President, African Travel
Sherwin Banda has spent the 18 years working in international hospitality in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and the United States. Born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa, he is passionately devoted to all things Africa. As President of African Travel, Inc. he is committed to providing the ultimate African experience and service. Our goal is to uplift local communities and to protect wildlife conservation in Africa. He has successfully leveraged the company’s extensive infrastructure of top safari lodges, hotels, airlines and transportation providers in both Africa and North America to create extraordinary, authentic journeys tailored to each client’s travel style and budget.
Director of National Accounts, AmaWaterways
Morgane is the National Accounts Director for AmaWaterways, a luxury river cruise line, which she joined 10 years ago. She has an extensive background working in luxury travel especially in Paris, France, her home country
Director of Wellness, Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
An eclectic 17-year career with Fairmont Hotels & Resorts has ultimately led Davina to the path of yoga, mindfulness, and overall wellness in both her personal and professional lives. Organizing wellness retreats for the last five years has ignited a fire of mindfulness in her that took her to Plum Village in France to study with Thich Nhat Hanh’s sangha. Making sure Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise retreat guests have incredible, life changing experiences is her passion.
Host, Places to Love
Travel expert and television host Samantha Brown has been hosting TV travel programs for 18 years. During her time at Travel Channel she created 10 original international and domestic travel series generating over 170 hours of television. In 2017 Samantha moved from the Travel Channel to PBS and her new series Samantha Brown’s Places to Love will make its premiere in January, 2018. In Places to Love, Samantha will feature the destinations, experiences and most importantly the people that make us the traveler feel like we belong to a place. In Season 1, Samantha will feature 7 U.S. and 6 international destinations including Houston, Switzerland, Brooklyn, China, Orange County and Big Sur, CA.
Samantha is known for getting to the emotional heart of travel by focusing on the people, their culture, and the privilege of spending time in their everyday lives. Viewers passionately follow Samantha and her expert advice not only because of her experience and knowledge, but also because of her warmth, genuineness and love for travel.
Samantha grew up in New Hampshire and currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and 5 year old twins Ellis and Elizabeth.
Executive Chef, The Blanchard
Chef Ryan helms the kitchen at Chicago’s acclaimed neighborhood restaurant, The Blanchard. The menu is at once approachable and unique – Chef balances imaginative French technique and modernist influences inspired by seasonal ingredients at their peak.
Ryan came to The Blanchard in 2015 by way of Alinea, where he became part of Grant Achatz’s renowned ensemble. Under Achatz’s tuition, Ryan developed a managerial perspective and a love for informed and inventive risk-taking. Ryan brought this experience to The Blanchard, and it was during his stewardship as Chef de Cuisine that the venue earned the Jean Banchet Award for Culinary Excellence, “Best New Restaurant”, along with a “Best New Restaurant” nomination from Chicago Magazine and a four-star review from Phil Vettel, among other accolades. In January 2017, Ryan was named Executive Chef.
Prior to coming to Chicago from his native state of Michigan, Ryan apprenticed at Rattlesnake Club, an iconic upscale restaurant in the Detroit International Riverfront landmark. It was here that Ryan first learned about flavor combinations, textural expressions, wine pairing and culinary integrity.
Ryan subsequently set his sights on Hen of the Wood, a rustic eatery whose produce is delivered directly by local farmers and foragers, sometimes within hours of procurement and “Arguably Vermont’s best restaurant” according to Fodor’s. The experience fueled his passion for seasonality and local sourcing, which is integral to the restaurant’s food and beverage program.
Strategic Account Manager, Royal Caribbean
Join Katy Cannizzaro, Strategic Account Manager with Royal Caribbean, to find out more about the largest cruise ship in the world- Royal Caribbean’s newest ship Harmony of the Seas. Katy has over 20 years of experience in the travel industry both in hotels and in cruises. Her extensive travel expertise and her informative presentation on the most innovative ships at Sea will entice you to plan your next cruise vacation with Royal Caribbean.
President of Your Own Italy
Carmen Carbonell is founder and President of Your Own Italy. Carmen was born in the United States, where she obtained a degree in Architecture. Following college, she married an Italian and moved to Rome, where she raised 4 sons. She also developed a passionate love for Italy – its art, its architecture, its cities, its countryside, its culture and cuisines, and its people.
Now, after nearly 30 years living in Italy, Carmen wants to share her love for Italy with American travelers who want more than a standard tour…travelers who want to experience the real Italy, with the heart and soul of the nature and its people. She founded Your Own Italy as a boutique tour company that will provide private tours that take travelers deep into Italy’s heart and soul, with vacation packages that will be memorable for life, and shore excursions that will give tour ship guests a unique day in Rome, Florence, Venice, or the Amalfi Coast. –
The team works with boutique hotels, tested and proven restaurants, historic sites, museums, basilicas, plus individuals and tours that meet Your Own Italy’s standards – standards virtually guaranteed to ensure that Your Own Italy vacation or shore excursion will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience you will remember forever. And long to repeat with your new friends in Italy, Your Own Italy.
Director of Strategic Partnerships, AAA Member Choice Vacations
Kevin Carter has been with AAA Member Choice Vacations since 2003. In those 14 years, he has been a Product Manager, Business Development Manager, and Regional District Sales Manager before becoming the Director of Strategic Partnerships. These years of service, along with his Bachelor’s from the University of New Hampshire in Hotel and Leisure Travel Management, has allowed Kevin a unique perspective on the travel industry. What drives his passion for the industry? Making the world a smaller place through the magic of travel!
World Traveler, Travel Expert, Writer, AngelsTravelLounge.com
Angel Castellanos, (www.AngelsTravelLounge.com) is a passionate world traveler, travel writer, influencer and nationally recognized speaker dedicated to help people travel smart, well and often. He has over 15 years of experience in the travel industry as a tour guide, retailer, buyer, travel consultant and brand consultant. Traveling to over 55 countries on 5 continents (and counting), Angel travels 8-10 weeks internationally each year and draws on his experience and frequent travels to teach “Smart Travel” and equip travelers with the skills they need to make travel easy and enjoyable. He bridges the gap between the practical, common sense advice he’s learned by traveling the world and the new savvy tips and experiences that has helped his generation revolutionize travel. Angel has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Fox News, Univision, Frommers Radio, USA Today & Travel & Adventure Show as “America’s Newest Travel Expert”. Most recently, Angel completed an around-the-world trip by traveling over 9,000 km overland by train from Beijing to London.
Director, Israel Ministry of Tourism, Midwest Region
Jill Daly serves as Director, Israel Ministry of Tourism, Midwest Region, and is posted in Chicago. She has the responsibility of promoting tourism to Israel in 13 U.S. states.
Ms. Daly majored in Communications Studies with an emphasis in Public Relations and Advertising at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and earned her Bachelor’s degree in 1997.
Before joining the Israel Ministry of Tourism in 2012, Ms. Daly served as an Account Manager for a brand marketing agency specializing in the Christian community. During her time at the agency Ms. Daly oversaw the Israel Ministry of Tourism’s advertising and marketing campaigns for North and South America.
In 2012, she moved to Chicago to accept a position as the Public Relations Director. In 2015, Ms. Daly became the Director, Israel Ministry of Tourism, Midwest.
Ms. Daly is an avid traveler with a deep love for Israel. She currently resides in Chicago.
President, Trafalgar, CostSaver & Brendan
Melissa DaSilva is President of Trafalgar, CostSaver and Brendan Vacations and has more than 25 years of experience in the travel industry in both the US and the UK. She is motivated by the impact travel has on people and is passionate about inspiring others to experience the Good Life through travel and the connectivity of those shared experiences of adventure, exploration, learning and laughter. Trafalgar guided vacations offer an effortless way to truly get under the skin of a destination while connecting with locals and fellow travelers, all while making memories to last a lifetime.
Travel Blogger, The Grubfather
Sal DiBenedetto, known as The Grubfather is a food, travel and style content creator, entrepreneur, writer, photographer, film maker and video host based in Long Island, NY. His mission is to conquer the world of food and travels globally to experience the different cultures and cuisines of every place he visits, documenting his journey across his social media accounts and blog The Grubfather at www.thegrubfather.world.
Journalist, Founder/CEO Travel to Wellness, Program Director of the Travel & Adventure Show’s new Wellness Travel Experience, and Co-Founder of the new Wellness Tourism Association
Founder and CEO of TravelToWellness.com, launched in 2004 as a resource and online magazine for the wellness-minded traveler, Anne Dimonhas been a professional travel writer and industry journalist since the early 1990s.
Prior to launching Travel to Wellness and her life as a journalist, Anne was president of her own public relations company specializing in hospitality.
As President of the newly established Wellness Tourism Association, she will help the non-profit organization fulfill its Mission to support and further the growth and development of this expanding travel sector.
Anne is considered a wellness travel expert and is often asked to speak and/or consult on the subject. Since May of 2017, she has been working with Unicomm to create the Wellness Travel Experience in four cities in 2018 – Chicago, Denver, LA and Washington, DC.
Key Accounts Manager, Rocky Mountaineer
Dawn has been in the travel industry for 30 years working in virtually all aspects of the industry from operations to sales. She began traveling internationally at a young age and while her love for other cultures and countries has literally taken Dawn all around the world, her passion lies in the Canadian Rockies. Dawn is thrilled to represent Rocky Mountaineer as she is able to provide our guests with a unique and luxurious rail experience seeing the one of the most beautiful destinations in the world, Western Canada.
Assistant Vice President, Travel Sales Development
Vicky Evans, a 35-year travel industry veteran, oversees sales for AAA – The Auto Club Group, servicing Members across 11 states. Originally from Great Britain, Vicky has traveled the world and works with some of the leading top travel industry experts.
Culinary Director and Partner, Victory Restaurant Group
Chef Joe Farina, Victory Restaurant Group’s Culinary Director and Partner, is Chicago’s preeminent practitioner of classic Chicago-style Italian cuisine. A native of one of the area’s suburban enclaves for second-generation Italians (Melrose Park), Joe has been at the center of Chicago’s culinary stage since he came onto the scene in 1996. In 2016, Chef Farina joined forces with his childhood friend Anthony Gambino, a 30-year restaurant industry veteran, to open a series of full-service restaurants under the banner of Victory Restaurant Group. The Group’s early ventures include Victory Tap Chicago (1416 South Michigan Avenue), an Italian Steakhouse and Tavern serving Chicago-Italian classics, and Victory Meat & Seafood (116 North York Street, Elmhurst), a neighborhood steak and seafood restaurant serving a selection of prime meats and exceptionally fresh seafood.
Chef Farina is well known for delighting diners with his finely tuned versions of the classics that brought notoriety to Chicago’s Italian neighborhood restaurants. Utilizing the finest and freshest ingredients, Farina honors the Italian tradition of keeping it simple and letting the flavors shine through. Chef Farina’s inspiration stems largely from Southern Italy – his signature dishes include his legendary “Mama’s Meatballs”, a variety of “Parmesan” dishes, and classic brick chicken. In fact, Chef’s Mama’s Meatballs are so legendary; they are now available in the meat department in the area’s finest grocers.
Farina has honed his craft at some of Chicago’s most iconic restaurants, and is a mainstay and culinary personality on Chicago’s television and radio networks, as well as the area’s most prestigious “foodie” events, including Chicago Gourmet, Taste of Travel and The Grand Chef’s Experience.
Premium Trade Manager, Tourism New Zealand
Hadyn Fitzpatrick joined Tourism New Zealand in June 2016 in the role of Premium Trade Manager. Prior to joining Tourism New Zealand Hadyn was working for luxury helicopter operator in Queenstown, New Zealand.
Hadyn is based at Tourism New Zealand’s Santa Monica office. He works closely with New Zealand’s travel industry to ensure that US travel trade and consumers are as educated as possible on New Zealand’s unique offerings.
Hadyn loves New Zealand’s natural beauty, stunning diversity, rich culture and sharing stories about his homeland is his passion.
The draw of New Zealand is more than the destination; it’s everything that makes up the destination. Experiential highs, captivating history, unique accommodations, local immersion and iconic backdrops. New Zealand truly offers a sense of perfection from each traveller’s perspective.
Be sure to stop by the Aussie Experts Booth to meet Hadyn, ask questions and listen to his New Zealand storytelling.’
Tourism Development, and Sales Manager
Tia Froehle – As a lifelong Alaskan, Tia Froehle knows her home like the back of her hand. Her love for the outdoors and adventure has allowed her to explore this amazing state of Alaska, from hiking in the Chugach Mountains, to fly fishing some of our amazing rivers. Tia has worked in sales and marketing in the Alaska tourism industry for over 18 years with companies such as Gray Line of Alaska/Holland America Line and The Hotel Alyeska, Alaska’s premier year-round Resort. She currently works for Visit Anchorage as part of the Tourism Development & Sales team for the past 4 years. Tia received her Bachelors of Science degree in Recreation Management with a minor in Tourism from the University of Idaho. Now she wants YOU to come explore Southcentral Alaska and check it off your bucket list!
Editorial Director of the Frommer’s Guides and Publisher of Frommers.com
Pauline Frommer is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host. The Travel Show, which she co-hosts with her father, travel legend Arthur Frommer, is now heard in every state in the nation except Alaska. She also pens an internationally syndicated newspaper column on travel for King Features. You may recognize her face as Pauline created weekly travel segments for CNN’s Headline News for 3 years. She’s also appeared on The Today Show, Good Morning America, The Early Show, The O’Reilly Factor, NPR’s Marketplace and Talk of the Nation, CNN, FOX, MSNBC and every local news station you can name. She was the founding editor of Frommers.com and edited MSNBC.com’s travel section for two years. Pauline is the proud mother of two well-traveled daughters and wife to physical therapist Mahlon proud mother of two well-traveled daughters and wife to physical therapist Mahlon Stewart.
Chief Operating Officer, Cruise Planners
Vicky Garcia, the co-owner and Chief Operating Officer of Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative, is among the most respected woman in travel. Garcia is a master of travel, marketing, sales, and operations and has helped established Cruise Planners as a leader in all types of travel. Cruise Planners is the nation’s largest network of home-based travel agents who are all travel matchmakers to help travelers find the perfect vacation for them.
Health & Wellbeing Leader, Body Holiday
Rob started out at Body Holiday as the Body Aware Specialist back in 2009. In 2011 he returned to the UK and gained leadership experience in one of London’s most exclusive private health clubs before moving to Sardinia to work at a luxury 5 star resort. In 2014 he returned to Body Holiday as our Health & Wellbeing Leader, responsible for our Activities & Entertainment, Water Sports, and Scuba. When he’s not working hard you’ll find him leading one of our Beach Fitness or Spin classes.
Business Development Manager, Pleasant Holidays
Judy has been in the travel industry for 27 years, 14 of them with Pleasant Holidays. While having traveled to many destinations, her favorite is Hawaii.
Business Development Manager, Princess Cruises
Travel industry veteran with over 40 years of experience working for hotels, tour operators and as a travel agent. Joined Princess Cruises in 1985 and proud to be part of its tremendous worldwide growth.
Chef Matt McMillin
VP of Culinary & Beverage Innovation, Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants
The culinary fire of Matt McMillin has been burning since he was 4 years old. Today, McMillin has fostered that fire into a career as a chef, educator, cookbook author, and most recently director of Cooper’s Hawk Food & Beverage Operations.
In May 2010, McMillin joined Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants, the Midwest’s first and only winery and restaurant under one roof and winner of Nation’s Restaurant News’ “2010 Hot Concept Award.” In the ever-changing restaurant industry, McMillin has been charged with leading culinary operations of this concept for tomorrow, for guests to enjoy today.
In the year prior to joining Cooper’s Hawk, McMillin served as partner to a restaurant consulting company. And as an expert on Chinese and Southeast Asian cooking, he led the growth of Chicago’s famed Big Bowl restaurant for over a decade.
McMillin was a partner in Chicago’s prestigious Lettuce Entertain You restaurant group for 15 years, opening a number of concepts including Big Bowl, Ben Pao, Mity Nice Grill, Shaw’s Crab House, Vong’s Thai Kitchen, amongst others. He has also lent his skills to many of Chicago’s fine French restaurants such as Carlos, Le Francais, and Café Provencal.
In 2000, McMillin co-authored Big Bowl Noodles and Rice, a guide to making fresh, full-flavored cuisine accessible to the home cook. Passionate about teaching and being part of the Cooper’s Hawk communities, McMillin makes regular television, radio, and teaching appearances throughout the country and recently served as a judge on the Thanksgiving edition of Bobby Flay’s Throwdown.
Chef McMillin is a graduate of Kendall College, where he received the Escoffier Award for Culinary and Academic Excellence. He continues his work at Kendall as a frequent teacher, guest speaker, and Culinary Advisory Board Member.
A Chicago native, McMillin enjoys competing in triathlons, cooking for friends and family and volunteering his time with the Pathways Organization. He resides in Glenview, Ill. with his wife Susan and two children, Madeline and Michael.
Communication Specialist, Sundara Inn & Spa
Carla owns a boutique marketing business dedicated to travel and wellness, with Sundara Inn & Spa her flagship account. She’s been with Sundara since its inception 15 years ago.
She comes from a journalism background, having served as a news producer and director at the CBS affiliate in Milwaukee, before going on to work for several large advertising and PR agencies with offices in Chicago and Milwaukee. When she had the opportunity to run the Wisconsin Department of Tourism account, everything clicked for her.
Carla has built a client roster that is decidedly tourism-focused. This year, her energy is focused on Sundara’s 40,000 square-foot expansion, building on its mission of wellness and solidifying its place among the top destination spas in the country.
JoJo Molloy and Monte Davis
Alaska & the Yukon Experts
JoJo Molloy and Monte Davis have lived in Alaska for over 40 years, have been actively involved in the Alaska visitor Industry, and have traveled the state extensively. Their knowledge of Alaska and lifelong public speaking careers makes them uniquely qualified to present an informative and entertaining presentation on Holland America’s Alaska and the Yukon.
Executive Director, Brendan Vacations
Born in Dublin, Brian commenced his career in the Irish Tourism industry in 1964 as a manager in car hire. In 1970, Brian started his own very successful company, Brian Moore Tours out of Boston, specializing in coach tours and independent travel to Ireland and Scotland before retiring in 2000. His passion for his homeland never went away and in 2013, Brian joined the team at Brenda Vacations. As an Ireland and Scotland expert, he brings his vast knowledge, passion, and enthusiasm to people around the country as he helps them bring their Emerald Isle vacation plans to life. In 2015, Brian was inducted into The Order of Innisfallen, a high honor from the city of Killarny, in recognition of his over 50 years in promoting tourism to Ireland.
Onboard Host, Rocky Mountaineer
Carlo has worked for Rocky Mountaineer since 2011. As an Onboard Host with intimate knowledge of all routes he was instrumental in development of the company’s newest Coastal Passage route in both commentary and guest service excellence. Curious of the corporate structure outside of the train Carlo spent two and half years working for Rocky Mountaineers Inside Sales Team in both the Direct and Preferred Channels. Missing the face to face guest interaction Carlo recently returned to his passion working on the train and hopes to see you soon onboard!
Ms. Fepi Paramarti
Chef and President of Padi House and Grill
Fepi Paramarti, a former Accountant, CPA, and Professor for graduate schools, who loves cooking and sharing her passions. Her specific culinary passion in Indonesian culinary, as well as her heartfelt fascination to share the richness of Indonesian culture, have turned around her life-long profession to be a chef. Fepi Paramarti has been in the catering business for many years, and her Doctoral degree in Management and Leadership has been fundamental in her efforts to build up and establish Padi House & Grill (PHG).
Director of National Accounts, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises
An industry veteran with a career spanning over 30 years, John began as a ticket agent at Newark Airport. He joined Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection in 2005 and is currently Director National Accounts for the eastern US. He is responsible for the sales and marketing of several national accounts throughout the US, including AAA. Much of John’s career has been focused on small ship and river cruising and is committed to educating retail agents and consumers on the value, benefits, and the unique experiences that river cruise travel brings to the vacation investment.
Director, Galapagos Sales & Communication, Celebrity Cruises
Susana calls Miami, Florida home and has been involved with the Celebrity Cruises brand since 1996. During her tenure, she has contributed in several capacities allowing her to have a unique and well rounded “expert point of view”.
Susana has been involved with the Celebrity Galapagos product since its inception in 2003, today she leads global sales and communication for Celebrity’s Galapagos portfolio. Most recently, she completed the launch of the Galapagos expansion project, adding two more vessels to Celebrity’s portfolio. She is currently involved in the building of Celebrity Flora, a brand new all-suite vessel launching in 2019. Susana has visited the Galapagos Islands several times and truly brings the destination to life!
President, Aussie Experts (Affiliated with Travel 100 group)
In 1994, Sunnie made her first visit to Australia and New Zealand and fell in love and developed a passion for Australia and New Zealand. Since that time, she has made yearly visits to both countries in order to enhance her knowledge, maintain contacts, and stay in touch with current developments. Sunnie is a certified destination specialist with Australia (premier Aussie Specialist), New Zealand (Kiwi specialist), Fiji (Mati specialist) and Tahiti (Tiare specialist). In addition, Sunnie is a two-time winner of the prestigious Opal award given by the Australian Tourist commission for excellence in planning and selling Australian vacations. The Aussie Experts is a full service South Pacific travel company (affiliated with Travel 100 group) with the ability to issue airline tickets, custom design a perfect itinerary and instantly issue visas for Australia. In brief, Aussie Experts has the background, knowledge, and the expertise to tailor a trip to your specifications, time frame and budget!
Vice President of Sales and National Accounts
Michele Saegesser, Vice President of Sales and National Accounts for Viking Cruises, enters her 40th year in the travel industry. Michele has been a key leader at Viking Cruises for 15 years of that, as they have grown to become the world’s largest small ship cruise line. Her favorite part of her role is to introduce travelers to the cultural enrichment benefits of the Viking way.
Director, Travel Partnerships, Me to We
Aaron is Director of Travel Partnerships at ME to WE, the social enterprise arm of the renowned WE organization. Over the past 13 years he has been a member of various travel industry organizations where he has overseen sales operations in the leisure, corporate and adventure travel spaces. Aaron now spends his time doing the most meaningful work of his career – helping to create truly impactful, transformational, and culturally immersive experiences for ME to WE’s guests. An avid globetrotter who has stamped his passport in 40 different countries, Aaron believes that travel remains the single best tool we have to help build cultural bridges around the world.
Director of National Accounts, Insight Vacations
Richard Sims is the Director of National Accounts, East for Insight Vacations, and Luxury Gold. He loves sharing his travel experiences and knowledge to help vacationers travel to the destinations of their dreams. He has been in the travel industry for twenty-five years, beginning in the airline industry with the majority of his time spent in the cruise industry before joining Insight Vacations a few years ago. In his current role he is responsible for managing and developing business with key travel agencies in the eastern United States. An avid photographer who is passionate about traveling and discovering new countries to explore, he is looking forward to traveling to a new destination in 2018!.
Owner and Operator of Harbor Bar, Restaurant, & Marina
He took over his family bar & liquor store in Wisconsin at age 18 in 1977. He later replaced his high-volume liquor store with a kitchen in a high risk move to enter the food service business. His first menu in his new kitchen was serving Jerk Chicken back when few had heard of it unless they traveled to Jamaica. He now sells up to 2000 servings of food on his busiest day’s like – Harbor Bar’s Reggae Fest every July.
Jerk chicken has risen in popularity since then and Brad has cooked it on stage for the KARE 11 News in Minneapolis on its highly rated Saturday morning news program.
Brad has had 2 appearances cooking on KARE 11 and also been featured on the Food Networks “Best Of” show, with several mentions in many publications for the great Jamaican Food he serves at Harbor Bar along the banks of the Mississippi river. Even Minnesota Monthly Magazine featured Harbor Bar as one of the best waterfront restaurants in Minnesota (Somebody didn’t tell them we are in Wisconsin.)
Brad bought his vacation home in Jamaica back in 1989 and started bringing up Jamaican workers for his restaurant in the seasonal guest worker program in 1999 to help fill the shortage of workers during his tourist season. He has been surrounded by Jamaican cooks since and has learned how to prepare food with the flavor of Jamaica.
District Manager, Business Development / Sales & Marketing, The Bahamas Tourist Office, Houston
Dupree Smith is an experienced sales and marketing professional having worked in the oil and gas industry for 10+ years, before entering the hospitality industry.
As the District Business Development Manager with The Bahamas Tourist Office, he is currently focused on the development of the travel trade segment as well as sales and marketing of The Islands of The Bahamas with a specific focus on the Southwest US region including Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Kansas and Nebraska.
He graduated from the historic Langston University in Langston, Oklahoma with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications and a Master of Arts in Marketing at Texas Southern University.
Chef Ancilleno Solomon
CEO of Ice Chef Bahamas Catering & Events
Ancilleno Solomon is a native of New Providence(Nassau) The Bahamas. He obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Culinary Arts & Food & Beverage Management from The University of the Bahamas in May 2010 and his Ice Carving Certification in March 2012 in Fresno, CA. He is currently pursuing his CDM (Certified Dietary Manager) University of Florida. Ancilleno is also a member of Houston’s area Association of Nutrition & Foodservice Professionals, The bahamas Culinary Association and the Culinary Federation of America.
Ancilleno works as a Director of Dietary for Cornerstone Hospital Bellaire. Prior to his employment with Cornerstone, he worked as an Executive Sous Chef for Grand Hyatt @ Baha Mar in Nassau, where he spearheaded the Garde Manger kitchen in the Event center.
Ancilleno has been a member of HAULYP since October 2017. He is the CEO of Ice Chef Bahamas Catering & Events located in Houston, with over 9 years in the Food & Tourism industry Ancilleno bring the Bahamas to Houston.
Favorite Quote: “Excuses are the tools of the incompetent used to build bridges to nowhere and monuments of Nothingness.”-Barack Obama
Travel Writer, Host of Rick Steves Europe and Travel with Rick Steves
Rick Steves grew up in Edmonds, Washington and studied at the University of Washington where he received degrees in Business Administration and European History. But his real education came in Europe — since 1973 he’s spent 120 days a year in Europe. Spending one third of his adult life living out of a suitcase in Europe has shaped his thinking. Today he employs 80 people at his Europe Through the Back Door headquarters where he produces over 50 guidebooks on European travel, the most popular travel series in America on public television, a weekly hour-long national public radio show, and a weekly column syndicated by the Chicago Tribune. Rick Steves lives and works in his hometown of Edmonds, Washington. His office window overlooks his old junior high school.
Founder, Chicago Taiwanese Cuisine and Culture Association
Meilie Tsai has always been interested in the culture and cuisine of her native country of Taiwan. Born in Kaoshiung Taiwan, Meilie graduated from Shih Chien University in Taipei with a degree in Home Economics. After graduation, Meilie taught Home Economics at Junior High School in Kaoshiung, Taiwan.
In 1972, Meilie immigrated with her family to the United States. After settling in the Chicago area, she soon established a career in real estate. Taiwanese cuisine was still an interest to her. She established herself in the Taiwanese community as someone always willing to share her interest in Taiwanese cuisine often catering large events with local Taiwanese recipes.
After retiring from a successful career in Real Estate, Meilie was offered the opportunity to teach Taiwanese cuisine at the Taiwan School in Lombard, IL
In 2011, she created the Chicago Taiwanese Cuisine and Culture Association. This nonprofit association was created to help promote Taiwanese cuisine to communities in the greater Chicago western suburbs. Together with her students they support the Westmont IL Chamber of Commerce Educational Foundation (WCCEF) via a Children’s Fun Fest held annually the second Saturday of May. Proceeds from this event help fund the WCCEF scholarship fund.
CEO (Chief Experience Officer), PhotoEnrichment
Ralph Velasco is Founder and CEO (Chief Experience Officer) of PhotoEnrichment Adventures (PEA), as well as a travel photography instructor, author and international guide. As such he organizes and leads cultural tours, with a focus on photography, in destinations around the world, including to India, Cambodia, Vietnam, the Baltics, Spain, Romania, Bulgaria, Morocco, Iceland, Cuba, the Adriatic, Central Europe, Tuscany, Mexico and others.
Ralph is also the creator of the Tour Organizer Training free webinar and online course series where he teaches everyday people to make a living from travel. In this step-by-step program, he shows participants how to organize and lead their own special interest tours, around the world, or around the corner.
He’s the creator of the My Shot Lists for Travel app for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch® (available for free on iTunes) and two years in a row he was shortlisted in the prestigious Travel Photographer of the Year awards.
Emily Wines, Master Sommelier
Vice President of Wine & Beverage Experience, Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants
Emily Wines brings an infectious vibrancy to the subject of wine. While she has earned the highest distinction from the prestigious Court of Master Sommeliers, she is able to blend her vast knowledge of wine with an approachable personal style – translating the complex and often elitist world of wine into language that’s simple and straightforward.
Emily’s responsibilities include expanding and strengthening the Cooper’s Hawk Wine Club community, and advancing team members’ knowledge of wine. She serves as the liaison between the company and its individual restaurants, engaging with guests and the brand’s 250,000+ Wine Club members to create unique experiences centered around wine and spirits. She spearheads initiatives designed to enrich the guest journey through education, immersive events, collaborative partnerships and curated lifestyle adventures.
Emily is an internationally qualified sommelier, and one of only 149 individuals in the Americas to earn the designation of Master Sommelier. She is one of 15 professionals worldwide awarded the prestigious Remi Krug Cup for passing all three sections – theory, service and blind tasting – of the Master Sommelier Diploma Examination on her first attempt (most candidates sit for the exam two to three times, and some take it as many as six times). As one of only two women awarded the Remi Krug distinction (last one was given in 1986) Emily carries the flag for the next generation of sommeliers.
Prior to joining Cooper’s Hawk, Emily worked for Skipstone Winery, where she traveled the country to educate restaurant staff and host training sessions. She has also served as Senior Director of Beverage and Bars at Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants, where she oversaw the wine and spirits programming for 65 unique dining concepts across the U.S.
Emily began her career at San Francisco’s acclaimed Fifth Floor, and was integral to the restaurant’s receipt of Wine Spectator Magazine’s prestigious Grand Award, as well as its nomination from the James Beard Foundation for Outstanding Wine Service.
National Sales Director, Contiki
Ashley Woodring is the Director of Sales at Contiki Vacations. She is passionate about helping 18-35-year-old travel the world. She brings 10+ years of experience working and traveling with Contiki, having been a traveler prior to working for the brand. In her time with Contiki she has worked in reservations, operations, marketing, and sales. Including a year working in New Zealand, with the sales and marketing. She now leads the USA and Latin America sales team and manages all travel agency partnerships. She has traveled to over 50 countries and has Iceland at the top of her bucket list for 2018!