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Chef Competitors

Meet the 2018 competitors!

Premier female restaurateurs will create an award-winning dish in support of the cause. The winners of the Purple Dish Award will be selected by a panel of expert judges, earning a spot in our Dish It Up Hall of Fame!

Kathleen Albano, Cescaphe

Kathleen's culinary experience extends back to her childhood. She spent many days side-by-side with her father creating dinners for her entire family. This is where Kathie’s passion and love for cooking truly inspired her for years to come. Kathie landed her first professional culinary job with Citizen’s Bank Park, including the World Series for the Philadelphia Phillies. With the hard work and dedication, she was recognized, and with several promotions she moved her way up through the ranks. Kathie than wanted to expand her horizons and accepted a chef position with Cescaphe Event Group, the premier catering company in the heart of Philadelphia.  Over several years, Kathie has created and executed hundreds of high end weddings and corporate parties serving thousands of guests. Kathie’s passion and dedication to her professional and personal growth places her among many of the great chefs of Philadelphia. Her beliefs are that passion, creativity, and the best and freshest ingredients will bring out the best in any culinary event.

Kiki Aranita, Co-owner and chef, Poi Dog Philly

Kiki Aranita co-owns and operates Poi Dog Philly, a casual counter-service restaurant and food cart in Philadelphia. “Poi Dog” is a pidgin term that refers to the mixed nature of their hybrid Hawaii-style food. The menu is rooted in Hawaiian cuisine, but also draws upon cultures that have heavily influenced the food of Hawaii, such as Filipino, Japanese and Portuguese. In the five years since Kiki started Poi Dog, she has catered events from beer festivals to galas, taught cooking classes, and traveled around the Philippines learning to make regional specialties from street food vendors. Poi Dog has received much recognition, including being named among the 50 Best Restaurants in Philadelphia by Philadelphia Magazine in Winter 2018 and Hottest Fast-Casual Restaurants in Philadelphia by Zagat in December 2017.

Meridith Coyle, Aneu Catering and Events

Certified vegan chef from Rouxbe Cooking School, Meridith Coyle was immersed in the food service industry at a young age when her parents owned the successful restaurant, Binni and Flynns, in Berwyn, Pennsylvania. Years later under the influence of her parents, and many thriving businesses, Coyle is now a successful business owner. She now runs Aneu Catering and Events while attending the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where she studies food as medicine.

Rebecca Foxman, Fox & Son 

Rebecca Foxman is Chef and Co-Owner of Fox & Son Fancy Corn Dogs inside the Historic Reading Terminal Market. Fox & Son found instant success stemming from its creative take on corn dogs, fried cheese curds, poutine, and funnel cake made from scratch with local wholesome ingredients in a nostalgic atmosphere. Previously, she was Corporate Chef for Valley Shepherd Creamery, helping create and run Meltkraft Grilled Cheese restaurants using the creamery's own handmade and cave-aged cheese from Northern New Jersey.  She grew up in Northwest Philadelphia where her passion for cooking grew from being part of a family of chefs and working from a young age in the restaurant industry. She is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and the Cornell Hotel School. She spends most of her free time eating around the city. 

Jenn Grosskruger, Ocean Prime

Executive Chef Jennifer Grosskruger has risen quickly through the ranks at Ocean Prime; she oversees one of Philadelphia’s largest from-scratch kitchens and leads an extensive team of culinary professionals. Jenn was born and raised in Heidelberg, Germany to a German mother and an American serviceman father. Her interest in cooking began when she was a child; she loved preparing simple meals for her family. Her skills advanced while working in restaurants throughout high school. Jenn is a graduate of the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Orlando, Florida. In her spare time, Jenn can be found exploring Philadelphia, baking bread at home, and indulging another creative passion: painting along with the late great Bob Ross on YouTube.

Shannon Johnson, Sodexo at Lions Gate 

Chef Shannon Johnson grew up cooking with her grandmother, influenced by her knowledge of open fire cooking and the unique spices of the Caribbean. A Magna Cum Laude graduate and nutrition major at West Chester University,  Johnson went on to follow her cooking dream at various locations in the Philadelphia region. She currently showcases her culinary skills as Chef Manager for Sodexo Food Services at Lions Gate Senior Living in Voorhees, NJ under the tutelage of Executive Chef Marc Cohen. Hers is a kosher kitchen and she prepares unique and high quality dishes for more than 300 guests each day. When she isn’t spicing things up in the kitchen, she is enjoying her time as mother to her beautiful daughter, Avery. 

Beth Kaufman Strauss, Grateful Plate

My love affair with food began at an early age. Everyone cooked or baked in our family. One of my earliest memories is my Grandma sharing the secret ingredient in her recipes – LOVE! She even had a shaker of LOVE that she kept on the stove. I was aware early on that ‘good’ food warmed the heart and soul. I was raised in a meat and potatoes household and intuitively questioned my diet at the tender age of twelve. In my quest for an alternative diet, I discovered healthy foods that I genuinely liked. My teen years found me cooking and feeding lots of friends and family. This experience gave me with a sense of good personal health, positive social interaction and the understanding of how food and health has a direct and incredibly important correlation with living a healthy and happy life. Good fortune provided the opportunity for me to co-teach and co-plan a vegetarian cooking class for fellow students while in high school. This experience truly inspired my decision to pursue a career in health-supportive culinary arts. Fast forward to present day, as a Natural Foods Chef and Holistic Health Coach, I feel so blessed to have had the opportunities to pursue my passion for food and now to make a difference in the lives of our clients. By providing meals that nourish and alleviate the stress associated with trying to eat well or coaching a client and helping them create a strong, healthy foundation for themselves, I am able to share the skills and knowledge I've gained over the years to improve the lives of others. For that, I am incredibly grateful. 

Alice Leung

Alice Leung is the chef and owner of Soy Café, a well-loved vegan eatery in the Northern Liberties neighborhood of Philadelphia. Chef Leung has been creating delicious vegan dishes for more than 10 years – long before vegan eateries benefited from the popularity they enjoy today. Chef Leung is excited to "wow" the vegan and non-vegan guests at Dish It Up!

Mary Lochary, The Rittenhouse

A Philadelphia native, Mary began her culinary career as an intern at The Rittenhouse, where she worked while attending The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College. When Jean Marie Lacroix took over the reins of The Rittenhouse in 2000, the quality of food and skill reached a whole new level. Under this new direction, The Rittenhouse fast became the premier hotel of Philadelphia, and where Mary would cultivate her career for years to come. Now, under the direction of Lacroix's Executive Chef Jon Cichon, Mary serves as Banquet Chef. She and her team create restaurant experiences for each event - from weddings to birthdays and Mitzvah celebrations to business functions. Mary currently resides in South Philadelphia with her husband Sean and their English Bulldog Oatmeal.

Christina Martin, Cooking to Nourish

Christina Martin is a plant-based chef, healthy food advocate, and nutrition columnist. After she earned a B.S. in Business Administration from Rowan University, she embraced a career change and completed a culinary degree at The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College and Atlantic Culinary Academy. Christine seeks to share her love for cooking through teaching, with a focus on the basics of healthy, sustainable cooking. She is the founder of Cooking to Nourish, a healthy lifestyle website, and is rolling out a plant-based food cart in Spring 2018.

Rasa Stirbys Benefico, Birchtree Catering

Rasa approaches her professional menu writing and cooking with the same energy and care that she put into catering her own wedding. She appreciates the opportunity to work closely with her clients and loves the challenge of creating customized dishes and menus. Everything on the Birchtree menus are a result of Rasa's careful testing and tweaking of her own original recipes, and she has become a leader in the local food movement and wedding menu trends, with regular contributions to Martha Stewart Weddings, Green Wedding Shoes, and 100 Layer Cake.

Yasi Sapp, Jet Wine Bar

Born and raised in Paterson, NJ, Yasi Sapp found her culinary calling while cooking with her grandmother at the age of 12. Upon graduating high school in 2008, she enrolled in the culinary program at the Art Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Fl and embraced her new career with a passion. While attending classes she worked in French banquet style kitchens in Florida until 2010, when a sudden new love and family prompted a move to the old dominion, Virginia. She secured a position with Aramark as a culinary supervisor at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. She would spend the next 4 years transforming the dining hall, introducing the students to a more refined and contemporary college dining experience.

In 2015, Yasi relocated with Aramark to the Steinberg Conference Center in Philadelphia. In that role, she delighted guests with her creative way of bridging the gap between comfort foods, pastimes, and modern sentiments. In January 2017, Yasi accepted a Sous Chef position at Jet Wine Bar in Philadelphia. She quickly became an indispensable asset, bringing her creativity to everything she touched. Over the last year, Chef Yasi has been leading her team towards offering a new and audacious culinary experience to the guests frequenting Jet Wine Bar.

Jamie Wolf, The Continental

Jamie Wolf is the Executive Chef of Stephen Starr's iconic The Continental Restaurant and Martini Bar, well-loved for its menu that features a delicious array of global cuisine and creative cocktails.

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