Elizabeth Catte is a public historian, writer, and director of Passel, a socially-conscious historical consulting firm serving nonprofits and unions in Appalachia. She is the author of What You are Getting Wrong About Appalachia, and her work has been featured on various media outlets, including the New Yorker and NPR.

Jan Fernheimer is the director of Jewish Studies and associate professor of Writing, Rhetoric & Digital Media at the University of Kentucky. Her research focuses on questions of identity, invention, and cross-audience communication.

Sam Fore is the owner and chef of Tuk Tuk Sri Lankan Bites, a pop-up restaurant housed at Arcadium Bar in Lexington serving Sri Lankan street food and Sri Lankan-inspired Southern fare since 2016. A former web designer, Sam got her start in food by hosting traditional Sri Lankan brunches based on her mother’s recipes in her home.

Robert Gipe is the author of the illustrated novels Trampoline and Weedeater. He has directed plays, festivals, conferences, and a radio show, and worked at Appalshop in Whitesburg, Kentucky from 1989 to 1995. Gipe now teaches and directs the Appalachian Program at Southeast Kentucky Community College.

Rebecca Gayle Howell is the author of American Purgatory and Render /An Apocalypse, and winner of a 2014 Pushcart Prize. Howell is the James Still Writer-in-Residence at the Hindman Settlement School in Knott County, Kentucky and the poetry editor for Oxford American.

Mark Jensen is the chef and owner of Middle Fork Kitchen Bar (mfkb)  located in the James Pepper Distillery. Having worked in kitchens for 40 years across Europe and New England, he ran his own catering company and the mobile food galley “fork in the road” in Lexington before opening mfkb.

Edward Lee is the chef and owner of 610 Magnolia in Louisville and Succotash, in Washington DC. He has appeared on The Mind of a Chef and Top Chef, and is the author of the cookbook Smoke and Pickles. Lee is a six-time James Beard nominee for  Best Chef of the Southeast. 

Ava Lowrey, our Pihakis Foodways Documentary Filmmaker, graduated from the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU and the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. Since joining our staff in 2015, she has made a dozen short films for the SFA.

Ronni Lundy has long chronicled the people of the hillbilly diaspora as a journalist and cookbook author. Her books include Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes, and Honest Fried Chicken, and Victuals, which won a 2017 James Beard Award.  She is also the recipient of SFA’s 2009 Craig Claiborne Lifetime Achievement Award.

Alexis Meza is a visual artist and co-founder of the Kentucky Dream Coalition, a network that helps immigrant youth access higher education. In 2014 she recalled her 13-hour trek across the desert from Veracruz to the United States for the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Ouita Michel owns eight restaurants in Kentucky, including Holly Hill Inn, which she opened with her husband Chris in 2001. Known for her commitment to locally-sourced food and advocacy, she was a 2016 James Beard finalist for Outstanding Restaurateur.

Jonathan Searle is the executive chef at Lockbox, the 21c Museum Hotel restaurant. Before coming to Lockbox, he worked at Bourbon n’ Toulouse, Bellinis, and Dudley’s on Short in Lexington, and was the executive sous chef at Proof on Main in Louisville.

Ashley C. Smith is the co-founder of Black Soil: Our Better Nature, a combination of farm tours, farm-to-table dinners, and workshops with the mission to reconnect black Kentuckians to their legacy and heritage in agriculture.  She currently serves as Director of Education and Governmental Affairs at Fayette Alliance and is on the committee for the Rural Urban Exchange. 

Lora Smith is a scholar, writer, community organizer, and founding member of the Appalachian Food Summit. In 2015 she accepted SFA’s John Egerton Prize on behalf of that organization. Smith helps grow heirloom corn, beans, tomatoes, and squash at Big Switch Farm in Egypt, Kentucky.

Frank X Walker, a professor at the University of Kentucky, is a founding member of both the Affrilachian Poets and the Bluegrass Black Arts Consortium, and also founding editor of PLUCK!, the new Journal of Affrilachian Art & Culture. Walker is a former Kentucky Poet Laureate who has authored nine poetry collections.

Crystal Wilkinson is the Appalachian Writer-in-Residence at Berea College. Her works include short-story collections Blackberries, Blackberries, Water Street, and her novel The Birds of Opulence, which received the 2016 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. Wilkinson co-owns Wild Fig Books & Coffee in Lexington.