Culinary Conversations series resumes in person


Four panelists will discuss their journeys as influential women in the food industry at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market next week.

After being held virtually since early 2020, the Culinary Conversation speaker series will return to in-person events with a panel of female business owners and chefs from 5-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 9, at the Downtown Market, at 435 Ionia Ave. SW in Grand Rapids.

“Culinary Conversations: Female Food Industry Leaders” will be held in the second-floor greenhouse at the market.

In observance of Women’s History Month, the panelists have been invited to share how they have started and grown their businesses in West Michigan with support from the community and their peers.

The panel discussion will be moderated by Chef Jenn Struick (formerly Fillenworth), executive chef of Root Farmacy, personal chef for her brand Jenny with the Good Eats, and adjunct instructor for the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education.

The all-female panel includes Mallory Squibb, co-owner of Squibb Coffee and Wine Bar; Chef Tressa Johnson, sous chef at the Fulton Street Pub and Grill; Marisela Sierra, third-generation owner at Navarro’s; and Kalene McElveen, owner of Tastefull Vegan Desserts.

Squibb began her food and hospitality journey after graduating from the University of Michigan and falling in love with coffee, wine and food. She moved back to Grand Rapids to start Squibb Coffee & Wine Bar in 2016, recently expanding to her third location in the Downtown Market.

Johnson is a 29-year-old chef born and raised in Grand Rapids. During her 13 years of experience, she has specialized in vegetarian cooking and currently serves scratch-made vegan and traditional pub fare at Fulton Street Pub and Grill.

McElveen has spent over 20 years working with individuals to embrace healthy eating and live healthy lifestyles. Along with being the owner of Tastefull Vegan Desserts, she also is a published cookbook author and social media influencer.

Sierra is the third-generation owner of Navarro’s, a small Mexican takeout restaurant in Muskegon Heights that specializes in stone-ground corn tamales. She said she is proud to own and operate a woman- and minority-led business, continuing to grow her mother’s legacy.

The Culinary Conversations series is a peer-to-peer collaboration and networking group for West Michigan’s food industry professionals, including growers, producers, chefs, bartenders, restaurant owners, entrepreneurs and others, intended to strengthen Grand Rapids’ regional food system. Led by the Downtown Market, Culinary Conversations is a partnership between Start Garden, Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (GROW) and Michigan State University Extension.

Those who wish to attend the free event are asked to RSVP here.

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