The owner of Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Hams, Allan Benton has been described by Saveur magazine as "one of the most respected producers in the United States." Benton grew up in a family that raised hogs and cured their own country hams and bacon, and he has continued this tradition ever since giving up a career as a guidance counselor and purchasing a small, ramshackle ham business in 1973. Since then Benton’s hams and bacon have become the standard against which all others are measured. Slow-cured with salt, brown sugar, and sodium nitrate and aged for at least 9 months, the meat maestro’s pork products are sought after by top chefs like Sean Brock, David Chang, and Hugh Acheson.
Dale DeGroff, Mixologist/NYC
Master Mixologist Dale DeGroff, a.k.a. King Cocktail, developed his extraordinary talent tending bar at esteemed establishments, most notably New York's famous Rainbow Room, where in the 1980s he pioneered a gourmet approach to recreating classic cocktails. DeGroff has since been credited with reinventing the bartending profession and setting off a cocktail revival that continues to flourish. Winner of the 2009 James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine & Spirits Professional and author of The Essential Cocktail and The Craft of the Cocktail, DeGroff has been hugely influential in the bar world for over three decades. He is also a partner in the award-winning bar training program Beverage Alcohol Resource (BAR) and the founding president of the Museum of the American Cocktail.
Wylie Dufresne, Chef and Restaurateur/NYC
Wylie Dufresne is a celebrated chef and restaurateur and a pioneer of molecular gastronomy. Dufresne began his career at the International Culinary Center (formerly the French Culinary Institute) before working for Jean-Georges Vongerichten at JoJo and Jean Georges in New York and Prime Steakhouse at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. In 1999 Dufresne became the opening chef at 71 Clinton Fresh Food, where he quickly established himself as a culinary trailblazer. He opened wd~50 in 2003, where his creative, eclectic, hyper-modern cooking earned national acclaim and a three-star review in the New York Times from Frank Bruni in 2008. The restaurant also received one star from the Michelin Guide in 2006, an accolade it retained in each subsequent year until its closing in November of 2014. Dufresne has been nominated for multiple James Beard Awards, including seven consecutive years in the running for Best Chef: New York, an award he won in 2013. Alder, Dufresne’s second restaurant, opened in Manhattan’s East Village in March 2013.
Nathalie Dupree, Cookbook Author and Television Personality/Charleston
Nathalie Dupree is the author of fourteen cookbooks and the host of more than 300 national and international cooking shows that have aired on PBS, the Food Network, and the Learning Channel. She has earned wide recognition for her work, including three James Beard Awards and numerous other honors. Dupree is best known for her approachability and her deep understanding of Southern food; her 1986 book and television series, New Southern Cooking, helped introduce the rest of the country to both traditional and modern Southern cuisine. A former chef, Dupree spent ten years directing Rich’s Cooking School in Atlanta, where she taught thousands of students. She is a founder and past president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP), a founder and board member of Southern Foodways, and a founder and past president of two chapters of Les Dames d’Escoffier, who awarded Dupree the prestigious national honor of “Grande Dame.” The Maître Cuisiniers de France gave Dupree its 2013 Woman of the Year Award. She continues to write about food and is currently working on a memoir.
Maricel Presilla, Chef, Restaurateur, and Cookbook Author/Hoboken, New Jersey
Maricel E. Presilla is an award-winning author, chef, and restaurateur who is widely recognized as one of the nation’s pre-eminent experts on the cuisines of Latin America. In 2013 her magnum opus, Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America, was honored as Cookbook of the Year by the James Beard Foundation and Best General Cookbook by the IACP. She was named the Beard Foundation’s Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic in 2012, and is a semifinalist for the 2015 Outstanding Chef award. A Cuban native and Miami émigré, Presilla is currently the chef and co-owner of restaurants Zafra and Cucharamama, as well as Latin gourmet market, bakery, and chocolate shop Ultramarinos, all of which are in Hoboken, New Jersey. Presilla is also extremely knowledgeable about Latin American chocolate production: in addition to having authored The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Chocolate with Recipes, she’s also the president of Gran Cacao, a Latin American marketing company that specializes in heirloom cacao beans, a board member for the Fine Chocolate Industry Association and America's partner of the International Chocolate Awards, the world's largest independent chocolate competition.