Stephen A. Baldi
Baldi Management Group
In 2020, we established our Council on Color, a paid advisory group with quarterly meetings to provide insights and education on human resources, employee relations, communication (internally and externally), career development, and our communities. We recognize that to ensure diversity, inclusion, and equality of people of color or any potentially marginalized person or peoples, we need systemic equality – which can only be accomplished through giving a stage and a microphone to those who can alert us to our blind spots. Our Council on Color provides a safe environment for us to learn, grow, and be better as a company and to encourage the conversations that often need to happen but don’t. Council members include people from within and outside of our company to ensure we have a wide variety of perspectives and independent voices. We also have listening members from the Farmers Restaurant Group (FRG) team who utilize the Council recommendations to develop company initiatives and report progress quarterly to the Council.
Baldi Management Group
Stephen A. Baldi is the Founder and President of Baldi Management Group (BMG), a company that specializes in airport concessions management and development, with annual company revenues of $11M, which was formed in 2008. BMG’s concession portfolio consists of 4 national franchise brands including Dunkin Donuts (6), Jamba Juice (1), Smashburger (1), and Potbelly (2), which operate across three Airports (JFK, DCA, and IAD).
From the inception of BMG, Stephen has been the hands-on Leader of the company, working directly in day-to-day operation for the first 5 years of the company. Since that time, he has built a team of exceptional food and beverage professionals and is intentional about seeing each of the company’s employees thrive. Whether it is personally conducting an interview of a potential hourly employee candidate, working the shake station, or mapping the development plan for a member of the management team, Stephen’s role in BMG is active, intentional, and meaningful.
Prior to BMG, Stephen was the General Manager of Airport Concessions at Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA) for Westfield, a global retail developer, from June 2005 to July 2008. During his tenure at DCA, he oversaw a $40M redevelopment project of the 28 retail and 32 food & beverage location program. In 2008, DCA was ranked as a North American Top 10 airport, with annual sales in excess of $80M. In 2007 & 2008, AX magazine recognized DCA as the “Best Concessions Management team” for medium sized airports under his leadership. A graduate of the Emmitt McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University, Stephen has been a DC resident since 1994, and is the proud father of three children Elizabeth (21), Langston (20), and Justice (3).
Farmers Restaurant Group
Talented, enthusiastic, dedicated, approachable… just some of the attributes our team use to describe Paris. Every day. Every shift. Paris brings her A game to her team, her restaurant, and our guests.
Part of our Farmers Restaurant Group family since we opened our doors in 2008, Paris arrived ready to jump right in at Founding Farmers DC. With experience working in hospitality since age 14 and after attending the University of Maryland, Paris made her mark from day one. Whether serving up our award-winning cocktails as a bartender, working on our busy service floors, heading up our front of house, and now as general manager, Paris has proven to be a steady force and integral part of our team. She has a remarkable ease with staff and guests alike, showing up time and again with her can-do attitude and great work ethic.
Paris strives for excellence across operations, which can be seen in all she puts forth: quality of food, drink, and service; a clean, safe, and healthy environment; profitability; strong relationships within the community; guest trust and loyalty; and a stable, committed team.
“One of the most important aspects of being a general manager,” says Paris, “is balancing the needs of the business with the needs of my people. Making sure the team feels happy and appreciated every day is always my end goal, as I believe a positive environment transfers into a welcoming, consistent experience for our guests, and one where they want to come back to again and again.”
It is a lofty goal, but since the start, we have watched Paris steadily deliver exceptional hospitality and achieve excellence for our team and for our business. We have no doubt that Paris will keep working to perfect that balance.
Farmers Restaurant Group
A Washington, D.C. native, Shanise Boyd has been working in the restaurant industry since she was a teenager. Her first job at age 17 was as a hostess at Zengo, working with critically acclaimed chef and international hospitality industry leader, Richard Sandovol.
Shanise has worked for Farmers Restaurant Group since May 2016. She started as a front desk host and quickly moved to coordinator, supervisor, and then front of house manager in our restaurants across the District. In the fall of 2017, Shanise moved to the Philadelphia area to help lead the opening team for Founding Farmers King of Prussia. She is now the Service Manager at this Pennsylvania location.
Shanise loves working in hospitality. Her passion is to create memorable experiences for the guest.
Stacks and the City
Based in Washington, D.C., Ashley Copeland is a financial literacy expert that focuses on educating professional millennial women of color on how to create financial security with limited resources. She hosts a podcast called Stacks and the City which boasts over 30,000 downloads.
Raised by a single mother in rural North Carolina, Ashley learned early about how money can affect your way of life. She avidly read about personal finance and homeownership throughout her teens and twenties. As a result, Ashley used $10,000 saved from hours of serving tables and college refund checks to open her first investment account at the age of 21. Three years later, Ashley then purchased her first investment home and her second the following year with money she continued to steadfastly save from working two jobs. Ashley proudly worked as a server trainer for six years at Founding Farmers and Farmers & Distillers and greatly attributes her experiences there for her financial success. She is a graduate of Duke University with a Bachelor of Arts in History.
DC School Counselor
Denisha Davenport considers D.C. and Maryland her home after spending her younger years traveling with her military family, including living in over five states before the age of 12. She studied public health at the University of Maryland College Park and entered the educational field where she has taught 3-5th grade, mentored high school students at Howard UPWARD Bound, and acted as Site Director for enriched afterschool programs for students at various charter schools in the DMV area. Denisha finished her dual masters for School Counseling and Clinical Mental Health at Trinity Washington University in 2018 with a concentration in Urban Counseling. She is currently working as a school counselor in Southeast DC.
Denisha stands proudly in her purpose of empowering the power within youth. When she is not being a superhero at her job, she continues to support and advocate for all things LGBTQUIA as a contributor and radio host for Inside Out Radio on WPFW 89.3. She enjoys sleeping, all forms of music, dancing, playing with her amazing niece, and watching Peppa Pig with kids at the school.
LINK Strategic Partners
Jamal Holtz is a Project Manager and Assistant to the President at LINK Strategic Partners. A native Washingtonian, Jamal grew up in Ward 8 of Washington, D.C. He is a graduate from the University of Rochester where he designed his own major, a combination of Social Justice and Policy Making.
Jamal has a wide breadth of experience working with community leaders, non-profits, elected leaders, and government officials. At LINK, he helps lead the firm’s DC portfolio and has experience working on national & local political and issue-based campaigns. He has extensive local government experience from working at numerous District agencies, such as in the DC Mayor’s Office of Community Relations and Services as Community Outreach Assistant, as well
as a stint as a Program Assistant at the DC Department of Employment Services. In the Mayor’s Office, Jamal handled constituent services, identified issues facing District residents, and connected residents to agencies, offices, and other officials to create resolutions for communal issues. These issues varied from streetlight malfunction, potholes, unemployment, community needs, and many others. Additional work experience includes working on numerous political campaigns as a Field Director, Campaign Manager, and Organizer.
In his civic work, Jamal currently serves on the Mayor’s Board of Commission on Juvenile Justice, where he advises the Mayor and legislature on juvenile issues, provides active consultation to the government and private agencies, and assists in monitoring all juvenile detention and correction facilities and community-based programs to ensure compliance fits the needs of youth. In addition, serving as a volunteer and advocate for 51 for 51—a national engagement and D.C. Statehood campaign that works with local youth in the District, to push the needle across the nation to talk about DC Statehood.
During Jamal’s academic career, he served as President for the Student Association Government, being the first black student president in over two decades. As President, Jamal achieved many initiatives that focused on expanding access, building equity, creating inclusive communities, and strengthening community presence. Jamal plans to continue pursuing his passion for community and public service.
Farmers Restaurant Group
Melinda still remembers sitting in her highchair, positioned next to the cash register, in her parents’ restaurant. Watching her family welcome guests, staff serving delicious food & drink, and feeling the palpable excitement of it all, gave her a special bird’s eye view of her future.
These roots can be readily seen in Melinda’s passion and talent for hospitality. Whether training the bar team, developing strong working relationships with vendors, or working to perfect our beverage offerings, Melinda does it all with confidence and ease.
Melinda’s first job outside of the family business was at age 14 serving pastries, cakes, and authentic French desserts in a local patisserie. She continued her hospitality journey while attending The George Washington University as a full-time student working at restaurants on campus and across Washington, D.C. During this time, she discovered, and quickly fell in love with, our famous Farmers Market Brunch. After graduation, Melinda went from fan to part of our Farmers Restaurant Group family.
Her career tells the story of a true hospitality professional, one who easily bridges the gap of operations, service, and management. Melinda has worked as a server, bartender, head bartender, and bar manager across our stores. Navigating the nuances of each restaurant and our in-house distillery, Founding Spirits, Melinda has made each transition seamlessly while gaining essential experience along the way to further her career.
As head bartender, Melinda’s initiative and knowledge of our guests led her to expand our beer offerings with exciting, thoughtful craft selections. She worked with like-minded partners that align with our company’s small-batch, source-matters mission and built our award-winning beer program.
In her multifaceted role as Beverage Operations Director, Melinda is able to mix her lifelong hospitality experience with her thirst for providing guests with a truly unique bar experience. Working across all of our restaurants, Melinda oversees our bar teams and the business of bar operations from costing to training and development. She also continues to manage and develop our beer program and bar menus with ease, passion, and talent, not to mention being able to pour the perfect pint.
Farmers Restaurant Group
Rizza Leguro is the Service Manager at Founding Farmers Tysons and has been working with Farmers Restaurant Group for more than eight years. Her goal is to keep learning and become a General Manager. And, as she says, to maybe get a cute puppy somewhere along the way.
Rizza was nominated and is a finalist for the 2020 RAMMY Award: Manager of the Year. This annual restaurant and hospitality award from Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington is given to a manager who displays the highest level of professionalism and leadership and is an inspiration and mentor displaying outstanding service, an excellent work ethic, and a positive image.
It is no surprise that Rizza loves working with her team, reflecting that being part of someone else’s personal growth is particularly humbling. She says that no two days are the same and loves how the job keeps her on her toes.
Rizza has had the privilege to be surrounded by diversity her whole life, offering her the chance to experience different cultures and cuisines. Born in the Philippines, Rizza grew up in Montgomery County, Maryland. Her family is very close knit, all living within a 30-minute drive from each other.
Rizza has an interesting obsession with pineapples, although she is allergic to them, which she thinks is strangely perfect since they are the symbol for hospitality.
Farmers Restaurant Group
Ekundayo Platt is a server at Founding Farmers DC, where he delivers unforgettable customer service from start to finish and also helps train and develop new servers on how to fulfill the high expectations of our guests. Working for Founding Farmers for more than four years, Ekundayo enjoys the fast-paced environment and loves giving every guest the best experience they can have, taking great pride in helping guests choose a drink or food item that they will remember.
As a former international student mentor at Iowa State University, Ekundayo understands the importance of creating an inclusive environment and fostering relationships with people from all types of backgrounds and ethnic groups. He is an alumna of a Historically Black College and University (HBCU), Savannah State University, with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry.
Ekundayo also works at Hillcrest Children and Family Center as a residential aide. He grew up in Dover, Delaware and ran varsity cross country in high school. He loves sports, Delaware NBA basketball, and any conversations about Game of Thrones.
From Washington, D.C. by way of Norfolk, Virginia, Torrence Swain has worked in the hospitality industry since 2009. He is a well-known cocktail creator and enthusiast and has been working throughout his career to mentor and advocate for inclusion in the bar industry.
Torrence worked as a bartender for Farmers Restaurant Group from 2012-2015 and for Bourbon Steak from 2015-2018. He is certified in spirits through the Bar 5-Day Program, known internationally as the most comprehensive distilled spirits and mixology program. Currently the East Coast Director of Sales for Silencio Mezcal, Torrence has been working for the brand since 2014 and spends about half of every month traveling.
When he’s not making or selling great drinks, Torrence is enjoying the Marvel universe and Star Wars. He considers himself an audiophile, listening to about eight hours of music a day. He has two sons, Dameaon and Parker.
Farmers Restaurant Group
Lawrence Randall Parham, called Randall, grew up in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, as the oldest of four siblings. While studying business management at Howard University, he picked up a second job as a server for Farmers Restaurant Group and fell in love with the company culture and management. He decided to make hospitality his full-time career.
Randall lives in the district and stays active with his nearby family and friends and sets up weekly exercise challenges to keep everyone active. He loves to read and has been educating himself on racial inequality and topics to help his community grow and strengthen.
Diversity Training Group
Ana L. Ramírez-Sáenz is the Vice President of Research and the Vice President of Spanish Translation Services for Diversity Training Group. For over 15 years, she has been instrumental in their diversity, equity, and inclusion assessment and survey practice, leading executives through a cultural transformation process to develop inclusive, equitable, and welcoming work environments. She believes this can only be achieved through fostering an open, positive, and respectful culture where all are accepted, valued, and able to contribute to their full potential.
Considered a thought leader with hands-on practical experience, Ana has worked with C-Suite leadership of Fortune 500 companies as a management consultant, strategist, executive coach, learning and development professional, and cross-cultural communicator. She has established expertise in organizational development climate assessments, diversity, inclusion, and cultural intelligence.
Ana has facilitated comprehensive development programs for thousands of participants from the shop floor to the board room across industries – healthcare, pharmaceuticals, financial and manufacturing, retail, technology, and education. She has been a featured speaker on diversity, inclusion, cultural Intelligence, cross cultural communication, leading through effective communication, cultural competence in healthcare, role of culture and language in global companies, and other business topics.
A graduate of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, Ana holds an MBA in Corporate Finance, a BA in Spanish and Linguistics, and studied at the Ibero-Amerciana University, Mexico City, Mexico. She is bilingual and bicultural, fluent in Spanish and English. She was the 2020 Athena Leadership Award finalist; 2017 Hispanic Businessperson of the Year; 2016 Most Influential Women in West Michigan Honoree; and the 2016 Alas Latina Women Owned Business of the Year.
FRG Listening Member
Within the industry and among his own team, Dan is known for his energetic leadership style and passion for hospitality. An impressive career in the management ranks at several large, high-volume restaurants helped propel him toward starting his own firm, Vucurevich Simons Advisory Group (VSAG), which he founded in 2004 with mentor Michael Vucurevich. The two form a well-balanced partnership based on mutual respect and a shared vision that proved critical in their formation of Farmers Restaurant Group (FRG), which began with the first Founding Farmers in 2008.
As Co-Owner and skilled communicator, Dan is frequently called upon to serve as the voice of FRG’s growing collection of sustainable, farmer-owned restaurants. Every day, he works to educate guests and the media about the importance of family farming and sustainable operations, to share his hospitality industry and management expertise, and encourage responsible industry practices. He blogs regularly @Dan Simons Says about restaurants and hospitality, personal productivity and time management, developing partnerships and brands, environmental issues, and a range of other topics that capture his attention.
Always out in front for FRG, Dan was named Ernst & Young’s 2018 Entrepreneur of The Year Mid-Atlantic for his business acumen, novel approaches, and success.
He is the founder of Our Last Straw, a non-profit company devoted to eliminating the use of plastic straws and raising awareness about the environmental and health hazards of single-use plastics. Dan launched Our Last Straw to bring together a coalition of restaurant and hospitality industry partners with government leaders and NGOs to lead the charge for change.
FRG Listening Member
Michael Vucurevich (also affectionately known to our team as “Mike V”) is one of the industry’s most respected restaurant concept developers for his knowledge of every aspect of the business, from brand creation to profitability.
Since the age of 19, when he ran his first high-volume kitchen, Mike V has helped some of America’s best-known restaurants evolve and succeed.
Through his restaurant consulting firm, Vucurevich Simons Advisory Group (VSAG), formed in 2004 with partner Dan Simons, Mike V pursues many projects with a hands-on approach. As co-owner and visionary leader behind the Farmers Restaurant Group concepts, he and Dan oversee the restaurant brand’s growth, as well as its daily operations.
Mike V has enjoyed living in and traveling to many of our nation’s destinations, enabling him to experience local cuisines and be inspired by them when creating the delicious, diverse, and interesting menu offerings FRG has become known for.
FRG Listening Member
Since joining FRG in 2008, Meaghan has tackled every job with tenacity, enthusiasm, confidence, and smarts.
As the company has grown, so too has Meaghan’s role, or should we say… her many roles. Her trajectory reads like a lesson in how to succeed in the restaurant business.
It all began with a cold call. After reading an online job posting by one of our co-owners, she thought the time was right for a new experience in a new city. Growing up outside of Boston, Meaghan earned a degree from the McColl School of Business at Queens University in Charlotte, NC, and was looking to make a move to our nation’s capital.
Meaghan made the call, joined Farmers Restaurant Group, and soon become a clear company asset. Quickly moving from front desk coordinator to front desk manager to bar manager to senior service manager to general manager, she didn’t stop there. Transitioning out of operations, Meaghan became the company’s marketing & communications manager then director, and now serves as vice president of our growing marketing & communications team.
Every position has required commitment and the ability to plow through the infamous long hours of the restaurant industry. For Meaghan, it has been well worth it. “While in operations,” she says, “I didn’t always love the hours. I said in my initial interview that I didn’t want to become a general manager, but what kept me around was that I loved the people I worked with. I had found a team that I knew was just as invested in me as I was in them. At the end of the day, even the really hard ones, because let’s face it, they exist,” she says, “I truly love the work I do and the people I get to work with.”
FRG Listening Member
Service. Engagement. Connection. Just some of the words Jillian uses to describe her professional HR philosophy.
Jillian’s first job, in specialty retail during high school in her native Buffalo, NY, sparked her love for customer service. The engagement and hospitality aspects of the job spoke to her and later helped her decide to pursue a degree in Psychology from the University at Buffalo. Further forging her professional path, Jillian also earned an MBA in Human Resources Management from Niagara University.
A wide range of work experience followed. From retail management to HR facilities business partner to director of HR for a premier catering company to HR hospitality consultant to regional HR director for a national wireless dealer, Jillian’s depth of expertise has led her to our FRG family.
As director of HR, Jillian established our company-wide, in-house Human Resources services. As she continues to grow our HR program from the ground up, Jillian trains our staff with this philosophy: If we take care of our people, they will remain engaged in and committed to supporting our company culture, overall mission, and serving guests with expertise. In turn, not only will our business flourish, but most importantly, so too will our people.
FRG Listening Member
Daisy Whittemore is the Director of Writing and Content Development for Farmers Restaurant Group. She creates written content for the company’s websites, marketing & training materials, and menus, and shares the company’s mission-driven messages through storytelling. Daisy started part time for the company in 2016 to help with the new Farmers & Distillers website. That project led to several more, and then others, and soon she became known across the company as “the do’er of all things written.”
Her communications career includes ten years at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), where she ran public health campaigns and outreach initiatives including “Got Milk?” and “Back to Sleep.” Daisy built Institute publication portfolios based on her evaluations, public need, and agency mission, and ran focus groups to determine the best communications strategies and outlets for hard-to-reach populations. She became the Director of the Outreach Partnership Program, enlisting national and state organizations to help bridge the gap between research and clinical practice by disseminating the latest scientific findings and working to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. She was awarded the Secretary’s Award by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and a Presidential Citation by the American Psychological Association for her public health education and outreach programs.
Daisy began her own communications company in 2007 and continued working primarily to translate scientific research, improve patient care, and expand access to accurate health information for the public, health practitioners, professional and advocacy groups, and the media.
Also a yoga teacher, Daisy spent years as an avid daily practitioner, blogger, and #YogaNag. She has taught for Maryland studios and private clients, published articles on elephantjournal.com and her own blog, and intermittently still writes about yoga, life, taking care of ourselves, and working to find more moments of pause in our lives.
FRG Listening Member
Cherie’s love of food and beverages as craft are inspired by her family and her hometown of New Orleans. She started cooking when she was six years old. For her, food equals family gatherings and fun. As her forty-year career in the hospitality industry and continued love for cooking can attest, it was an early love that lasted.
Cherie began as a dishwasher and worked across all aspects of restaurant operations for nearly 20 years before landing in her true passion, developing people, hospitality leaders, and learning systems. She has expertise implementing sophisticated training and internal communication administration to cultivate cross-functional teams, efficient programs, and leadership development. Her most recent position was Vice President for Strategic Implementation and Training at On the Border.
With a passion for principle-centered leadership, Cherie is a natural fit with Farmers Restaurant Group. She has worked for us over the years as a contactor, helping to develop our learning programs and brand content. Now in-house, she has taken the lead in building our cross-company training and development systems, building new communication methods to reach all employees with news and targeted learning modules. She also leads our restaurant openings.
Cherie graduated from the University of New Orleans with a BS in Business Management. As a lifelong student and now also a teacher, when she’s not working, Cherie enjoys practicing her golf game and trying to teach her foster-failure pack of eight dogs new tricks.