A native New Yorker raised in a Jewish-Italian home, Doron Petersan knows more than a little
something about food. Her childhood memories all seem to stem from time spend in the
kitchen, with both sides of her extended, multi-generational family. After becoming vegan at
22, she dove headfirst into the challenge of unlocking the secrets so she could re-create
traditional dishes without using meat, eggs, or milk products…and has been cooking for us
First opening its doors in 2002, Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats has been making waves and
serving up incredible food to fans far and wide, including such well-known figures as
Bethenny Frankel and Ellen DeGeneres. Accolades for Sticky Fingers come from vegans and
non-vegans alike, which is a testament to just how delicious the food from her kitchen is.
Sticky Fingers has won Best Bakery in the Washington City Paper’s Best of DC’s Reader Poll
from 2008 through 2015, and Doron’s competed on the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars and
claimed the competition’s grand prize not once, but twice.
She’s been featured on The Cooking Channel’s Not My Mama’s Meals with Bobby Deen, as
well as on NBC’s The Today Show with Kathy Lee and Hoda. Doron’s contributed articles and
recipes to such varied publications as Vegetarian Times and Reader’s Digest. The bakery-
cafe’s recipe book, Sticky Fingers’ Sweets, has taken the secrets of decadent vegan baking
into kitchens across the country since its publication in February 2012, by Avery of Penguin
Doron lives to eat, create, cook, and feed. Residing in Washington, D.C., with her husband
and son, she feverishly works to balance her love of food, family, companion animals,
competitive cycling, and wine.
Letena’s founder, Yamrot Ezineh hails from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and gained valuable experience working in a family-owned restaurant in the United Kingdom. This experience would later play a crucial role shaping her outlook of the restaurant business. After living in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, DC since 2008, she concluded that there was an unmet need of offering quality Ethiopian cuisine to further contribute to the diversity and vibrancy of the neighborhood. After four years of hard work in recipe development, securing financing, management of design and build-out, and planning start-up operations, Yamrot’s dream was made a reality when Letena opened its doors in October 2016.
To uphold authenticity and quality in enhancing Letena’s family based recipes, Yamrot went back home to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to consult with renowned Ethiopian chefs who have intimate knowledge of the cooking methods of chefs who used to manage the Royal Palace’s kitchens during Emperor Haile Selassie’s reign. As a trained Chemical/Process Engineer, Yamrot also focused on improving cooking methods, quality assurance and process flow.
Owner and Chef
Owner and chef Ruth Gresser learned her craft at her mother’s side, cooking for her large family and her mother’s catering company. Ms. Gresser cooked her way through college before entering the professional food scene in San Francisco in the early stages of the modern American food movement. In 1987, after graduating summa cum laude from Madeleine Kamman’s Classical and Modern French Cooking School, and cooking professionally in French, American, and Italian restaurants across the country, she moved to Washington, DC.
In 1991, Chef Gresser turned her attention to pizza, opening Pizzeria Paradiso, the first Neapolitan style pizza restaurant in the DC area, to critical acclaim and growing the restaurant group to four locations in 2022 - adding Birreria Paradiso and The Paradiso Game Room to the brand along the way. Now considered the matriarch of pizza in the District, Ms. Gresser has been instrumental in the opening of seven popular Washington restaurants. Ms. Gresser is the author of Kitchen Workshop – Pizza: Hands-On Cooking Lessons for Making Amazing Pizza at Home.
Chef Gresser sits on the Women’s Leadership Programs’ Advisory Board of the James Beard Foundation, is a past President of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, and serves on the Board of the Restaurant Association of Washington. Gresser has been profiled in The Washington Post Magazine and The Washington Business Journal. She has appeared on numerous local and national TV and radio outlets including Fox Business News, Roll Call, and NPR. Gresser was a 2017 Women Who Mean Business winner, awarded by the Washington Business Journal. In 2019 and 2020, Gresser was named a semifinalist in the James Beard Awards in the category of Outstanding Restaurateur.
Diane Gross is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara where she received her BA in Law & Society and then received her law degree from New York University School of Law.
She moved to DC in 1997 to work on constitutional and civil rights in the civil rights and women’s rights community, and served as General Counsel to Senator Barbara Mikulski prior to opening the award-winning Cork Wine Bar with her husband, Khalid Pitts, in 2008. Aside from successfully running day to day operations at Cork Market and Cork Wine Bar, Diane has been very active in neighborhood causes and local charities focusing on education and food insecurity.
Her work has helped to support DC Central Kitchen and Martha’s Table as well as first responders during COVID-19. She has served as vice chair of Heart’s Delight Auction, a charity event supporting the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association.
Diane serves on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington. She also serves on the board of Logan Circle Main Street. In that capacity, she works with residents and business owners on community and business development, and helps organize the annual Dog Days event each August, which serves as a weekend destination event celebrating the business diversity of DC’s Mid-City Business District.
In 2017, Diane and her husband completed the rebranding of Cork Wine Bar & Market under one roof at 1805 14th Street. They not only kept the existing elements of the hospitality business, but expanded operations to include a Tasting Bar, Cafe, Patio, Winery operation and Private Dining facility. They have been honored as Restaurateurs of the Year by Washingtonian Magazine and have won three RAMMY awards, including Best New Restaurant and Best Wine Program.
Owner and Chef
Ris Lacoste is one of the most respected and dedicated chefs working in Washington D.C. today. She has earned her reputation built upon high-quality ingredients, bold innovative technique, and food that is both familiar and simply delicious.
A James Beard nominated chef, Ris Lacoste is chef and owner of her West End DC bistro, RIS. Learning her craft from the famed Anne Willan at her Paris culinary school, Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne, Ris returned stateside and started a long, rewarding relationship with Chef Bob Kinkead. The Harvest in Cambridge, MA, 21 Federal in Nantucket, MA, Twenty-One Federal in Washington DC, Kinkead’s American Brasserie, and finally 1789 Restaurant all brought her to the doorstep of her own restaurant, RIS. Her innovative regional American fare drew national and local attention and earned her numerous awards. RIS is proud to be a Michelin-recommended restaurant.
Lacoste is also well known for her commitment to community involvement. She actively participates in all fundraising efforts in the District. She currently sits on the advisory board of the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History, The Kitchen Cabinet; she is on the Executive Committee of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW); and is a member of the Women’s Forum of Washington DC as well as Les Dames d’Escoffier. She is a member of the board of Fresh Farm Markets and of the Foggy Bottom West End Village. She was honored as one of DC’s Most Powerful Women from Washingtonian Magazine and is a member of Leadership Greater Washington’s “NON STOP” Class of 2017. She was a longtime board member of DC Central Kitchen as well as The Hospitality Charter High School of Washington DC. She was an active member of the National Board of Directors for the American Institute of Wine and Food (AIWF) and served as Chairman of its National Capital Area Chapter. Lacoste is also a talented educator committed to young people. Her kitchen is filled with passionate students learning their craft.
Beyond the kitchen, Lacoste’s favorite place to be is in the middle of a local farmers’ market, hunting down the freshest fruits and vegetables and creating relationships with her farmers. These markets are not only a source of inspiration for her cuisine, but a meeting point to talk about the importance of investment in the local community and dedication to the ideals of local and sustainable farming.
Chef Jamie Leeds is a pioneering and tenacious female entrepreneur who has spent her career fostering community, mentoring other female business owners and culinary professionals, and supporting sustainable practices across her restaurants and the seafood industry at large.
One of the East Coast’s most respected chefs and restaurateurs, Leeds has 35 years of experience, from kitchens in Europe to the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia-area. A self-taught chef, Leeds began her career in New York in the early 1980s at Danny Meyer’s famed Union Square Cafe, working her way up from potato peeler to sous chef. With Meyer’s encouragement, Leeds moved to France in 1991, where she spent a year honing her skills before returning stateside to work for Rich Melman of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises in Chicago.
From the moment she appeared on the D.C. culinary scene, Leeds has garnered positive reviews and accolades, earning nominations in 2003 as a “Rising Culinary Star” in the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington’s Capital Restaurant & Hospitality Awards and a “Rising Star Chef” by Starchefs’ local awards program.
In May 2005, Leeds opened her first restaurant, Hank’s Oyster Bar, in D.C.’s Dupont Circle, serving what she coined “urban beach food.” Named for her father, whom she credits as her inspiration for becoming a chef, the restaurant debuted to wide acclaim. Now celebrated for its range of proprietary oysters and other locally sourced seafood, Hank’s Oyster Bar continues to draw recognition as a D.C. institution and industry stalwart, recently winning “Best Raw Bar” in Washingtonian’s Best of Washington Readers’ Poll 2019, “Best Bloody Mary” and “Best Chef-Jamie Leeds” (a second consecutive win) from Washington Blade’s Best of Gay D.C. in 2019, among numerous other accolades over the years.
Leeds’ expansion of her flagship brand began in 2007 with the opening of the second Hank’s Oyster Bar location on King Street in Old Town Alexandria, Va., which went on to win the coveted, publicly voted RAMMY for “Best Neighborhood Restaurant” in both 2008 and 2014, and earned the title of “Best Oysters” in Virginia Living’s 2019 Best of Northern Virginia awards. A third location followed on Capitol Hill near Eastern Market in 2012 and Hank’s Oyster Bar on The Wharf, the fourth and largest location, opened in October 2017, quickly becoming an area favorite.
In 2015, Leeds formed Jamie Leeds Restaurant Group to house her expanding restaurant portfolio. With Jamie Leeds Restaurant Group, Leeds strives to bring the surrounding neighborhood into every dining experience, with each restaurant featuring a core menu that’s also layered with location-specific specials and beverage offerings. With the success of her vibrant and growing hospitality company, which also includes Hank’s Cocktail Bar (winner of “Best Craft Cocktails” in Washington Blade’s Best of Gay D.C. 2019), she was selected as one of 15 Washington Business Journal “Business of Pride” honorees in recognition of her outstanding practices in advancing LGBTQ leadership and equality.
Jamie Leeds Restaurant Group is committed to creating an inclusive environment that embraces employees as family, welcomes all guests like neighbors, serves food that tastes like what it is, and turns meals into memories. To further this mission, this spring, along with the opening of Hank & Mitzi’s, Leeds will launch Events by Jamie Leeds, a full-service events and catering arm of her business that will offer custom, curated events of all kinds.
Outside the kitchen, Leeds has been an active leader within the regional and national culinary communities. As the former President of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs (WCR), Leeds shared her knowledge and experience with young women who the organization works to support and empower by providing resources, scholarships and mentorship opportunities. She’s served as a featured guest speaker at numerous industry panels and events, including the James Beard Foundation’s Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Program and its Chefs for Action Summit 2019. She’s also appeared as a guest chef on Windstar’s epicurean-themed James Beard Collection cruise and cooked at the James Beard House. Locally, Leeds is an active fundraiser and supporter of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s “Save the Bay” efforts, serving as the 2020 host sponsor of the organization’s popular annual “D.C. On the Half Shell” event.
JL Restaurant Group continues to receive consistent praise from esteemed media outlets such as Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Southern Living, The Washington Post, Washingtonian, D.C. magazine, The Washington Times, Fox Morning News and more.
A resident of North Chevy Chase, Md., when she’s not busy at the helm of her burgeoning restaurant empire, Leeds enjoys spending time with her wife, Tina, and two children, Hayden and Hazel.
Fiona Lewis is the founder and co-owner of three businesses in DC’s Union Market: The District Fishwife, On Toast, and Son of a Fish. She is a nationally recognized expert on sustainable seafood, conservation of local fish species and an advocate for regional fisheries. Originally from Australia, Fiona has worked in restaurants and hospitality around the world – including Myanmar, Afghanistan, and Vietnam. She is a recipient of the James Beard Foundation’s Women in Entrepreneurial Leadership Fellowship and a co-founder of the Women in DC Food mentorship and advocacy group. Fiona hopes to enjoy wild seafood, support wild fisheries, and ensure the health of our oceans, lakes, and rivers forever. She is also an aquaculture advocate and believes that supporting well-managed aquaculture is the best way to meet ever-growing demand for fresh seafood, easing the strain on wild populations and ensuring a sustainable future.
Owner and Chef
Born and raised on Maui, Hawaii, Tiffany MacIsaac moved to New York City at the age of 18. Her love affair with food began almost immediately. She attended the culinary arts program at the Institute of Culinary Education and went on to work as a pastry assistant at Union Square Café and Ilo Restaurant in the Bryant Park Hotel. She was later awarded the title of pastry chef at Michelin star restaurants CRU followed by another Michelin-starred property, Allen and Delancey.
In 2009, Tiffany and her husband, Chef Kyle Bailey, moved to DC to open Birch & Barley, which not only received three stars from The Washington Post but also gave her the platform to be awarded the honor of Best Pastry Chef by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington in 2010. During her five years with the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, she ran the pastry program for 14 properties, including Buzz Bakery and GBD Fried Chicken and Doughnuts. Tiffany was also selected as a James Beard Award semi-finalist three years in a row and was featured in several publications such as Food & Wine, The Local Palate, and Art Culinaire.
Tiffany opened Buttercream Bakeshop in 2016, and went on to win the RAMMY for Pastry Chef of the Year for a second time in 2018.
Micheline Mendelsohn Luhn has unparalleled marketing and communications expertise that began in politics in Washington, DC and grew to local and celebrity chefs. Her Deputy CEO experience, overseeing three fast casual restaurant brands in the United States and around the world, have not only taught her day-to-day operations but multi-unit growth and support models.
Her education in journalism from Indiana University and master’s degree in international relations from the University of Chicago prepared her to launch Good Stuff Eatery into the limelight. She continued that success with the opening of We, The Pizza and Santa Rosa Taqueria, all fast casual brands which combined have 14 franchise locations.
Micheline works on every restaurant from inception to opening day and handles franchisee relations, brand strategy and marketing. She plays a major role in the expansion of these brands across the globe.
In addition, Micheline serves on the Board of Directors for DC Central Kitchen, an organization that works to eradicate hunger; is a member of Les Dames D’Escoffier, a society of professional women in the hospitality industry; and is a founding member of the DC Chapter of Regarding Her, a non-profit devoted to the advancement and empowerment of women restaurateurs.
Principal and Founder
Katherine works with advocacy groups, corporations, non-profit organizations, policy makers, and philanthropic funders around the world to make meaningful progress on some of the world's most intractable problems including vaccinations, climate change, gender-based violence, democracy reform, and food sovereignty.
She spent several years as the James Beard Foundation's Vice President of Impact, working with leaders in the food system to create new and innovative programs to help address gender equity, sustainability, food waste, and child nutrition.
Grist.org named Katherine a "Fixer," and Food & Wine and Fortune magazines chose her as one of the most innovative women in food and beverage. She spent 2020 hosting seminars focused on food policy and politics as part of her Sine Fellowship in Politics and Policy at American University.
She serves on the boards of RAINN (the national sexual assault hotline), the New Venture Fund, and Les Dames d 'Escoffier-DC. Her spare time is spent following the ups and downs of the Washington Nationals, and practicing various baking skills.
She lives in Northeast Washington DC, on the land of the Anacostan and Nacotchtank people.
Founder and CEO
Daniella’s love for food and hospitality began at the early age of 13, when she founded a successful catering business from her home in Dominican Republic. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and a Certified Sommelier, she has cooked in some of the greatest kitchens in the nation, including Eric Ripert's Le Bernardin, and has also led superb restaurant management processes in venues such as Jose Andres’ Zaytinya and served as regional director for Richard Sandoval Restaurants.
In 2016, Daniella developed a unique concept for Washingtonians that focused on the love of good food, coffee, cocktails and social interactions: Colada Shop. With four locations, it has quickly become a DC area favorite and has received national acclaim.
In 2017, she partnered with Chef Ryan Ratino to open Bresca, a modern French bistro focused on seasonality of ingredients and affordability. It was awarded a Michelin Star in the guide’s 2018 edition.
In 2019, she opened the award-winning Serenata and Zumo, a dual concept at La Cosecha Market. Serenata provides a full-service Latino cocktail experience crafting preeminent cocktails sourced and inspired by the many countries that make up the fabric of the rich Latin American heritage, and Zumo serves as its daytime Juice & Toast Shop.
At 32, Daniella has proven to be not only a great businesswoman but also an excellent professional, providing superb creative direction and outstanding team management. She has been deeply invested in the professional growth of her team, women, and minorities. She serves on the boards of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs and RAMW, and is a James Beard Women Leadership Program Fellow and mentor.