Women’s Hospitality Initiative Announces All-Star Lineup For February 18 Culinary Celebration And Panel At UNLV’s Hospitality Hall

The Women’s Hospitality Initiative (WHI), a Las Vegas-based organization committed to accelerating the development of women leaders in the restaurant and food service industry, has assembled an all-star lineup of regionally, nationally, and globally acclaimed participants for its February 18 culinary celebration, hosted by the Harrah College of Hospitality at UNLV’s Hospitality Hall.

The event will feature more than 50 women chefs, mixologists, sommeliers, and restaurateurs — of all diverse backgrounds and skillsets — coming together to curate a menu of specialty dishes as well as craft beers and cocktails for attendees.

“This inaugural event is designed to spotlight the talents of women across the culinary industry, and we are very fortunate to have so many gifted and talented females involved who have overcome barriers and are a leading example,” states Secret Burger Founder and WHI Co-Founder Jolene Mannina, who is curating the culinary celebration.

“It is truly a historic lineup and it is inspiring to see Las Vegas come together to create change with programs that will make a difference. We have a long way to go but the future looks bright,” states Mannina.

The evening begins at 5 p.m. with a screening of director Joanna James’ documentary A Fine Line at the University’s Judy Bayley Theatre and includes an interactive panel discussion led by Stowe Shoemaker, Professor and Dean of UNLV’s Harrah College of Hospitality, and Mary Choi Kelly, Co-Founder of WHI, with Valerie James, star of the documentary as well as Chef and Owner of Val’s Restaurant; Lora Picini, Vice President of Equity, Strategic Policy & Regulatory Affairs at Caesars Entertainment Corporation; Therese Gearhart, President & CEO of Women’s Foodservice Forum; Katherine Miller, Vice President of Impact for James Beard Foundation; Lorena Garcia, Entrepreneur and Chef of Chica; and Mary Sue Milliken, Chef and Owner of Border Grill and BBQ Mexicana.

“As we further our mission to bring gender equity to this industry, it is moving to know that we have the support of such extraordinary and well accomplished women, both participating in the culinary celebration and the panel, who themselves have overcome barriers and are leading by example,” states co-founder Elizabeth Blau. “These women embody the elements of leadership: integrity, influence, enthusiasm, and they are all connected by a shared desire to see other women follow in their footsteps.”

Those confirmed to participate in the celebration include:
Alexandra Lourdes, Saint Honoré
Alyssa Ocampo, Sparrow + Wolf
Amber Ramsay, Carl’s Donuts
Anamarie Ellis, Ellis Island Casino Hotel & Brewery
Angela Ippolito, Lupo by Wolfgang Puck
Ashley Costa, Vetri Cucina, Las Vegas
Audrey Alonzo, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Candace Ochoa, Bazaar Meat by José Andrés
Cathy Stamm, Cured & Whey
Chloe Helfand, Atomic Saloon Show, Spiegelworld
Christina Ellis, Ellis Island Casino Hotel & Brewery
Christina Wilson, Gordon Ramsay Group
Cindy Soliz, Buddy V’s Ristorante
Claudia Andracki, Desert Bloom Eco Farm
Danielle Crouch, Jammyland Cocktail Bar & Reggae Kitchen
Elizabeth Blau, Honey Salt
Elyse Petersen, Tealet
Emily Brubaker, Cured & Whey
Flora Aghababyan, Wynn Las Vegas
Gina Marinelli, La Strega
Heidi Cole, The Barrymore
Jainine Jaffer, Shiraz
Jamie Tran, The Black Sheep
Jeneice Marrinetto, Park on Freemont
Jenna Boyer, J&P Fine Wine (Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits)
Jennifer Murphy, Caesars Entertainment Corporation
Jenny Wong, Fat Choy Restaurant
Jessica Perlstein, Main St. Provisions
Joymar Herrin, Herbs & Rye
Juyoung Kang, The Dorsey At The Venetian Resort
Kelly Bianchi, Wynn Las Vegas
Kristine Raymer, Centerplate
Lin Jerome, Saint Honoré
Lindsey Geddes, Charlie Palmer Collective
Lorena Garcia, Chica
Mariena Boarini, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
Mary Sue Milliken, Border Grill, BBQ Mexicana
Michelle Mumar, Milk Bar
Nicole Brisson, Locale
Nicole Erle, CUT by Wolfgang Puck
Nina Manchev, The Caviar Collective
Penny Chutima, Lotus of Siam
Ragan Kerney, La Strega
Rose Signor, Silver Stamp
Roxanne Gomez, The Golden Tiki
Saipin Chutima, Lotus of Siam
Sarah Thompson, Elio
Sonia El-Nawal, Rooster Boy Café, Rooster Boy Granola
Sonia Stelea, Ada’s
Stephanie Bogert, University of Nevada,
Las Vegas
Stephanie Torres, La Strega
Susan Feniger, Border Grill, BBQ Mexicana
Veronica Arroyo, STRIPSTEAK
Vivian Chang, STRIPSTEAK
Wyndee Forrest, CraftHaus Brewery

Tickets to the “A Fine Line” screening and the culinary celebration are priced at $30 for UNLV students, $60 for general admission, and $100 for VIP attendees; and can be purchased at secretburger.com.

WHI is proud to be sponsored by companies including the Elaine Wynn Family Foundation, Wynn Las Vegas, Las Vegas Sands, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, 50 Eggs, Caesars Entertainment Corporation, Centerplate, Drew Las Vegas, Ellis Island Casino Hotel & Brewery, OpenTable, Shake Shack, the Shulman Family Foundation, Solus Sustainable Hydration, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, State Restaurant Equipment, Steelite, Sysco, US Foods, and Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group. In addition, the event will be supported by “A Fine Line” sponsors, Chef Works, Markham Vineyards, and PepsiCo.

Under the stewardship of its co-founders Elizabeth Blau, Mary Choi Kelly, and Jolene Mannina, WHI founding members include Philippa Fryman (The Venetian Resort), Amy Rossetti (Rossetti Public Relations), Alissa Kelly (PR Plus), Rachel Mays Ayotte (Bread & Butter Public Relations), Naomi Strasser (Aerial Communications Group), Punam Mathur (Elaine Wynn Family Foundation), Julie Murray (Moonridge Group), Arlene Wszalek (Allied Global Marketing), Chelle Adams (The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas), Lisa Marchese (Witkoff), Kimberly Grant (ThinkFoodGroup), Lora Picini and Eileen Moore (Caesars Entertainment Corporation), Anamarie Ellis and Christina Ellis (Ellis Island Casino Hotel & Brewery), Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger (Border Grill), Kristin Whittemore (Blau & Associates), and Annmarie Feiler (Special Event Management). Additionally, the organization has already recruited some of the most recognized and powerful voices in hospitality to further its mission with a Strategic Advisory Board that includes Elaine Wynn, Stowe Shoemaker, Jan Jones Blackhurst, Ian Staller, Marilyn Spiegel, Michael Severino, Joe Essa, Don Snyder, Richard Bosworth, Diana Bennett, John Kunkel, and Michael Shulman.

About Women’s Hospitality Initiative
The Women’s Hospitality Initiative is committed to developing and implementing programs for women to grow and achieve leadership positions in the restaurant community, and is a component fund of Nevada Community Foundation, an exempt public charity under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, EIN 88-0241420.