Nov 16 - 18, 2023
Speakers, Experts & Headliners
Holly VanRyn is a Certified Sommelier and Certified Specialist of Wine. She is a full-time faculty member at the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education teaching Table Service, Hospitality Management, and Wines of the World. Holly has worked in the hospitality industry in both Michigan and Hawaii. She worked as a Dining Room Manager for TS Restaurants. She holds a Master’s degree in Career and Technical Education from Ferris State University. She loves wine and developed the Wines of the World course for hospitality students and anyone else who is interested in expanding their knowledge of wine.
Sebastian Roman, affectionately referred to as “Sebass” by everyone who knows him, began his journey with Beer about 10 years ago when his Mother-In-Law gifted him a Home Brewing Kit. Not long after his first batch was brewed did he make a decision to pivot in his career path and seek out the Beer industry. His first job with West Side Beer Distributing was selling to the Bars and Restaurants in the Lansing area he used to frequent while getting his degree in Food Industry Management from Michigan State University. Now, as the Senior Brand Manager, he oversees a team responsible for procuring all of the products West Side Beer sells across 15 counties and to over 4,000 retailers. Also a Certified Cicerone, Sebass has a passion for Beer and the connection it makes with us throughout our lives.
Chef Trimell Hawkins
Born in Chicago but spending most of his childhood in Holland, MI, Chef Trimell didn’t discover his love for cooking until he served in the U.S. military. After leaving the service in 2008, he worked his way through various kitchens until attending and completing his culinary training at the Secchia Institute of Culinary Arts under Master Chefs Campbell, Renusson, and Dunn. After graduation, Chef Trimell spent a summer working with Chef Mark Elliot, the esteemed owner of Elliot’s on Linden in North Carolina. He then spent time as Sous Chef under Master Chef Kevin Dunn. Although trained in classical French cooking, Chef Trimell brings his own heart-felt style and flair, blending southern elements into dishes and focusing on cooking with great technique.
Chef Jeff Brandon
Corporate Chef at Superior Foods
Chef Jeff Brandon began his cooking journey in 1990 in Mt. Pleasant Michigan working for the LaBelle Restaurant group while attending CMU as a music major. Finding himself “skipping class” to pick up shifts at the restaurant Jeff decided to change his major and his life. He and his wife Amy moved to Grand Rapids where he attended and graduated GRCC (now the Secchia Institute), graduating in 1994 with an Associate’s Degree in Culinary Arts. He spent the next 13 years “Chef-ing” at various Catering and Restaurant operations in the Grand Rapids area, including the Scheldes Restaurant Group, Executive Chef for the Fredrick Meijer Gardens and Railside Country Club. As his family started to grow Jeff made the switch to the Food Distribution side of the business and took a job with Superior Foods in 2007 as their Corporate Chef. Jeff enjoys consulting with customers and helping people problem solve in their operations.
7:30 pm - 8:15 pm
4:30 pm - 5:15 pm
Nate Blury is a gifted and dynamic speaker and commentator with expertise in business and the craft beverage sector[s]. He has made appearances on and regularly contributes to;
FOX, NBC, ABC, CBS, WSJ, and iHEART MEDIA.
He is a former executive of FedEx Corp. and is the Co-Founder of The Original Tin Cup Co. He is also an investor in Pioneer Branded Spirits Co. [the makers of Saint Liberty Whiskey].
Nate is the host of, “Cocktails and Conversation” and “Cocktails in Quarantine,” and co-founded the online community “DrinkGR” [a West MI-based group that boasts more than 15,000 active members]. He also serves on the leadership board of the West Michigan Bartenders’ Guild [USBG], and in 2021 was recognized by the Grand Rapids Business Journal [GRBJ] as one of Grand Rapids’ “40 Under 40.”
During the pandemic, Nate shifted to online cocktail classes and events, making appearances on “Today Foods” hosting “Cocktails In Quarantine” and facilitating cocktail virtual events for 37 of the Fortune 100 Companies in the United States.
Freelance Mixologist Angie Jackson, a/k/a the “Traveling Elixir Fixer,” began her bar career in 1996 and has created, designed, and executed cocktails for numerous distillers, distributors, bars, restaurants, and spirited events in the greater Chicago area and the Great Lake State of Michigan. She has consulted with top global spirit brands as well as small, artisan-crafted distillers throughout the Midwest. Angie is a Brand Educator/Spirit Ambassador for Grand Traverse Distillery and is the co-author of the book, “Drink the Wild: Recipes from a Kitchen Witch for the Spirited and Sober Soul”
Drink the Wild: Woods To Glass Toddy Tea Time with The Traveling Elixir Fixer
Join Angie Jackson, aka “The Traveling Elixir Fixer” for a journey into the Wild with Woods to Glass Toddy Tea Time featuring Grand Traverse Distillery’s Barrel Finished Gin. Angie will demonstrate how to prepare an elixir in toddy tea form using ingredients that have been ethically harvested and foraged in the wilds of Michigan to create a tantalizing hot toddy or tea punch
Allison Hoekstra is a certified Cicerone who has been working in the hospitality industry for over 20 years. She has managed at craft beer centric restaurants including the original Hopcat in downtown Grand Rapids & 7 Monks. She currently teaches in Grand Rapids Community College’s culinary & craft brewing programs. Her passion for good food, great beer & traveling has led her to Belgium multiple times, where she has been lucky enough to learn about their brewing history & culture first hand.
Chef James Kokenyesdi
CEC®,CCA®, AAC®, Michigan Great Michigan Good, Executive Chef and Culinary Instructor at Fraser Public Schools, President of the ACF Michigan Chef’s de Cuisine
James Kokenyesdi, Certified Executive Chef (CEC), Certified Culinary Administrator (CCA) and fellow of the American Academy of Chefs (AAC)has an extensive background in food beverage and hospitality operations. He earned a Bachelor’s degree at Baker College in Business Administration and an Associate’s degree from The Culinary Institute of America (CIA). A passion for Sanitation began in the late 1990’s when he began teaching Serv Safe. Thousands of classes later he has many real scenarios to share including restaurant’s and country clubs. From cooking for the Le Mans teams in France and around the US to Ford Field and Comerica Park. He has volunteered countless hours for Share our Strength including the Michelle Obama initiative Chefs move to Schools to is a member of the Cooking Matter Hall of Fame.
Chef Calvin Harris
Owner of Spiced Up Seasonings
Chef Calvin Harris has spent over 30 years developing recipes and products that are big on flavor and taste. His unique combination of classic culinary training, extensive R&D background with some of America’s largest Foodservice and Retail Brands along with his business acumen, puts this Chefpreneur in a class of his own. Calvin has previously partnered with both NBC Universal and SELF Magazine to create Biggest Loser / Simply Sensible and SELF Healthy Kitchen, lines of great tasting better-for-you meals. He was also a featured Chef on ABC’s Emmy-nominated cooking show, Recipe Rehab. Prior to branching out and starting his own business, Calvin held Culinary Research and Development leadership positions with Carlson Restaurants Worldwide-TGI-Fridays, was Executive R&D Chef for Arby’s, Senior Director of Product Innovation for Burger King and Global Director of Product Innovation for Johnny Rockets. Calvin is a classically French trained chef and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. He has been cited as one of Nation’s Restaurant News’ Top 50 Research and Development Culinarians. Early on, Calvin developed a passion for food and cooking, spending hours learning in his grandmother’s kitchen and his father’s BBQ restaurant outside of Dallas. Cooking is in his blood and appreciating great tasting food has always been a part of Calvin’s life. The Chefpreneur, is currently working on his latest product line Spiced Up Seasoning Blends by Chef Calvin; whose mission is to “educate consumers on how to cook and enjoy the foods that they love in a healthier and tasty way.”
Chef Genevieve Vang
Bangkok 96 Street Food
Chef Genevieve is an accomplished expert in Thai and Hmong cuisine who has won numerous accolades for her culinary skills and dynamic style of cooking. Both of her award-winning restaurants, Bangkok 96 and Bangkok 96 Street Food, are consistently voted #1 Thai restaurants in Metro Detroit. In fact, her commitment to healthy, innovative and high-quality foods has brought her recognition as a 2019 James Beard Award semi-finalist nominee and the 2019 Best Chef by Eater Detroit. In her spare time, she enjoys doing R&D in her test kitchen. Chef Genevieve also prepared a Hollywood feast for the legendary actor and director Clint Eastwood in the movie Gran Torino.
A refugee from Thailand during the Vietnam War, Genevieve fled with her family to Paris and then moved to the US and settled in Detroit. To spread the message of hope and beauty to the rest of the world, in 2011, Chef Genevieve created a gluten free frozen food line called Thai Feast to show the world how significant Thai cuisine has been to Genevieve’s life. Recently, she created new vegan, allergen-free Asian broth and sauce powders that are easy to use by adding water. Thai Feast products can be found at Meijer’s Southeast Michigan locations in November.
In 2016, Genevieve appeared as a contestant on the Food Network’s show, Clash of the Grandmas. Her new restaurant, Bangkok 96 Street Food, is located in Midtown Detroit inside the Detroit Shipping Company, where Genevieve combines traditional recipes with local ingredients for everyone to enjoy.
- Voted Best of Detroit by WDIV-Channel 4 • Speaker at Mensa’s 50th Anniversary event
- Votes Best Thai by Metro Times • Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year
- CMUS “Talk of the Town” recipient • Certified Kansas City BBQ Chef
- Certified Professional Master Fruit Carver • Trained in San Francisco with sushi chef
- Recipe Developer – Henry Ford Hospital • Trained with Noodle Master
- Spirit Leadership Award by APACC •Best Presentation and Appetizers by Diffa
- Manufacturer Inspiration Award by MBPA •Certified Women Owned
John “Gonzo” Gonzalez
John “Gonzo” Gonzalez is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience. Over the last decade he has traveled the state of Michigan seeking out the tastiest pizza, burgers, tacos, BBQ and more, as well as sampling Michigan’s favorite breweries, distilleries and wineries. He has never met an IPA he didn’t like. Currently he co-hosts “Behind the Mitten” with Amy Sherman, a travel radio show and podcast on more than 13 stations across Michigan. He’s a native of Capac, Michigan, and member of the Central Michigan University Journalism Hall of Fame. Follow him on Social Media @MichiganGonzo.
TV Personality and Author of Meals from the Mitten
Gina Ferwerda is a recipe developer, food blogger, resort business owner, and photographer. Her food blog, Nom News, has been featured by The Chew, The Rachel Ray Show, and The Today Show Food Club, and she has appeared on Good Morning America. She lives in Silver Lake, Michigan.
In Meals from the Mitten: Celebrating the Seasons in Michigan, popular TV personality, travel/food blogger and business entrepreneur Gina Ferwerda shares her love of cooking, photography and adventurous lake life along the shores of Lake Michigan. From a summer charcuterie picnic with fresh vegetables overlooking Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes to Muffler Meatballs cooked on a snowmobile in a winter wonderland, Ferwerda inspires readers to get out of the kitchen and embrace the freshness of each season—which is exactly what Michigan food is all about. Ferwerda, a TODAY show food contributor who has also been featured by Good Morning America and ABC’s The Chew, showcases her passion for the Mitten state in every delicious bite of the 80-plus dishes featured in her debut cookbook, all perfectly designed for the home cook.
Monica & Jessica Ann
Jessica, Owner of The Candied Yam – Delightful Southern Cuisine
Jessica Ann Tyson is a multi-business owner of the extremely popular award-winning restaurant, The Candied Yam – Delightful Southern Cuisine. She opened The Candied Yam to highlight and provide foodies with an opportunity to eat the type of soul food cuisine that was made well known by her ancestors as they made meals from scratch with nothing but scraps. The Candied Yam is listed as one of the Top 50 Restaurants to eat at in Grand Rapids and was recently awarded The Retail Business of the Year!
Identical Twins, Monica & Jessica Ann, are Twins With Taste; sharing experiences so good, you have to do a double take! They engage and inspire audiences of all ages and backgrounds with their infectious energy and sassy personalities. This celebrated pair of quick witted womb-mates are down to earth, sharing life from their point of view through a variety of events and topic conversations. Join Twins With Taste for unique experiences ranging from food, to lifestyle, politics and culture.