Philip M. Dobard, Vice President | Director, The Museum of the American Cocktail | President, Pacific Food & Beverage Museum
Philip Dobard is Vice President of the National Food & Beverage Foundation (NatFAB) and plays an integral role in all its programs. He serves as Director of The Museum of the American Cocktail and President of Pacific Food & Beverage, NatFAB’s Los Angeles-based West Coast operations. He leads Nitty Grits Media and produces NatFAB's Pacific Taste, The Thoughtful Feast, and Touring the Cocktail events. Under the Nitty Grits Media banner, he’s executive producing several web series, including Drinking Heads, Eating Heads, Touring the Cocktail,and World Eats. Philip produced the series Deadtime Stories for Nickelodeon, and his film Grave Secrets enjoyed its world premiere at the San Diego Film Festival. He served as General Director of Opera Columbus and Professor of Arts Policy and Administration at The Ohio State University. At the University of New Orleans, Philip directed the Graduate Program in Arts Administration and conducted research sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and Pew Charitable Trusts. He completed graduate studies at UCLA, is an advisor to the Art Institute of California, Los Angeles, contributes to several publications, among them Bonfort's Wine and Spirits Journal, Drink Me Magazine, Nitty Grits, and The Tasting Panel Magazine, and regularly serves as a judge at cocktail, spirits, and cooking competitions.
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.
Nino Andonis, Photographer
Nino is an American food photographer born in Los Angeles. After graduating from Texas A&M University with a BA in French, he studied in Paris, pursuing an education in photography at Spéos Photographic Institute. Nino worked within the French photo industry for several years, eating up what life had to offer—"Le voyage est la meilleure école.” Afterwards he spent a decade in New York City. The New York grind proved paramount in building the professional savvy he enjoys today. Returning to his roots, Nino currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife and young daughter. He has the cultural expertise of a Parisian, the work ethic of a New Yorker, and the laid back cool of a Southern California native.
Tom Caltabiano, Photographer
Tom Caltabiano is a Los Angeles-based photographer and comedy writer. Originally from New Jersey, he graduated from NYU School of Business and the American Bartending School, which led to his first job as a bartender at El Rio Grande in NYC. While bartending, he began doing stand-up comedy at the Original Improv in New York, where he met Ray Romano, eventually becoming his opening act. Tom was a writer on the TV series Everybody Loves Raymond for the entire nine-year run of the series. While writing, he took 30,000 behind the scenes photos of the series. which led to the publication of Everybody Loves Raymond: Our Family Album (Simon and Schuster, 2004). His photographs have appeared in books on various subjects, including The Kimchi Chronicles (Rodale, 2011) and The Showrunners (Harper, 2000). His book covers include You’re Lucky You’re Funny (Viking, 2006) and When the Balls Drop (Gallery, 2015). Additionally, his photos have appeared in many periodicals, including Air & Space/Smithsonian and The Hollywood Reporter. As a writer he has contributed to numerous projects, including The Emmys, The People’s Choice Awards, Saturday Night Live, Lego, and Amazon Studios. As a performer he has guest hosted The Late Late Show on CBS and many live events, including co-hosting the Spirited Awards at Tales of Cocktail. He has been photographing events for The Museum of the American cocktail since 2014.
Linda Civitello, PhD, Culinary Historian & NatFAB Fellow
Linda Civitello is the author of Baking Powder Wars: The Cutthroat Food Fight That Revolutionized Cooking, which Smithsonian magazine named one of "The 10 Best Food Books of 2017" and Eater featured in its its list of “10 Food Books to Know About.” Civitello is also the author of Cuisine & Culture: A History of Food and People, winner of the Gourmand Award for Best Food History Book in English (US). Articles in Savoring Gotham: A Food Lover’s Companion to New York City include “Windows on the World,” “The Oyster Bar at Grand Central,” and “Food, Film, and NYC.” Civitello taught "The History of Chocolate" at UCLA Extension and "Food & Art" at the Getty Center. She has served on the faculty of The Art Institute of California - Los Angeles and Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Los Angeles and has appeared on television's Bizarre Foods, National Geographic (Nat Geo), and the BBC. She has spoken about food at Harvard University and before the American Chemical Society. She holds an undergraduate degree in English from Vassar College and a PhD in history from UCLA.
Chef Robert Danhi, Curator, Southeast Asian Cuisine | Producer & Host, Nitty Grits Media
Robert Danhi is an award-winning author, TV show host, and R&D Chef with nearly three decades of extensive research in Southeast Asian foodways and a lifelong commitment to the demystification of Southeast Asia for home cooks, aspiring chefs, and industry peers. As a photo-journalist he published, authored, and photographed his first book, Southeast Asian Flavors, a James Beard Award finalist that takes readers on a deep-dive into the people, places, and foods of Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Singapore. This curator of cultures was invited to host Taste of Vietnam, a 26-episode television show exploring 19 provinces of Vietnam. Now broadcast in 15-plus countries, it continues to air globally on FYI. Robert was recruited as a main judge for all 17 episodes of Top Chef Vietnam. His most recent book, Easy Thai Cooking,showcases simple recipes that deliver the genuine flavors of Thailand. Chef’s current research focuses on leveraging technology to blend qualitative and quantitative research to capture, code, analyze, understand, and recreate the 360° Flavor Experience.
Robert graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY in 1991, then honed his skills in various restaurant positions from Los Angeles to Hawaii. As Executive Chef and Director of Education at the Southern California School of Culinary Arts in South Pasadena, he discovered his lifelong passion for education. In 1998, he returned to his roots as a faculty member at CIA, teaching more than 25 courses at campuses in New York, Napa Valley, and Singapore. Bringing all his passions and expertise together in 2005, Robert founded Chef Danhi & Co Inc., an LA-based consulting firm with clients around the world. Check out www.chefdanhi.com to see what Robert is up to now!
Laura Donadoni, PhD, Wine Educator | Producer & Host, Nitty Grits Media
Laura Donadoni is a certified professional journalist and editor with a summa cum laude PhD in communication sciences, a professional speaker, and a certified sommelier with merit with the North American Sommelier Association and the World Sommelier Association. She is one of the few Vinitaly International Italian Wine Ambassadors and serves as a wine judge at international competitions. Additionally, Laura is a certified wine educator and wine taster, a certified Italian and Spanish wine specialist, and a member of the Los Angeles Wine Writers Association.
Hailing from Bergamo, Italy, Laura was raised on classic Italian wine and creative cuisine. She began her career as a columnist and wine and food reporter for several prestigious Italian magazines, among them Gambero Rosso, and a news anchorwoman for local and national radio networks. She also hosted her own food and wine show on the Italian broadcasting network Mediapason, the country's second largest private television network. Upon moving to the US, she translated her passion into The Italian Wine Girl blog and YouTube channel, spreading wine education and wine culture. She founded LA COM Wine Agency, a strategic PR and communications firm focused on the wine and food industry. Laura serves as US Brand Ambassador for Franciacorta, Italy's most prestigious sparkling wine region, and an honorable Knight of the Order of the Truffle and the Wines of Alba, a prestigious historic order of ambassadors of authentic Piedmont products and wines.
Zachary Foster, Photographer
Zach is a comedian, filmmaker, and photographer based in Los Angeles. He's written for the Spirited Awards and worked for BuzzFeed, and he runs live comedy shows around LA. He is originally from the very rural Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Despite being the only student in his grade in elementary school, he successfully developed social skills.
Josh Goldman, Curatorial Consultant & Drinks Historian
Josh Goldman started his career in food and beverage by bartending while in college. He developed a passion for the industry, one which led to formal coursework with the Court of Master Sommeliers, where he earned the distinction of Advanced Level Sommelier in 2007. He became General Manger at critically acclaimed Bastide under the helm of Chef Walter Manzke, whom he would eventually follow to Church & State in Downtown Los Angeles. While under his management, both establishments earned back-to-back three-star ratings from the Los Angeles Times. In 2009 he joined Chef Michael Voltaggio at The Dining Room at the Langham, overhauling the wine program to complement Voltaggio’s innovative menu. In 2011 Chef Voltaggio and Goldman opened Voltaggio’s first restaurant ink., where Josh served as General Manager & Beverage Director. The restaurant was awarded the title of “Best New Restaurant in the County” by GQ magazine.
Josh has won several bartending awards, including a national championship through Cochon 555’s “Punch Kings.” His partner in Soigné Group, a bar and restaurant consulting and management company, is acclaimed bartender Julian Cox. Together the two have been named “Best Bartender in Los Angeles” by Eater.com, nominated for a Spirited Award for “Best Restaurant Bar in the US,” and received multiple nominations for "Outstanding Restaurant Bar" by the James Beard Foundation.
Mo Herms, Producer & Host, Nitty Grits Media
Mo Herms comes from the world of music, having spent decades behind the microphone in both terrestrial and internet radio. She put in music journalism time at the East Bay Express andSnackcake! in the Bay Area, handled music licensing at Warner Chappell Music and Sugaroo, and programmed music for a variety of locations around the nation, including several Lettuce Entertain You properties. She eventually was snagged for curatorial work, handling content within iTunes, Spotify, Sirius Radio, and YouTube. Being peripherally involved in the restaurant and bar industry left her thirsty for more, so she parlayed her love of cocktails and spirits by launching the podcast Music & Booze with Mo, where she sits with musicians and bartenders in neighborhood watering holes to chat about...well...music and booze.
Mia Mastroianni, Producer & Host, Nitty Grits Media
With over 10 years of experience in the service industry, from Boston to Miami, Mia Mastroianni became one of the founding bartenders of Soho House West Hollywood, the private members-only club where she remains a well-respected and oft-requested mixologist for the who's who of Hollywood. She also opened Soho House locations in Miami Beach and Toronto. A familiar face in competitions among bartending's elite, in 2012 she won the Speed Rack competition for fastest bartender with the tastiest drinks for all of Southern California, and twice has competed in New York for the national title. In 2013, she was cast as an expert mixologist on Spike TV-The Paramount Network’s highly rated Bar Rescue. Working directly with host Jon Taffer, she has assisted in the rescuing of numerous bars across America, from Philadelphia to Norwalk, California. She also frequently gives her thoughts on Bar Rescue episodes on the popular podcast, AfterBuzz TV, produced by Maria Menounos and Keven Undergaro.
In addition to Bar Rescue, her television presence includes cocktail segments on Big Morning Buzz Live with Nick Lachey on VH1 and FABlife with Chrissy Teigen on ABC. Mia also has appeared on the cover of Bar Business Magazine, has been a featured bartender on numerous websites, and had fun participating in the viral YouTube hit, Shit People Say To Bartenders. Mia also has served a bar consultant for feature films, regularly consults on new bar programs, and has partnered with several national brands. Follow Mia on Twitter @Tall_Mia and Instagram @TALLMIA.
Chef Ernest Miller, Curator of Culinary Education
Chef Ernest Miller, who has been called "the Huell Howser of California food," is a chef, historian, educator, consultant, and speaker—a familiar presence in museums, schools, and kitchens throughout Southern California. He serves as Corporate Chef at Coast Packing Company, founded in 1922 and the largest supplier of animal fat shortenings in the Western US. Miller, formerly Chef Instructor at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Los Angeles, was educated at the United States Naval Academy and Yale Law School.
Scot Nery, Producer & Host, Nitty Grits Media
Scot Nery, a native of Columbiana, Ohio and resident of Hollywood, California, produces shows, consults Fortune 500 companies, advises world-class artists, and entertains celebrities. He also makes occasional appearances on TV shows, including The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, The Late Late Show with James Corden, and Last Comic Standing. As a performer, Scot's passion is to change an audience, to raise the pulse of a room, to create something memorable, and to leave them buzzing. His on-stage skills include juggling, stilt walking, magic, clowning, mime, contortion, standup comedy, unicycling, and whatever else he can get into. He even writes jokes for others and helps them promote themselves. In 2004, after the first successful production of his one-man show, Nery created a live, on-stage cooking show. CuliNery Tuesdays—later called Crash Course— achieved critical acclaim and ran for 104 performances in San Francisco. The San Francisco Chronicle raved "Emeril meets Johnny Knoxville!" In 2012, following a stint with the World Busker Festival in New Zealand, he created a physical comedy convention, "SlapCon." In 2015, he launched Scot Nery's Boobie Trap, a circus-variety-comedy show that has been running ever since, all the while staging numerous shows in various venues. He lives in his favorite city in the world.
Dave Pickerell, Special Curator, The MOTAC Whisk(e)y Gallery
Dave's career in the liquor industry stems from his education and training as a chemist and as a chemical engineer and consultant in the industry. His career started in the military, serving for 11 years as a cavalry officer with logistics, training, and parachutist specialties. He graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point with a BS in chemistry. He later received a master’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Louisville.
From 1994 to 2008, Dave oversaw the handmade production of Maker's Mark bourbon in Loretto, Kentucky. Now Dave provides consulting services to the craft beverage alcohol industry through his company, Oak View Consulting, and serves as Master Distiller at WhistlePig Farm Distillery and Hillrock Estate Distillery. Among his favorite assignments is his service as Master Distiller at George Washington’s Distillery in Mount Vernon, Virginia, where he oversaw the commercial production of George Washington’s Rye Whiskey, including the first batch made since 1814.
Christina Holder Sleeper, Festivals Coordinator & SoCal Made Producer
Christina is a unique Los Angeles triple threat—chef, host, entrepreneur. And this multi-disciplinary approach has informed her culinary endeavors for more than 25 years. Her food curiosity started as a child growing up in Lorain, Ohio, a city comprised of immigrants from more than 55 countries. This early exposure to diverse cultures and cuisines has fueled a passion for authenticity in flavor that’s become the cornerstone of everything she does. A professional caterer and event planner, she founded Sleepers, a gourmet food line which features her original-recipe seasonings, jams, and teas. As COO of this thriving family business, she develops new products, writes recipes, and curates special events. Christina is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati, with a BA in Communications & Journalism, a seasoned host and SAG-AFTRA member, Certified Master Food Preserver, SlowFood Preservation Advisor, and guest lecturer with Culinary Historians of Southern California. This 20-year resident of SoCal enjoys sharing her tasty knowledge of food at programs around the country. Her first book, Jamming through the Ages, will be published in 2018. Follow her at @sleepersgourmet.
Lesley Jacobs Solmonson, Curatorial Consultant & Drinks Historian
If it can be fermented or distilled, Lesley Solmonson will write about it, mix with it, and drink it. Her cocktail book The 12 Bottle Bar, co-written with her husband David Solmonson, was published in July 2014 and nominated for "Best Cocktail Book" at Tales of the Cocktail. She also authored Gin: A Global History and continues to evangelize about the wonders of the juniper spirit. She currently serves as Senior Editor at Chilled magazine and is finishing her next book, Liqueur: A Global History. Lesley has contributed feature stories to the Los Angeles Times, Wine Enthusiast, Sierra, Private, Clubs, and Liquor.com. She also serves on the Advisory Board of The Museum of the American Cocktail.
Ryan Swafford, Videographer & Editor, Nitty Grits Media
Ryan Swafford is from Chattanooga, Tennessee, and no stranger to great cuisine. Having performed in regional theater and film productions, he made the move west to Los Angeles in 2003 and continued to fuel his creative impulse by joining West Coast Ensemble, a membership-based theater company. In 2008, he channeled his passion for the entertainment industry into his own business venture, founding Say It Back - Entertainment and Media Transcription. As Co-Host & Editor of Nitty Grits Media’s Touring the Cocktail: MOTAC Los Angeles, Ryan blends entertainment with two of his favorite things: expanding his food palette and experiencing the best in craft cocktails. An admitted travel junkie, he often can be found on impromptu road trips or jetting off in search of new and exciting libations. So far, Italy wins the prize!