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Director and Executive Chef | Plant'ish & Co. Culinary Arts
Nina Curtis is recognized as a thought-leader and trailblazer in the plant-based culinary movement. Chef Curtis presents lectures and demonstrations on health, nutrition and whole plant-based foods around the country. She has developed wellness training programs, has set up and led kitchen operations and has worked closely in conjunction with culinary master gardeners to develop seasonal and gorgeous seed-to-table recipes that are essential to having an exceptional plant strong culinary experience. Chef Curtis has appeared on national TV and she is a guest speaker at several national culinary conferences. As the former Director and Executive Chef for the Adventist Health, Roseville Campus Vitaliz Café and Culinary Arts, Chef Curtis was at the helm of this dynamic culinary division. From inception, launch and execution, Chef Curtis recruited, trained and led both the front and back of the house team, providing delicious and nutritious plant-based meals for associates and guests at the Adventist Health Corporate offices. She also led whole plant-based food educational programs and presented demonstrations to encourage associates and guests to incorporate more whole foods in their diets outside of work, receiving rave reviews. During her time as Executive Chef at The Ranch at Live Oak, Malibu, the acclaimed seven-day fitness and wellness bootcamp and the Chief Nutrition Officer for the Ranch Daily a meal subscription service in Southern California, Chef Curtis kept her finger on the pulse of the wellness and plant-based lifestyle trends and incorporated the best of best practices and cuisines for guests to have a full wellness experience.Chef Curtis has been an avid proponent of a plant based lifestyle for over twenty years. Her food and beverage background includes working with the Marriott Group, Hilton Hotels, Baxters, Manhattan Beach, the El Caballo, Oakland, Pure Food and Wine in New York and the Springs Restaurant and Wine Bar, Los Angeles.An MBA graduate of Pepperdine University, Curtis was also trained at Living Light Culinary Institute, Trinity School of Natural Health, the Natural Gourmet Culinary Institute and she holds a Plant Based Nutrition certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutritional Studies, Cornell.
Founder of TWG Consulting
Chef Thomas Griffiths CMC, founder of TWG Consulting, has held major roles in Culinary Research & Development, such as VP of R&D Innovation for Freshly as well as Campbell Soup Company’s Senior Executive Chef and Global VP of Campbell’s Culinary & Baking Institute (CCBI). He is an ACF Certified Master Chef, an ACF culinary judge and a Culinary Olympic Gold Medalist. Chef Tom creates innovative, on-trend products while improving the quality of flavors and introducing bold, new and authentic ingredients, while predicting upcoming trends.Chef Griffiths graduated with honors in 1980 from The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and has held chef positions with several renowned establishments, including The United Nations, Le Delices Côte Basque, Regine’s and Le Cirque. He has also owned a restaurant and catering business. After working in the restaurant industry for 15 years, he gave in to his love of culinary education and he returned to the CIA to pursue various teaching positions, including Associate Dean.Chef Griffiths has been featured on Fox & Friends, NBC’s Today Show, Good Morning America, “Cooking Secrets of the CIA” public television program and a variety of regional news programs. He has also written articles for Santè magazine, Hudson Valley Connoisseur and The Valley Table Magazine. In his spare time, he participates in community activism, travels the world to experience new culinary phenomena and deeply enjoys gardening – a tradition he has upheld since childhood. Chef Griffiths routinely tends his own 30×50 ft. garden, where he grows just about every fruit and vegetable you can imagine.
Chef Consultant and Recipe Developer | Global Cuisine Consulting
Chef Junnie Lai holds international recognition for innovation and product development achievements in food applications. With a career that spans more than 20 years, her culinary-related experience has offered unique opportunities where she’s becoming highly specialized in research & development, product & culinary innovation as well as education of all levels seeking to develop their skills in Southeast Asian and Chinese cuisines along with modern baking and pastry. In 2017, Chef Junnie established her culinary services company, Global Cuisine Consulting, where her team specializes in supporting her clients through recipe development and commercialization as well as supply chain support, management over the strategic product launch process and relationship building.Throughout her time in the food industry, Chef Junnie has earned a Bachelors of Arts degree in Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management and Culinary Arts, specializing in Baking and Pastry, a Bachelor in Holistic Health Sciences, and a Masters of Business Administration. Additionally, Chef Junnie is a Board-Certified Holistic Health Practitioner though the American Association of Drugless Practitioners and is continuing her education in the field of ‘food as medicine’ as she pursues her Doctorate in Natural Medicine.
Program Coordinator, Community Culinary & Nutrition | Kalamazoo Valley Community College
Chef Lizzie Luchsinger CC has a passion for connecting community with improved health outcomes through food as medicine. She is a certified chef and culinary coach, working on the Healthy Living Campus at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. There, she is joined by an interdisciplinary team of experts (physicians, dietitians, nurses, and chefs) where they provide experiential culinary and nutrition education to students, community members and community organizations. Some of her recent projects include working with communities to increase access to healthy food, providing customized culinary medicine experiences for pre-med and nursing students, and forming regional collaborations to get more healthy food on more plates.
Educator, Chef, and Dietitian
Leah Sarris is an educator, chef and dietitian with over 15 years experience in innovative industry training, strategic planning and program implementation. Her wide-ranging professional experience spans from foodservice to agriculture, education, administration, and community engagement. In her current role as Director of Culinary Marketing & Education at Wild Hive (wildhive.com), Leah brings a unique combination of culinary education, culinary medicine, and business acumen to develop and implement innovative educational experiences that showcase clients’ products to a diverse range of stakeholders. Leah is particularly excited to provide professionals and community members alike the opportunity to learn how to create and eat great food that just happens to be good for them. Prior to Wild Hive, Leah helped pioneer the culinary medicine movement by developing and implementing the United States’ premier interdisciplinary culinary medicine program at Tulane University, which is now being utilized by over 50 medical schools across the country. She also served as the executive director for the nonprofit New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute, navigating the business through its startup and the pandemic. Leah has been an educator and innovator throughout most of her career, and other past roles included improving food within K-12 schools through training and advocacy, teaching Culinary Nutrition at Johnson & Wales University, farming, product development and foodservice consulting. Leah has a Bachelor of Science in Culinary Nutrition from Johnson & Wales University and a Master of Business Administration from Tulane University. Leah was honored as a Top Female Achiever by New Orleans Magazine in 2018, awarded Gambit’s 40 Under 40 in 2014, and presented with a Best Chefs Louisiana designation from American Culinary Federation New Orleans in 2017. She currently serves on the Culinary Medicine Specialist Board and is a board member of SPROUT NOLA.
Executive Director | Brightwater
Marshall Shafkowitz Executive Director – Brightwater: A Center for the Study of Food With over 20 years of professional experience in culinary education, including K-12 and higher education arenas, and 27 years of restaurant and hospitality industry experience in the U.S. and Europe, Brightwater Executive Director Chef Marshall Shafkowitz has built a career out of his love for food and a passion to share his knowledge. Prior to beginning his role as Brightwater’s Executive Director in 2019, Shafkowitz held the position of Executive Dean at Washburne Culinary and Hospitality Institute at the City Colleges of Chicago. He was the ninth chef in the school’s history to hold such a title. Shafkowitz also held various positions at Le Cordon Bleu Schools North America. Positions included Director of Academic Operations, where he managed the development of curriculum and instruction for 14 campuses, as well as the Executive Chef to the Vice President of Academic Affairs and Student Services for Le Cordon Bleu Chicago. Shafkowitz earned a Masters of Arts in Teaching at Alan Shawn Feinstein School of Teaching and a Bachelor of Science in Culinary from Johnson & Wales University. Shafkowitz currently holds a position on the SkillsUSA Culinary Arts Technical Committee/ World SkillsUSA Advisor and is a member of several industry organizations. He was named the American Culinary Federation Chicago Chapter Chef Educator of the Year for 2016.
Brightwater Chef Instructor and Registered Dietitian Erin Szopiak has lived in a number of places in her life, including northern California, Houston, Salt Lake City, St. Louis and now Northwest Arkansas. Her interest in gardening and cooking with garden-fresh produce began with her Opa. As a child, she'd visit him and eat fresh strawberries, green beans, tomatoes, potatoes and pickled beets from his large garden, and bake homemade bread, and on special occasion, he'd make his famous European style torte.Erin went on to get her bachelor's and master's in nutrition and dietetics and teach courses at Saint Louis University. She spent time working as a registered dietitian at a teaching hospital in St. Louis. While studying, she decided to broaden her knowledge in cooking healthy and delicious meals. She worked in various restaurants and learned about lobster, crab, mussels, pesce crudo and oysters, as well as how to pair Asian ingredients with hyper-local produce. She moved her way up the hot line and assisted in opening new restaurants as well. In 2017, Erin was ready to have a more sustainable work schedule that would combine her interests in nutrition, cooking and teaching, and decided to join Brightwater as a registered dietitian chef instructor."I love interacting with Brightwater students. To see them have a shift in perspective, or have an 'aha' moment about what is being prepared or taught that day in class is very rewarding. I love seeing the students have fun in class. I especially enjoy seeing my culinary nutrition students surprised at how delicious healthy food can be," Erin says. "I also appreciate the Brightwater team. My fellow faculty and staff members make it worth it to come to work each day."In her free time, Erin enjoys gardening, hiking, bike riding, running, yoga and anything active that one can do outside.
The Culinary Doctor
Dr. Lauren W. Powell, MD, “The Culinary Doctor,” is a board-certified family medicine physician and culinary medicine specialist on a mission to end generational health issues in the African-American community. She makes healthy eating accessible and enjoyable for all through her social media quick tips, online cooking school, and debut book, “Food Essentials for the Busy Professional.”Born and raised in Metro-Detroit, Dr. Lauren graduated cum laude from the undergraduate program at the University of Detroit Mercy and went on to obtain her Doctor of Medicine degree from the Wayne State University School of Medicine. Around this time, her father endured a health scare, which prompted her to shift her doctoral focus to culinary medicine. Subsequently, Dr. Lauren sought further training in nutrition and culinary art.Nowadays, Dr. Lauren travels the U.S. speaking to diverse audiences about disease prevention and the healing properties in food. She is a mainstream and social media personality that has been featured on Sister Circle Live, Fox 2 News Detroit, as well as on The DoctorGoals Podcast and the Melan-In-White Coats Podcast. Dr. Lauren is also the co-founder of Young Lady Watching, a not-for-profit organization purposed to empower and encourage young minority females to pursue careers in healthcare.