Staff members of the National Food & Beverage Foundation are available to speak at your next event. Staff also consults on a variety of topics related to food. Learn more here

NatFAB Staff

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Liz Williams, President | Director, Southern Food & Beverage Museum

Always fascinated by the way the lure of nutmeg and peppercorns motivated the exploration of the world, Liz Williams was lucky to be born into a family of Sicilian heritage in New Orleans.  She grew up eating in two great food traditions.   She is a founder of the Southern Food & Beverage Museum and President of the National Food & Beverage Foundation.  Much of her research and writing centers on the legal and policy issues related to food and foodways. Her book, coauthored with Stephanie Jane Carter, 

The Encyclopedia of Law and Food, was published by Greenwood Publishing in 2011. In 2013 AltaMira published New Orleans: A Food Biography. Her book Lift Your Spirits: A Celebratory History of Cocktail Culture in New Orleans about the drinking culture of New Orleans was published by LSU Press in the spring of 2016.

Interested in having Liz speak to your group about food history, food museums, or related topics? Learn more here.

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Philip M. Dobard, Vice President and Director of SoFAB Media

Philip Dobard is Vice President of The SoFAB Institute and plays an integral role in all its programs, directs the organization’s Los Angeles-based West Coast operations, publishes SoFAB Magazine, and produces Farm to Table International, the Culinaria Query & Lecture Series, and Touring the Cocktail, a multi-city series of spirits education seminars offered through SoFAB’s The Museum of the American Cocktail. Under the SoFAB Media banner, he’s executive producing several web series, among them Drinking Heads,Eating Heads, Touring the Cocktail, and World Eats. He contributes to The Tasting Panel Magazine and frequently judges at food and drink competitions across the US. A self-described gastronome, Philip enjoys the fantastic fruits of a family of great cooks. Follow him @CreoleNarcissus.


Kelsey Parris, Director of Operations | Associate Director, Southern Food & Beverage Museum

Originally from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Kelsey moved down to New Orleans to attend Tulane University in 2005. Returning after Hurricane Katrina, she graduated in 2009 with a B.A. in American History and a minor in Sociology. Though surrounded by great food from her incredibly talented family for the most part of her life, she only truly appreciated that fact when faced with the campus dining halls. Luckily, New Orleans restaurants and chefs were up to the task of saving her faith and her interest in eating well, and cuisine and culture formed a major part of her studies. She continues to enjoy every opportunity to expand her appreciation of Southern food and tasty beverages at the museum.


Holly Barrett, Director of Outreach and Adventures

Back in 2007 Holly opened the newspaper and read about a woman who had just started a Food & Beverage Museum.  Thinking that was the coolest idea ever, she immediately picked up the phone, invited Liz out to lunch and has been helping ever since. A former hotel manager, corporate sales and marketing exec, Holly is also a fairly competent home cook who loves to host friends and is a passionate travel planner.  As the Director of Outreach (i.e., fundraising such as the Cirque de Cuisine French Quarter Kitchen Tour) and Adventures (want to travel with like minded foodies?  Cuba?  Burgundy? Umbria? Buenos Aires?), she'll continue to explore her basic philosophy in life: that the most fun people are passionate about food and wine. She's excited to meet lots of them...and you, we hope.


Megan Pendergrass, Design Director 

Megan is a graphic designer and illustrator living and working in New York. Megan grew up in New Orleans and attended Louisiana State University where she studied Fine Arts with a concentration in Graphic Design. She is delighted to be a part of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. It combines her love for food and her love for design. Some of Megan’s likes: pure cyan, soup, paper samples, puns, and Vietnamese Spring Rolls. Some of Megan’s dislikes: picky eaters, semicolons, and talking about herself in the third person. Visit her personal website here.

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Jyl Benson, Director of Culinary Programming

Benson began her editorial career in 1990 with The Times Picayune and served as a regional reporter covering the southeastern United States for both The New York Times and Time magazine. She wrote Galatoire's Cookbook: Recipes & Family History from the Time-Honored New Orleans Restaurant (Random House 2005) as well as several cultural, historical, and architectural guides to New Orleans. She served as Editor-In-Chief of Louisiana Cookin’ magazine from 2009 to 2011 and founded Louisiana Kitchen & Culture magazine in 2012. She has also worked as an independent publicist and marketing consultant since 1996 with a specialty in Louisiana culinary and hospitality oriented businesses and was instrumental in conceptualizing and executing “The Galatoire’s Auctions.” Jyl is now a dining columnist for St. Charles Avenue, Acadiana Profile and Louisiana Life magazines, a frequent contributor to New Orleans magazine, and the author of Fun Funky, Fabulous: New Orleans Casual Restaurant Recipes (2015, Pelican Publishing and Louisiana's Tables (2017, Savory House Press).

Stephen Binns, Director of Photography

Stephen has been eating all his life. His mother attested to Stephen's first un-escorted sortie into the kitchen resulted in the partial consumption and total destruction of an unattended lemon pie. Sometime after all that stickiness was cleaned up, Stephen immersed himself in the art field as an apprentice photographer in Conway, Arkansas while simultaneously a full time college student and an apprentice mortician at a local funeral home. Stephen graduated with a BA in Commercial Arts with a Journalism minor. Stephen joined the Army Corps of Engineers as an estimator and Quality Assurance inspector during the construction of Bassett Army Hospital, Fort Wainwright, AK. Family ties brought Stephen back to the South, in 2009, where he continues to serve The Corps during construction of flood protection projects.


Jennie Merrill, Director of Education

Jennie Merrill is originally from Nebraska, but came to New Orleans in 2009 after graduating from North Park University in Chicago with a B.A. in Psychology and English with a concentration in Creative Writing. After moving to New Orleans she has worked in alternative education. Starting as a GED guidance counselor and teacher in Chalmette, she then worked with Lighthouse Louisiana as the Job Coach Coordinator, training folks with disabilities in the hard and soft skills needed to maintain employment. Afterwards, she worked as an aide performing reading interventions in a local charter elementary school. Jennie started with SoFAB as the Director of the Kids Culinary Summer Camp, helping build confidence in the kitchen through fun. When she's not teaching folks about the food of the South, she's exploring it for the best BBQ and macaroni and cheese!

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Cindy Williams, Library Director

Being the Library Director of the Boyd Library enables Cindy to  merge two of her greatest delights:  being a book nerd and certified foodie. Cindy has an MLS from SUNY Albany, where she focused on medical bibliography. She spent most of her career in hospital or pharmaceutical libraries – with a stint at Bowdoin College, and as manager of public libraries in Albuquerque.  Working with the fun, talented staff and fascinating collections at SoFAB are a welcome professional reward. A BA in Cultural Anthropology from Michigan State prepared her well to work with the treasures, artifacts, curiosities and just plain bizarre objects at SoFAB. Cindy's favorite foods are roast pheasant  with cherry sauce, fresh Maine lobster, shrimp po’ boys, all olives, and the citrus of Plaquemines Parish. Add a dry English cider, some pinot noir, or a nice Albarino … it's all good! 


Pepper Bowen, Director, Culinaria

Pepper Bowen is a former project manager, current enviro, and consummate lover of food. Pepper holds degrees from Tulane U (BS), Regis U (MSCIT), and Loyola New Orleans (JD); and seats on the New Orleans Food Policy Action and the Regional Sustainability Committees. She has authored academic research articles, policy papers, nasty letters to the editor, and edutaining blog posts, all in her noble quest to bring food and an understanding of where it comes from to the consciousness of people who eat. 

Pacific Food & Beverage Museum

Tracey Mitchel

Tracey Mitchell, Director

Tracey was born and raised in New Orleans, another great port city, where food was very important to her community and her family. Just like the people of San Pedro, they took pride in their diverse food culture. She grew up on Julia Child’s cooking shows, and her mother imparted a love of food and French-based culinary expertise. After studying, teaching, and performing music, working as a professional singer, Tracey continued her studies at the graduate level, both in the arts and business administration. She then worked in academia, government, and nonprofit management, all the while honing her skills as a cook and gardener. All of this, and so much more, has prepared her for what is now a grand adventure of opening the Pacific Food & Beverage Museum, and she can't wait to share it with you.


Richard Foss, Curator

Richard Foss has been writing about food and drink professionally since 1986, when he started reviewing restaurants for the Los Angeles Reader newspaper. Since then he has contributed to over twenty different publications, including articles in the Encyclopedia of World Food Cultures (Greenwood 2011) and the Oxford Companion to Sweets (2015). He has taught "500 Years of American Food" “American Fermented,” and "What Shakespeare Left Out" at Osher Institute/UCLA Extension, is on the board of the Culinary Historians of Southern California, and is the California Curator for the SoFAB Institute and Museum of the American Cocktail. His book on the history of rum was released by Reaktion Books in April of 2012. “Food in the Air and Space; the surprising history of food and drink in the skies,” was released in December 2014.