By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Jul 31, 2017 at 6:01 PM

The James Beard Foundation has announced members of the inaugural class for the Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership (WEL) program, a new initiative that aims to assist female chefs and owners in growing their businesses by cultivating women’s leadership in the culinary industry.

Among the 21 women who will participate in the program Sept. 10-15 at Babson College, is Milwaukee’s own Gina Gruenewald, owner of Wolf Peach and Supper.

Gruenewald is among just five participants from the Midwest and the only recipient from Wisconsin.

"I am looking forward to spending time outside of the Midwest to get a grasp on how other small business owners deal with the same challenges," notes Gruenewald of the opportunity. "I'm also looking forward to expanding my network in this industry with the hopes of developing some amazing alliances in this industry from a national perspective."

Developed in collaboration with Babson College, the curriculum addresses advanced business and finance concerns related to entrepreneurship and expansion, as well as providing gender-specific training and leadership development. 

"It is imperative to have more women owning and operating thriving scalable businesses," adds Jodie W. McLean, an initiator of the WEL program and CEO of EDENS, one of the nation’s leading private retail real estate companies.

"The benefits to an entire organization and industry when women are in executive leadership roles and impact policy are significant. The culinary industry is not different than any other – gender equity isn't about fairness; it’s about good business."

JBF’s Women in Entrepreneurial Leadership Program will also administer a group of mentors who agree to provide expertise and career development support to the participants on an ongoing basis once they leave the program, with the goal of growing the network of women leaders across the country.

The complete list of WEL recipients includes:

  • Bleu Adams (Black Sheep Cafe, Black Sheep @ Epic Brewing, Provo, Utah)
  • Kathleen Blake (The Rusty Spoon, Orlando, Florida); Women Chefs and Restaurateur Fellow
  • Amy Brandwein (Centrolina/Chef Amy B, LLC, Washington, D.C.)
  • Christine Cikowski (Honey Butter Fried Chicken and Sunday Dinner Club, Chicago)
  • Meredith Corey-Disch (Community Loaves, Jacksonville, Florida)
  • Kimi Eklund (Kimi's Chop & Oyster House, Salt Lake City)
  • Gina Gruenewald (Wolf Peach/ Supper, Milwaukee)
  • Liza Hinman (The Spinster Sisters, Healdsburg, California)
  • Alicia Hinze (The Buttered Tin, St. Paul, Minnesota)
  • Tanya Holland (Brown Sugar Kitchen, Oakland, California)
  • Sarah Huck (Kos Kaffe, Brooklyn)
  • Carolyn Johnson (80 Thoreau, Cambridge, Massachusetts)
  • Vivian Joiner (Sweet Potatoes-a restaurant, Winston-Salem, North Carolina)
  • Guisell Osorio (Sabores Del Sur, Walnut Creek, California)
  • Nicole Pederson (Found and The Barn, Evanston, Illinois); Women Chefs and Restaurateur
  • Fellow
  • Marian Romano (Nonna's Osteria, catering & Potato Palace, booth State Fair, Wasilla, Alaska)
  • Suzanne Simon (Chaia - Farm to Taco, Washington, D.C.)
  • Lien Ta (Here's Looking At You, Los Angeles)
  • Shannan Troncoso (Brookland's Finest Bar & Kitchen, Washington, D.C.)
  • Jan Wichayanuparp (Sweet Republic, Phoenix)
  • Elizabeth Wiley (Meadowlark Restaurant, Wheat Penny Oven and Bar, Dayton, Ohio)

WEL complements the Foundation’s existing Women in Culinary Leadership (WCL) program launched in 2012, which champions young women at the start of their careers. WCL is one of two JBF Women’s Leadership Programs made possible with the founding support of Rohini Dey, EDENS, and WCR – Women Chefs and Restaurateurs.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.