About Us

Behind the Mic

Lauren Wion​

Lauren Wion

Show Host

Lauren is a multimedia journalist and producer specializing in new media platforms, with a BS in Broadcasting and Advertising/Public Relations.  She has worked in national news and content syndication for over 5 years honing her skills in online and television as a camera operator, editor, and producer for national and international news affiliates. Lauren’s passion for food and nutrition inspired her to obtain a Nutrition & Wellness Consultant Certification through AFPA. Her combined skills of visual storytelling, digital marketing, copywriting, and nutrition provide a unique viewpoint on the foodservice industry.

Chef Matthew Luaders

Matthew Luaders

Culinary Research & Development Manager CSSI Marketing + Culinary, A Marlin Network Agency

Matthew Luaders manages CSSI’s manufacturer clients’ research and development initiatives, developing unique menu concepts for top chains. Matt received a Certificate in Professional Cooking from the New England Culinary Institute before furthering his education at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. There he earned two degrees: an Associate in Occupational Studies in Culinary Arts and a Bachelor of Professional Studies in Culinary Arts Management.

Matt’s culinary journey has followed a distinct pattern—Northeast, Midwest, Northeast, Midwest—starting in Vermont, where he worked in high-end resort restaurants while helping to run a family bed and breakfast. He moved back to Wisconsin and served three years as the executive chef of Patina at the CopperLeaf, a boutique hotel. After Matt completed his program at the CIA, he moved to Chicago and cooked in the kitchens of The Drawing Room and Japonais. Most recently he worked for Compass Group, managing daily dining and private catering for contract customers in the B&I segment.

Chef Thomas Talbert

Thomas Talbert, RD

Vice President, Culinary Marketing CSSI Marketing + Culinary, A Marlin Network Agency

As head of the culinary strategy and marketing team at CSSI, Thomas Talbert leads a team of chefs and account planners in creative culinary development and innovation for the foodservice industry. Thomas, a Registered Dietician, has years of experience in the foodservice industry, with a multidimensional background in culinary arts, product development and dietetics. Thomas has worked at an assortment of fine and casual dining restaurants, consulted with the industry’s leading manufacturers and operators, and led product innovation and introductions into the retail channel. He is a graduate of Johnson & Wales University, where he earned an associate’s degree in Culinary Arts and a bachelor’s degree in Culinary Nutrition. Thomas is also a graduate of the dietetics program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Katie Thompson

Katie Thompson

Owner/Operator; Hank’s Texas Barbecue

Katie Thompson owns and operates Hank’s Texas Barbecue in Denver with her partner, Chris Nicki, also the Pitmaster at Hank’s. The restaurant, which has been open for just over a year, specializes in barbecue and smoked meats. Previous to starting her restaurant, Thompson spent time at a foodservice marketing agency where she worked hand-in-hand with chefs, helping to develop new concepts for menus.

Nico Nieto

Nico Nieto

VP Marketing & Brand, Roti Modern Mediterranean

Nico is the VP of Brand and Marketing at Roti Modern Mediterranean, a successful 42 location growing fast casual concept, where he is bringing his experience and passion for human-centric thinking to transform the ways the business serves their customers everyday. 

Jason Foster

Jason Foster

Founder/Owner, Groundswell Coffee Roasters

Jason Foster has spent 17 years in food service, 11 of them in coffee.  He is the founder, and owner/operator of Groundswell coffee roasters in Chicago.  Groundswell has three cafe locations and a roastery/wholesale business.

Kyle Noonan

Kyle Noonan

Founder, Free Range Concepts

Kyle Noonan is the founder of Free Range Concepts, which operates multiple restaurants in the state of Texas including Bowl and Barrel, Mutts Canine Cantina, The Rustic and The General Public. An entrepreneur, speaker, television personality, and creative tastemaker, Kyle is known as an innovative entrepreneur who grew his hospitality and entertainment company to a $50mm company in five short years.

Tim Bade

Tim Bade

Chief Creative Director, Marlin Network

As Marlin Network’s creative lead, Tim fosters an open environment with a cross-functional creative team made up of storytellers, technologists and motion-media experts. Tim believes in the blending of technology and creativity applied to simple ideas that break through the clutter and create real impact for brands. His 29 years in food and beverage branding have earned him plenty of awards, but Tim is most proud of work that works.

Chef Jess Bograd

Jessica Bograd

Director of Culinary Research & Development, CSSI Marketing + Culinary, A Marlin Network Agency

As Director of Culinary R&D at CSSI, Jessica Bograd specializes in insights-based culinary strategy, ideation and menu concept development. She leads a team of chefs who work hand-in-hand with industry-leading manufactures and foodservice operators to help execute on-trend menu development processes. Jessica is a long-time competition BBQ pit master and award-winning culinary competition chef.

Chef Charles Dotorre

Charles Dottore

Associate Director, Culinary Research & Development, CSSI Marketing + Culinary, A Marlin Network Agency

Chef Charles Dottore brings his culinary arts and product development experience to everything he does at CSSI. Charles graduated from Johnson & Wales University with an A.S. in Culinary Arts and a B.S. in Culinary Nutrition, Food Science and Product Development. During his time at Johnson & Wales, Charles planned and executed private events for the university as a Culinary Events Teaching Assistant. In addition to his degrees, Charles was a member of the Research Chef Association’s competition team, winning first place in the 2015 RCA Student Culinology Competition. Before coming to CSSI, Charles worked as a lead line chef at a popular Chicago restaurant.

Chef Renee Howarth

Renée Howarth

Associate Research & Development Chef, CSSI Marketing + Culinary, A Marlin Network Agency

Chef Renée Howarth comes to CSSI with an unconventional background; she graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a B.S. in Environmental Science focused in sustainable agriculture and food systems. Renée spent many years in the farm-to-table space: growing food and raising livestock, managing retail spaces, writing recipes, teaching cooking classes, and educating other farmers and artisans on creating stronger marketing strategies. She is currently the Chair of Education and Outreach for the Green City Market Associate Board, is a member of the women in food group Cherry Bombe and has acted as a moderator and speaker for different Chicago events, including the Good Food Festival. Renée’s background and understanding of the living nature of the food system provide a unique prospective to the foodservice industry.

Chef Peter Thornhill

Peter Thornhill

Associate Director of Culinary Research & Development, CSSI Marketing + Culinary, A Marlin Network Agency

Born and raised in the Kansas City area, cooking became a facet in Peter Thornhill’s life at an early age. Since his first day of work at age 14, he has never strayed far from the world of food. Peter is a proud graduate of the University of Kansas and Kendall College. He has worked in a variety of restaurants, catering operations and corporate kitchens for the last 14 years. When not in the kitchen at CSSI, you are likely to find him delivering speeches at friends’ weddings, traveling the country in search of new food adventures or cheering on his beloved alma mater in basketball (ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK!).

Aviva Goldfarb

Aviva Goldfarb

Director of Marketing for Marquis & Co

Aviva Goldfarb is the director of marketing for Marquis & Co, a woman-owned plant-based restaurant group with 3 brands and 9 restaurants in Philadelphia and DC, including HipCityVeg, Puerto Rican inspired Bar Bombón, and the moody vegan cocktail lounge, Charlie was a sinner.  Aviva helps restaurants and other food and beverage related ventures build sales, market themselves more effectively, and connect with and build their communities through successful events, media relations, and marketing strategy. She is the founder of The Scramble meal planner, a four-time cookbook author, a business coach for female entrepreneurs, and a freelance writer about food and travel. 

Drew Kellogg

Drew Kellogg

President and CEO of Oath Pizza

Drew Kellogg is the President and CEO of Oath Pizza. Originally from Seattle, Drew attended the United States Naval Academy and served overseas before earning his MBA from Johns Hopkins University. After working as a financial advisor for various national medical companies, Drew returned to operational leadership at Chipotle Mexican Grill in 2008. Drew served as the Executive Team Director of the Mid-Atlantic Region for nearly a decade, leading all operational, financial and team developments for over 300 restaurants and 7,000 employees.

Drew joined Oath Pizza in 2018, and brought his years of executive leadership experience to the rapidly evolving company. Drew now drives Oath Pizza’s strategic vision with his purpose-driven and talented team. Together, they are growing Oath Pizza into a robust national brand and are working to make a positive impact on the world through the 100% feel-good pizza they serve every day. In addition to serving his company, teams and community, Drew can be found spending time with his family and training for his next triathlon.

Nick Kokonas

Nick Kokonas

CEO and Founder of Tock

Nick brings domain expertise and 20+ years of founders level entrepreneurial experiences across several industries. Nick spent a decade as a founding partner in a proprietary derivatives trading firm specializing in equity, currency, and yield-curve options and futures. Pricing and market discovery is in his DNA. Nick Co-Owns the Alinea Group of restaurants which he co-founded in 2004:  Michelin 3-star Alinea, and four other award winning restaurants and bars which have won 12 James Beard Awards, Best Restaurants in the US awards, and many others. In 2014 he founded Tock, Inc., a cloud based reservation system which now serves over 5,000 restaurants and wineries in 28 countries.

Brandon Wise

Brandon Wise

VP of Beverage Operations at Sage Hospitality Group

As Vice President of Beverage Operations with Sage Hospitality Group, Brandon Wise oversees their corporate beverage program, bar layout and design, menu design, as well as training award winning bar teams. Since joining in 2014 Brandon has opened more than 25 bars, restaurants and cafés with Sage Restaurant Concepts.

Lauren Klein

Lauren Klein

VP of Culinary Strategy at CSSI Marketing + Culinary

Lauren Klein is the Vice President of Culinary Strategy at CSSI Marketing + Culinary, where she has spent the last ten years consulting on menu strategy and product innovation with some of the largest global food and beverage brands. A classically trained chef with degree from The Culinary Institute of America, she brings years of foodservice experience with restaurants, hotels and multi-unit operators. Lauren is deeply passionate about food culture and specializes creating consumer connections through curated food and beverage experiences.

About Our Show

Produced by the Marlin Network in association with Foodable, this podcast and toolkit series exists to bring the foodservice industry real help, right now. With a focus on truly actionable resources, we hope to do our part to help restaurants reopen, adapt and thrive.

The podcast will bring together some of the top minds in the industry to discuss the topics impacting businesses today as well as providing solutions to help ensure a successful future. The toolkits are packed with insights, guides and usable content to help operators navigate current disruptions and be prepared for new guest expectations and behaviors.

Marlin Network is defined by being an unafraid, courageously optimistic group fully committed to each project they touch — ready to learn from every experience. Restaurant H.E.L.P. is their effort to make a positive impact on a foodservice landscape that’s currently undergoing this unexpected shift.

Foodable is a media organization that’s leveraging the power of social, mobile and new media distribution to help spread Restaurant H.E.L.P. content to as many operators as possible. 


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