Meet Our 2017 Board of Directors
Stefanie Garcia, President
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's Degree in Foodservice Management from Johnson & Wales University. Stefanie currently sits on the board of directors for a vertical farm company based in Austin, TX and is the Director of Sales for a granola bar company called This Bar Saves Lives whose mission is to help children suffering from severe acute malnutrition by donating food packets with every bar sold. Through her career and personal experience, Stefanie has learned the ins and outs of the food industry and has helped hundreds of Midwest producers find their way into the retail world. She is passionate about creating a more sustainable food system that will benefit the environment and generations to come.
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.
Most recently, Naaman launched 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.
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, VP + 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.
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.
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
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.
Jay Savsani, Events
As the founder of Meal Sharing, Jay has revolutionized the way people dine around the world. His unrelenting drive for community development has opened people's kitchens in over +120 countries. Leading a pioneering company in the sharing economy food category, Meal Sharing has connected thousands of passionate home cooks with diners and has gathered accolades from the BBC, Food and Wine, NPR, and Jimmy Kimmel Live.
Jay has spoken at the British Parliament about community development through food and was invited to the United Nations along side other global innovators to help solve current social issues. Living the lifestyle, he has traveled across the United States, basically only eating through Meal Sharing and has a deep passion for making the world a better place through food.
Dan Hurowitz, preSERVE Garden
Dan has been growing vegetables in Chicago since 2010, first with City Farm and now with Gary Comer Youth Center and Kendall College. Some of his earliest memories are of eating cherry tomatoes and green beans from his family garden, and pretending that chives were cigarettes. His favorite work-study job in college was transporting food scraps via bicycle cart to the compost pile at the school's student-run farm. He loves growing nutritious, high-quality produce for chefs and home cooks, and sees agriculture as an important space in the struggle for a more just and equitable world.
Clare Johnson, Events
Clare comes to Slow Food with a background in landscape architecture and horticultural therapy, specializing in therapeutic garden design as the Manager and Design Consultant at the Chicago Botanic Garden.
Clare hails from a central Illinois farming family on her mother's side, and avid home-gardening family on her father's side. Her personal and professional passion is to connect people with nature to help them lead healthier, happier lives, She believes that green space - whether it's a park, edible garden or elevated trail - plays a key role in the health of our communities and creates opportunities to inspire future generations to become stewards of the environment.
With a strong love for good, clean and fair food, community engagement and therapeutic design, Clare is exited to spread the mission of Slow Food to the Chicago region and beyond.
Rachel Post, Snail of Approval
Rachel has a long time relationship with food. Starting with making pies and jam as a child with her Grandma in NJ, to baking bread and cookies with her mom, she developed a love of the meditative practice in making food from scratch to share with her family and friends.
She received an AOS degree from New England Culinary Institute in Essex Junction, VT. She was truly inspired by the bread bakers in Vermont, and moved to Boston in 1999 to hone her craft in bread making. Through the Bread Bakers' Guild of America, she was able to further understand the science of baking as well as the characteristics of different grains grown across the Midwest. He passion further developed when she moved to Chicago in 2006 and began working for small businesses through Kitchen Chicago and at the Green City Market. It was at Green City that she began to truly understand the importance of chefs having a relationship with the people who grow their food. Know your farmer became her mantra. Rachel put her skills to work in developing a bread program for Floriole Bakery, pies with Hoosier Mama Pie Co., and other small businesses getting their start as a market stand at Green City. She began working with Pilot Light in 2013, teaching in the classroom, and was able to share her love of food with the students. In 2015, she combined her love of cooking and bread making with her catering company, Our House Pizza, where she continues to do events and pop ups around Chicago.
Rachel is truly grateful to be a part of Slow Food Chicago and can't wait to bridge her talents with all the other amazing and talented people serving on the board.
Jody Osmund, Public Relations
Jody grew up on a diverse conventional commodity farm - grains, hay, hoys, cattle, and horses. The farm crisis of the late 80's pushed him toward a professional career off the farm. Fifteen years later, he and his young family moved back to the farm and started the first Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) enterprise in the area. Jody continues to operate Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm's Meat CSA today. He has grown into a local foods leader - serving on food policy councils and starting a non-profit to raise awareness of CSA's in the Chicago area. Slow Food's "Slow Meat" initiative has become a focus over the past three years, attending the Denver conference in 2014 + 2015. The past two years have included trips to Kansas and Omaha to lend Slow Food's voice to the effort and to end the destructive practices of meat monopolies in the US. Jody extended this important work internationally when he traveled to Turin, Italy for Terra Madre last fall (2016) and was on a Slow Meat panel with delegates from around the world!
Chelsea Callahan - Social Media
Chelsea fell in love with the Slow Food movement while getting her Master's in Food Culture and Communications at the University of Gastronomic Sciences, also known as the Slow Food University, in Pollenzo, Italy. After a year spent traveling, studying food and eating her weight in pasta and cheese (for the sake of research, of course!), she returned to the US to play a part in building a better food system. Currently, she works as the Program Assistant at FamilyFarmed, supporting their Good Food Business Accelerator and Farmer Training Programs. In her spare time, Chelsea loves running around the city, wandering farmer's markets, cooking up curious concoctions with the best seasonal and local produce, and photographing/writing about farms, farmers, food and animals (mostly goats). You can follow her food adventures on instagram @chelscall.