusion Committee. She is a graduate of Ohio's Kenyon College. In her free time, she digs baking bread, riding her bike, doing more theatre, and drinking lattes
Maia Reed, Membership
Maia has travelled far and wide to examine food from all angles as an advocate, lover, and grower. She has researched and written about sustainable food and agriculture while working with USAID's Farmer-to-Farmer program and with Food Tank: The Food Think Tank. She has coordinated a food recovery program in Chicago and cooked salvaged produce for a community collective in Montréal. She has made Comté cheese in France, sipped Sauvignon Blanc in the vineyards of New Zealand, and tried hand-cut soba noodles in Japan. Maia lived in Australia for two years, where she earned her Permaculture Design Certificate and learned the true value of a fresh picked mango. In Chicago, she works as the Development Assistant at Growing Home, Chicago's leading urban farming social enterprise.
Molly Schemper, Events
Molly Schemper is a co-founder of FIG Catering, a Pilsen-based boutique caterer, that provides seasonal hand-crafted menus, personal service, and event planning for intimate events. Growing up on a farm-to-table restaurant (before that was a term) in Southwest Michigan with “hippie” parents, Molly’s personal ethos informed the direction of FIG so sourcing the freshest food from local farmers was always a priority.
Before venturing off on her own, Molly worked in marketing for a small advertising agency and as a personal chef/crewmember aboard private yachts. Molly’s knowledge of marketing and optimizing productivity have served her well as FIG grows, but she still enjoys the busyness of working behind a bar, on the floor, or in the kitchen to make an event flow flawlessly. For over ten years, Molly has explored creative and sustainable approaches to catering and she is excited to be helping Slow Food Chicago curate awesome events.
Laurell Sims, Snail of Approval
Laurell Sims is the Production and Marketing Manager for Growing Power's Chicago Office. Laurell has worked for Growing Power since 2006, and oversees production at Growing Power's seven urban farms in Chicago, totaling 12-acres of sustainably grown produce, honey, flowers, and livestock cultivated within the city limits. Laurell was formerly the Director for ReVision House Urban Farm, a farm-training program for homeless young mothers in Dorchester, MA. In 2011, Laurell was selected as a Bold Food Fellow, a State Department exchange with farmers from Kenya and Uganda. She has also served as the Community Outreach & Education Chair for Green City Markets' Junior Board and as the Education Committee Co-Chair for the Growing Food and Justice for All Initiative.
Drew Thomas, Crop Mobs
Drew Thomas' passion for good food grew from a lifelong concern for ecological sustainability. He currently teaches courses on sustainable agriculture and local food systems for Northeastern Illinois University and works as the school garden coordinator for Chicago Public Schools, where he provides technical assistance to school gardeners, connects schools to garden resources, and oversees the implementation of a school garden food safety program - Eat What You Grow - which allows garden produce to be served in the school's dining center. He came to these roles after a meandering path that included working as an advocate for environmental protections at local, federal, and internal levels, work on a small organic farm, researching urban food production as a graduate student at the University of Chicago, and extensive culinary-themed travels.