Rob Long, SFA Board President, is a writer and producer in Hollywood. He began his career with the long-running television show Cheers. More recently he created Sullivan & Son. Rob has authored two books, is a contributing editor to the National Review and the Los Angeles Times, and writes occasionally for the Wall Street Journal and the BBC Radio Times. His weekly radio commentary, “Martini Shot,” may be heard on public radio in Los Angeles or on iTunes.
Jay Oglesby, SFA Board Vice President, is a 20-year banking industry veteran and Principal of Wells Fargo’s Commercial Real Estate specialty group dedicated to the seniors housing and care industry. He is a graduate of the University of Mississippi, where he earned undergraduate degrees in Journalism and English. He also earned MBA and Masters of International Management degrees from the Thunderbird School of Global Management. Born in Columbus, Mississippi, Oglesby now lives in metropolitan Charlotte, North Carolina. He has served as the Southeastern U.S. representative on Wells Fargo’s Commercial Real Estate Diversity Council.
Kristie Abney, a lifelong Atlantan, is a graduate of Georgia Tech and Emory Business School. She has extensive non-profit experience with organizations such as the High Museum wine auction and the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau’s fundraiser for the Atlanta Food Bank. While her vocation is leasing commercial office space, her avocations are eating, drinking and celebrating all things Southern. She is married to Charles Abney and is mother to two dogs, Ellie and Daisy.
Bill Addison has served as Atlanta magazine’s food editor and restaurant critic since 2009. He began his food-writing career at Creative Loafing in Atlanta in 2002 and has since been a food critic for the San Francisco Chronicle and lead restaurant critic at the Dallas Morning News. He’s been nominated twice for a James Beard Foundation award and has won several Association of Food Journalists awards. His first SFA symposium was Smoke, Sauce, and Hickory in 2002; it was all down the gullet from there.
Elizabeth Engelhardt, a native of Hendersonville, North Carolina, where her family has lived since the 1790s, is the John Shelton Reed Distinguished Professor of Southern Studies in the American Studies Department at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill. Most recently, she is the author of A Mess of Greens: Southern Gender and Southern Food. Her work has appeared in multiple volumes of Cornbread Nation. She coedited The Larder: Food Studies Methods from the South with John T. Edge and Ted Ownby.
Valerie Erwin is the former chef/owner of Philadelphia’s Geechee Girl Rice Café. Geechee Girl, which opened in 2003, was dedicated to the culture and foodways of the Geechees—descendants of the enslaved Africans who live on the coast and islands of South Carolina and Georgia. Valerie cooked at a number of notable restaurants for almost 25 years before opening Geechee Girl. Decades ago, after studying politics at Princeton University, Valerie held a variety of office jobs before realizing her true calling in food.
Diane Flynt, president of Foggy Ridge Cider, grows heirloom apples and makes hard cider in Dugspur, Virginia, near the Blue Ridge Parkway. A Georgia native, Flynt worked for over twenty years in banking before returning to her farming roots. In 2004, she founded Foggy Ridge Cider, the first farm winery in the South to focus full time on growing cider apples and making craft cider. Each year Foggy Ridge Cider has sold its complete production, which in 2013 will be 4500 cases. Flynt has also played a leadership role in promoting Virginia wine and is active in national cider initiatives.
Alba Huerta moved to Houston when she was six and, except for a brief stint in Las Vegas, where she moved to refine her service skills, she’s been there ever since. She’s managed Anvil Bar and Refuge, and opened establishments including The Pastry War, a mezcaleria that mirrors her quality standards for agave production, and Julep, the bar that she describes as the culmination of her career as a bartender. Huerta is a successful business owner who has been named one of 10 rising star female mixologists by Food & Wine in 2015, as well as Imbibe magazine’s Bartender of the Year in 2014.
Francis Lam is editor-at-large at Clarkson Potter and a columnist for the New York Times Magazine. His writing and editing have won numerous awards from the International Association of Culinary Professionals and the James Beard Foundation. In past lives, he was a judge on Top Chef Masters, the features editor at Gilt Taste, a senior writer at Salon.com and a contributing editor at Gourmet. His work has appeared in the 2006-2014 editions of Best Food Writing.
Ted Ownby is the director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi. He holds a joint appointment in History and Southern Studies. He earned his B.A. from Vanderbilt University, and an M.A. and doctorate from Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of American Dreams in Mississippi: Consumers, Poverty, and Culture, 1830–1998 and Subduing Satan: Religion, Recreation, and Manhood in the Rural South, 1865–1920. He is the co-editor of the Mississippi Encyclopedia and writes and teaches classes on the social and cultural history of the American South.
Drew Robinson, a native of Birmingham, Alabama, graduated from the New England Culinary Institute. In 1997 he moved to Mendocino, California, where he expanded his knowledge of technique and ingredient-driven food. In 2001, he returned to his hometown to work with Frank Stitt at Highlands Bar and Grill, where he rose through the brigade to become chef de cuisine. In 2003, Robinson decided to apply his formal training to traditional foods when he began working with Birmingham-based Jim ‘n Nick’s Bar-B-Q. In that capacity he has served the SFA for nearly a decade, beginning with the 2004 Birmingham Field Trip.
Harry Root is co-founder and principal of Grassroots Wine. Based in Charleston, South Carolina, with an additional office in Birmingham, Alabama, Grassroots Wine represents place-driven winegrowers from every major wine region on the planet. A native of Tampa, Florida, Root received a degree in Natural Resource from the University of the South. He first became active in the SFA during the SFA’s Charleston Field Trip in 2007.