2017 Southern Food Writing Conference Speakers
John Currence was born and raised in New Orleans, LA to a family that loved to cook and spend time in the kitchen. Currence was recipient of both Restaurateur Of The Year and Chef Of The Year awards from the Mississippi Restaurant Association in 1998. In 2006, he received the Southern Foodways Alliance Guardian of Tradition Award and won the 2008 Great American Seafood Cookoff in New Orleans. In 2009, he was awarded the James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef South and was a winner of Charleston Food and Wine Festival’s Iron Chef Challenge. He is a contributing editor for Garden and Gun magazine and an avid outdoorsman who enjoys bird hunting of all varieties, fishing and golf. John is active in the community, having served as chairman and president of the Mississippi Restaurant Association and president of the Yoknapatapha Arts Council. Current projects include: a cookbook and Adventures of The Big Bad Chef video series, trips through the lesser known food spots of the Deep South.
Born in Corbin, Kentucky, Ronni Lundy has long chronicled the people of the Southern Appalachians as a journalist and cookbook author. She is the former restaurant reviewer and music critic for The Courier-Journal in Louisville, former editor of Louisville Magazine, and has contributed to many national magazines. Her book Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes and Honest Fried Chicken was recognized by Gourmet magazine as one of six essential books on Southern cooking. In 2009, Lundy received the Southern Foodways Alliance Craig Claiborne Lifetime Achievement Award. She has contributed to Eating Well, Gourmet, Bon Appétit, Esquire, and other magazines.
Erin Byers-Murray is a Nashville-based food writer, cookbook author, and magazine editor who has a not-so-secret obsession with oysters. She loves telling stories about farmers, cooks, kitchens, and local food communities and is the author of Shucked: Life on a New England Oyster Farm (St. Martin's Press). The New England Kitchen: Fresh Takes on Seasonal Recipes (Rizzoli), which she co-authored with award-winning Boston chef Jeremy Sewall, was nominated for a James Beard Cookbook award and her latest book, A Colander, Cake Stand, and My Grandfather's Iron Skillet includes stories and recipes from chefs about their most treasured cooking tools. These days, she is hard at work on a book about grits, coming out in 2018. Erin is also the editor of Nashville Lifestyles magazine where she writes regularly about Nashville's food, culture, and people, and is one of the co-founders of Dirty Pages, a storytelling project that launched in early 2015. Before moving to Nashville, she lived in Boston where she worked as a writer and editor at Boston magazine and DailyCandy.com and, together with her husband, Dave and friend Nicole Kanner of All Heart PR, she co-founded Eat Your Heart Out Boston. In her spare time, she freelances for various publications like Food & Wine, The Local Palate, Tasting Table, FoodNetwork.com, LuckyPeach.com, AOL Travel, and Wine & Spirits Magazine.
Adrian Miller is a food writer, attorney and certified barbecue judge who lives in Denver, CO. He is currently the executive director of the Colorado Council of Churches and, as such, is the first African American and the first layperson to hold that position. Miller previously served as a special assistant to President Bill Clinton and a senior policy analyst for Colorado governor Bill Ritter Jr. He has also been a board member of the Southern Foodways Alliance. Miller’s Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time won the James Beard Foundation Award for Scholarship and Reference in 2014. His next book, The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, From the Washingtons to the Obamas was published on President's Day, 2017.
Rani Robinson-Kiganda is the Director of Convergence for the Home and Travel category for Scripps Lifestyle Studios and manages a team that creates a digital presence for all Travel Channel, HGTV, DIY Network and Great American Country (GAC) shows including production of digital originals to support all four networks. She coordinates with the executive producers and outside production companies, the marketing team and the digital team. Rani’s background includes 15 years of editorial and digital programming experience on a variety of cable network web sites.
Michelle Buffardi is the Director of Digital Programming for the Food category at Scripps Lifestyle Studios. Michelle oversees digital strategy and editorial for the culinary content at FoodNetwork.com and CookingChannel.com, manages the editorial calendar and all staff writers for each site. Michelle has worked at Food Network for over 7 years, previously worked at MarthaStewart.com and is the author of a little cookbook called Great Balls of Cheese.
Abigail McCollum is the Director of Convergence and Social for the Home and Travel category at Scripps Lifestyle Studios. In this role, Abbi creates a bridge between the on-air programming team, the marketing team and the digital team. As the convergence lead for the brands, Abbi manages a team that creates a digital and social presence for all HGTV, DIY Network, Travel Channel, and Great American Country shows and talent. She works closely with the interactive ad sales and marketing teams to monetize the digital on-air content as well as to establish social sponsorship guidelines and campaigns.
Melissa Clark is a reporter for the New York Times Food Section, where she writes the popular column: A Good Appetite. She’s also written 38 cookbooks, many of them in collaboration with some of New York’s most celebrated chefs including Daniel Boulud and Andrew Feinberg of Franny’s in Brooklyn. Her latest cookbook is Dinner, Changing the Game. Clark was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, where she now lives with her husband and daughter.
Jennifer V. Cole is a Southern-based food, drink, and travel writer whose work has appeared in Southern Living , Travel + Leisure, The Local Palate, Esquire and more. She is co-author of the upcoming "Chasing The Gator: Isaac Toups and the New Cajun Cooking. "She hosts regular whiskey nights on her porch in Birmingham, Alabama, and is a fool for an antique bourbon.
Nichole Aksamit is the senior editor at Allrecipes, the print magazine from the world’s largest cooking community, Allrecipes.com. She grew up on a farm in Minnesota, learned how to grow and preserve food from her mother (an Arkansas native), fell in love with cookbooks and cooking at a young age, earned an English and journalism degree from Minnesota State University Moorhead, and has worked in various forms of food media over the past two decades. Prior to helping launch Allrecipes magazine, she developed and edited cookbooks and bookazines for Southern Living and other Time Inc. brands at Oxmoor House in Birmingham, Alabama. Notable works include the regional Southern cookbook No Taste Like Home by Kelly Alexander and Off the Eaten Path: Second Helpings by Morgan Murphy. Before venturing into cookbooks and magazines, she worked for more than a decade at the Omaha (Nebraska) World-Herald, covering nutrition and health and serving as the paper’s restaurant critic and “food in all its glory” reporter. She also has taught cooking classes at the Institute for the Culinary Arts at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, reviewed cookbooks for various outlets, worked in restaurants and kitchenware stores, and served as a regional panelist for the James Beard Foundation chef and restaurant awards. She and her husband live in Des Moines, Iowa, with their exceptionally needy tabby cat Matilda. She likes rhubarb more than a person probably ought to.
It’s no surprise Nancy Wall Hopkins fills the position of Sr. Deputy Editor, Food and Entertaining/Brand Catalyst for the nation’s largest home and family publication, Meredith Corporation’s flagship Better Homes and Gardens: She’s been cooking and entertaining virtually nonstop since she was a child growing up in Tennessee. Today, Hopkins spends her days planning the food pages for BH&G where she has been for the last 16 years, along with a staff of two food editors and two assistants. Together they create more than 250 recipes and food ideas to fill the monthly food features of the magazine each year. Nancy is also a frequent judge for national cooking contests such as the Pillsbury Bake-Off, the National Cattleman’s Beef Cook-Off, and the National Chicken Cook-Off as well as the James Beard Awards. Nancy is a member of IACP and Les Dames d’Escoffier and sits on the WineFest Des Moines Board. She is also a regular Trend Spotter for the NASFT’s Fancy Food Show and covers trade shows nationally and internationally as a Trend Spotter, including the National Housewares Show, SIAL and the Speciality and Fine Food Show. Prior to joining Better Homes and Gardens she owned an entertaining and tabletop consulting firm for 12 years. In addition to creating and styling food and entertaining features, Hopkins made numerous TV appearances and was keynote speaker on entertaining, food, and tabletop design for corporate food and publication clients.
Toni Tipton-Martin is an award-winning food and nutrition journalist and community activist who is busy building a healthier community through her books, classes, and foundation. She is a James Beard Book Award winner and recently appeared as a guest judge on Bravo’s Top Chef. In 2016, Toni was featured on CBS Sunday Morning’s annual Food Show; in the anthology, Best Food Writing of 2016; and in Aetna’s 35th Annual African American History Calendar. She received Notable Mention in The Best American Essays of 2015.
Shaun Chavis owns Saltshaker Marketing & Media, providing content marketing and strategies for food, wellness, and tourism companies. As an editor, she's worked for Time Inc. and Time Inc. Books, where her work won several awards, including Time Inc.'s Luce Award and a Beard Award. This spring she's launching a new venture: The Cookbook Course, an online course teaching individuals and companies how to create cookbooks. Shaun's worked as a journalist for Time Inc., ABC News, and other news organizations. She's also the co-founder of FoodBlogSouth, now Food Media South by the Southern Foodways Alliance. She earned a culinary degree and a masters in Gastronomy from Boston University, and quickly returned to the South to enjoy longer tomato seasons.
Melissa Corbin is a Nashville-based freelance journalist telling the stories of folks who care about their world’s future through print and podcasting. Featured by the likes of Great American Country, Travel Channel, Edible Communities, NPR, Relish, USA Today and Nashville Lifestyles, Corbin is also the Executive Producer of Tennessee Craft Beer Magazine’s Explore The Pour BrewCAST- a podcast about the craft beer scene Tennessee and beyond. She’s a member of Les Dames d’Escofﬁer International, Southern Foodways Alliance, The Porch Writer’s Collective and Nashville Independent Business Alliance. Be on the lookout for Corbin’s new show to debut later this summer- Corbin In The Dell. Here she’ll cover global stories of folks in food, farming and drink with a local music inﬂuence. Meanwhile, she’s on the search of what makes a biscuit personal.