Elizabeth Williams, President and Director
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.
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.
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.
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.” Among the most legendary traditions associated with the celebrated New Orleans restaurant are those of the formidable lines outside the door before Friday lunch. Most notable are the Fridays before Christmas and Mardi Gras. Until 2006 loyal patrons or their proxies waited outside, sometimes for days at a time, in order to secure seating for these holiday luncheons. After Hurricane Katrina, during Mardi Gras of 2006, “the line” was replaced with a gavel and paddle, and the tableau of blanketed proxies in lawn chairs was replaced by two annual charitable table auctions. Since then, the Galatoire’s auctions have raised nearly a million dollars for a host of New Orleans charities.
Stephen Binns, Director of Photography
Jennie Merrill, Director of Education
Stephen has been eating all his life. His mother attested to Stephen's first unescorted 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. Finding not much overlap in the photography and mortician trades, Stephen found himself as a photographer for the Army at Ft. Polk, LA. From there he relocated to Alaska as a Visual Information Specialist expediting photographic, graphic arts and television support and services during field exercises where skiing, mountain climbing, river navigation and glacier crossing were simply part of the job- which was fun and lasted twenty years. Next, 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 Southland, in 2009, where he continues to serve The Corps during construction of flood protection projects.
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!
Kelsey Parris, Associate Director, Southern Food & Beverage Museum | Director of Operations, SoFAB Institute
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.
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.
Nanou de Raczynski has joined the SoFAB team as a Director of…‘Something.’ It’s hard to pigeonhole this jack of all trades – he’s French born and bred; a New Orleans chef and restaurant owner of more than 30 years (the highly acclaimed bistro La Crepe Nanou); builder; wine broker; and more than we can list here. Nanou is shepherding the construction of the Gumbo Garden space, also known as the empty lot adjacent to our Kitchen. He has great design ideas that incorporate a pergola with covered seating, hydroponic herbs and flowers, areas for grilling, boiling, smoking yummy food, baking pizza in a brick oven, etc. We have no idea what he’s thinking for the 1930’s Oyster Truck that was donated in all its glory but if you see a beer tap coming out of it soon, thank Nanou. Oh, and if you’re getting kissed on both cheeks in the museum, you’ll know who it is.