Rob Bleifer – Food Network Executive Chef & VP of Culinary
Robert became interested in the food world at a very young age. “I have very distinct memories of watching PBS with my mom and her repeatedly saying ‘help mom take notes on the cooking show and when it’s over, your shows will be on.’ I was raised on Julia Child and The Galloping Gourmet.’”
Bleifer’s interest in food only grew over the years. In graduate school at Rochester Institute of Technology where he pursued his MFA in Photography, he used time between classes to watch cooking shows on cable. While working as a freelance photographer after graduation, Bleifer realized his true love was food and moved to New York City to begin his culinary education at the French Culinary Institute in 1994.
Upon completion, Bleifer worked as a line cook at Park Avenue Café for a year. During that time he received a tip that freelance work was available at Food Network. When Bleifer began work for the network in 1996, it was still very new, but with his background and skill set, it was a perfect match.
As Executive Chef at Food Network, Bleifer is responsible for everything from managing kitchen of ten, to hands-on food styling and cooking for special events, to coordinating with network Production teams, Chef/Hosts, Guest Chefs, photographers, and network departments. He oversees in-house food production, location production, photo shoots, vignettes, and food for more than 100 Food Network events annually. Recently, he has become wine-blender on entwine, Food Network & Wente Vineyards partnered wine. He has also had an on-air presence, judging numerous Food Network Challenges, catering the 3 Food Network Wedding specials, and many other “cameo” appearances.
He completed his undergraduate work at Union College with a BA in Economics and recently moved to the suburbs of NYC with his wife and daughters.
Maura Rapkin – Dual Masters Student in Food Studies, Business Administration
Maura is currently a student at Chatham University, where she is working towards a Masters in Business Administration and a Masters in Food Studies. After graduating from University of Rochester with a Dual Bachelors degree in Film and Environmental Science, Maura decided to start cooking because she felt food was a universal and timeless career choice. Her experience includes work in Michelin starred farm-to-table and seasonal restaurants, prominent Manhattan bakeries, as well as some earlier experience in catering companies and small restaurants. A diverse background has led her to her focus in working towards sustainable, ethical, and eco-sensitive practices with food. She hopes working with Cocoa Compassion will bring greater awareness to the places where systems can be improved within the cocoa market, and looks forward to making a big impact in the field!
Kata Young – Project Manager at EcoAgriculture Partners
Katherine (Kata) Young is Project Manager of integrated landscape management portfolio at EcoAgriculture Partners. Responsible for managing project work plans/budgets; strategic organizational development; multi-stakeholder engagement, decision-making and dialogue facilitation; capacity-building training and curriculum development; development of landscape performance assessments, monitoring and evaluation frameworks; and identifying opportunities for integrative management of agricultural land use and biodiversity conservation at the landscape scale in tropical environments. Master’s of Forest Science Candidate (’17) at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. She received a B.S. in International Agriculture & Rural Development from Cornell University as a non-traditional undergraduate student after working for 8 years with sustainable agriculture and community development as a tropical ethnobotanical horticulturist.
Kata has worked in humid and semi-arid tropical agroforestry projects (Belize, Nicaragua), developed two agroforestry nurseries (Nicaragua), analyzed mangrove restoration (Thailand, UK) and their aquaponic analogues (US), and conducted qualitative field research as a member of applied research teams analyzing farmer-field school programs, and adoption of conservation agriculture practices (México, Nicaragua, Bangladesh, India, and Moçambique). Her work has been conducted with indigenous and/or marginalized communities on the fringes of sensitive ecosystems, with scientists in tropical research stations and botanical gardens, and with food system activists in urban, post-industrial settings. Kata’s experiences revealed to her the pressing need for scientists, development practitioners, agricultural extensionists, eco-entrepreneurs, economists and policymakers to work closely together and with local community members to better integrate biophysical and social science at multi-levels, if we are to solve problems associated with food insecurity, forest fragmentation, and biodiversity conservation.
Kata’s research focused on how diversification of ethnobotanical species used in tropical agroforestry systems affects soil regeneration and ecosystem functioning from a forest ecology perspective in the cacao-growing region of the Atlantic Forest (Mata Atlântica) in Bahia, Brasil – one of the world’s most treasured and endangered biodiversity hotspots.
Edwin Kuo – Thought Practitioner Consultant
Edwin is a creative systems thinker who connects ideas and concepts together to design stronger and more effective communication solutions. Fundamentally, the design disciple is about creating systems. Whether it’s using visual elements or business practices, the focus is on creating a strategic system that creates a narrative or a sustainable business solution…or both.
Edwin holds a BFA in graphic design from the Rhode Island School of Design and a master’s degree in Design Management from Pratt Institute. He has started two design studios and spent many successful years in book and magazine publishing.
Edwin has served as the art director for The James Beard Foundation and designed books for notable publishers and brands such as Sterling Publishing, John Wiley and Sons, Readers Digest, Weight Watchers and Betty Crocker.
Edwin is a news junkie, an avid reader and researcher. You can usually find him close to his iPad reading about the world, trends and culture. He recently launched itsdesignthinking.com, a website that seeks to change the conversation around design thinking and to promote its value towards business strategy.
Lizzie Redman – Executive Director, Bubble Foundation
The Bubble Foundation is a child wellness organization that provides nutrition and fitness education to underserved schools and communities across New York City. As Executive Director at Bubble, Lizzie led the expansion of the organization’s wellness curriculum, established a team and systems to bring Bubble to scale, and increased Bubble’s impact to reach more kids and families in underserved New York City communities. Over the past five years, she has taught thousands of kids and adults about the power of cooking with fresh, whole food ingredients.
Lizzie joined the Bubble Foundation from Teach For America, where she worked on national fundraising and growth strategy across the organization’s 50 regional sites. As Manager of Strategy at Teach For America, Lizzie led strategic planning and special projects across regional sites. She later took on the role of Senior Director of Research Design to manage the design and delivery trainings and learning experiences to national and regional staff. Prior to Teach For America, Lizzie worked as a strategy and operations consultant at Deloitte Consulting, where she consulted on strategic planning, change management, customer insights, and communications strategy for several federal government agencies.
Lizzie studied history and international business at the University of Texas at Austin. Trained as a small child on the secrets to a good gumbo in her grandmother’s New Orleans kitchen, Lizzie is passionate about providing all children with food access and education. When not in Bubble’s schools, she can often be found testing new recipes or doing cooking demos at local farmers markets.
Lizzie has contributed to Huffington Post and writes about the humanity of food at Eating Anthology. She is also on the Board of Advisors of Cocoa Compassion, a social enterprise that fosters the growth and consumption of responsible chocolate.
Bhavya Mohan – Assistant Professor – University of San Francisco
Bhavya is an Assistant Professor at The University of San Francisco. Prior, she studied the impact of firm transparency on consumer behavior. Bhavya graduated from Stanford University in 2006, where she received her BA in Economics and English with Honors. After graduating, she worked for the marketing analytics group at Google Inc, and the marketing strategy group at Safeway Inc. Working Papers include “Lifting the Veil: The Benefits of Cost Transparency.” Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 15-017, September 2014. (Revised May 2015.) and Mohan, Bhavya, Michael I. Norton, and Rohit Deshpandé. “Paying Up for Fair Pay: Consumers Prefer Firms with Lower CEO-to-Worker Pay Ratios.” Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 15-091, May 2015.
Sameena Shah – Managing Director, Head of Data Science – S&P Global Ratings
Sameena is an award – winning scientist with a Phd in Machine Learning from IIT Delhi. Her expertise lies in bringing disparate data sets together, creating large-scale models and deriving intuitive and innovative insights. Sameena holds several patents, has published about 20 papers, and is on the review panel of major computer science journals and conferences. At CocoaCompassion, Sameena leverages her data analytics background to envision, and create analytics focused on the cocoa supply chain.
Judith Klinger – Founder, Editor in Chief at W-E Digest.org
Judith believes in eating well, laughing hard, and sharing meals with anyone who shows up at the table.
World-Eats developed out of a firm belief that our food is better when we share local knowledge on a global scale.
Judith has been a food blogger, personal chef, and cookbook author for Aroma Cucina. She was a Director and Operations Manager for the International Association of Culinary Professionals.
When not at the stove, or the computer keyboard, she likes to go outside to play.
Jeff Stoike – Office of the Director of Foreign Assistance Resources at U.S. Department of State
Jeff has experience in the non-profit, academic and private enterprise sectors. He has founded businesses centered on sustainable rural development in Latin America, worked on issues of environmental justice in urban areas in the United States, and has published multiple peer-reviewed publications on issues of conservation and development. He has worked on cacao projects in Bocas del Toro, Panama and Ilhéus, Brazil.
He holds a B.A. from U.C. Berkeley, an M.S. from the University of Georgia, and a PhD from Yale University. Jeff is presently working to develop a long-term environmental training center in Brazil, support sustainable rangeland management in the Western United States and advance policy on environmental security through a fellowship with the U.S. Federal Government.
Eric Luftig – Managing Director in the Leveraged Finance Distribution & Trading Group, BMO Capital Markets
Eric’s responsibilities include primary sales and secondary trading of leveraged loans and high yield bonds. Eric has over 25 years of sales and capital markets experience. He has developed and maintains strong relationships with investors such as banks, finance companies, business development companies, credit funds and hedge funds. Prior to joining his current group in 2011, Eric was Head of Private Placements at BMO and was responsible for the structuring and distribution of private placements. Eric was previously employed at GE Capital Markets, CIBC World Markets, Bankers Trust and Drexel Burnham. Eric earned an MBA and a BA from The Wharton School of Business.
Eric is Vice Chairman of the Board of The New York Musical Theatre Festival, which nurtures the creation, production, and public presentation of stylistically, thematically, and culturally diverse new musicals to ensure the future vitality of musical theatre.