Stephen A. Baldi
Baldi Management Group
We recognize that to fully center diversity, equity, and inclusion in our work and values, we must foster a culture of belonging and create a restaurant and community where everyone feels connected and valued. In 2020, Farmers Restaurant Group (FRG) established the Council on Culture, a paid advisory group of community members, employees, and industry leaders who provide leadership, insights, and consultation on communications (internally and externally), talent recruitment, retention and career development, and community relations.
The Council on Culture meets bi-annually to help us define immediate and long-term measurable goals. It also creates a safe listening and learning environment and encourages the conversations that need to happen but, in many companies, don’t. Originally called our Council on Color, we changed our name in 2022 to Council on Culture at the recommendation of our members who felt it better represented the breadth of our efforts.
Members include people from within and outside our company to ensure we have a wide variety of perspectives and independent voices. We also have listening members from the Farmers Restaurant Group team who utilize the Council’s recommendations to develop company initiatives and report progress 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 that best describe Paris. As General Manager for us, she brings her “A” game to every shift every time. Paris steadily delivers exceptional hospitality and achieves excellence for our team and for our business.
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, as general manager, and supporting human resources and operations across all our restaurants, Paris has proven to be a steady force and integral part of our team.
Paris has a remarkable ease with people, staff, and guests alike, showing up time and again with her can-do attitude, great work ethic, and exceptional relationship-building talent. She has proven skill at creating a safe, healthy, and equitable work environment and a stable, committed team.
“One of the most important aspects of working in the hospitality industry,” says Paris, “is balancing the needs of the business with the needs of our 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.”
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.
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 and her passion and talent for hospitality.
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. Her career tells the story of a true hospitality professional, one who easily bridges the gap of operations, service, and management. After graduation, Melinda worked across our restaurants growing from server, bartender, head bartender, bar manager to the company-wide Beverage Operations Manager. Throughout her career with us, she was able to mix her lifelong hospitality experience with her thirst for providing guests with a truly unique bar experience.
A successful 20-year career managing and building better restaurants started on Lamont’s family farm where he had access to organic, field-fresh ingredients and a mom who could “make magic” in the kitchen.
His love for healthy, delicious food has been the driving force behind his impressive career.
Lamont graduated from East Carolina University where he studied Nutrition and Dietetics to learn everything he could about food and how it worked in the human body. Since high blood pressure and diabetes ran on both sides of his family, he knew if he could change the way food was prepared, it would lead to a healthier and more prosperous life.
No stranger to the hard work and discipline required by the restaurant business, Lamont worked as a server and caterer to put himself through college where he was also a Division 1 college football player. Lamont was offered his first management job at Red Lobster right out of college. Fast forward through successful jobs at Ruby Tuesdays, CiCi’s Pizza, and The Cheesecake Factory, Lamont continued to learn, grow, and thrive in the industry before landing with FRG.
As a Managing Partner for us, he works to uplift and inspire every person on his team to achieve success for themselves and the restaurant.
Farmers Restaurant Group
Ekundayo Platt is a restaurant manager 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
Chef Richard brings such expertise and passion for cooking to our team, we created a new role just for him. As our very first director of kitchen operations & people development, Chef Richard continues to lead his crews through all of the daily intricacies of running successful kitchens within a high-volume restaurant company such as ours, but he also now plays an integral role in our management team, helping to develop our people and bring new culinary talent to our kitchens.
Raised in the small town of Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico, Chef Richard was born into hospitality. His great-grandparents made their living selling food, his grandfather was a well-respected local restaurant owner, and his father a talented chef and restaurant owner as well. Chef Richard continues his family tradition today at Farmers Restaurant Group, where we support the shared values of family farming, service, and delicious food and drink made from scratch.
After graduating from Johnson & Wales University’s North Miami Campus, Chef Richard set out to learn and perfect his craft working alongside many of Miami’s top chefs and for some of Miami’s busiest, upscale hotel and hospitality kitchen operations.
A chance meeting with our very own Mike V, and the prospect of growing his culinary craft in the nation’s capital, was so appealing it led Chef Richard to move to DC and join our team.
“I love FRG, because here, we honor tradition. We don’t reinvent our cooking,” says Chef Richard. “Instead, we make it better than anyone else by sourcing great ingredients and cooking with a conscience. I’m proud to carry on my family’s culinary tradition here at FRG. And I am proud to be part of this team.”
KIPP DC College Preparatory
Stephanie Renee Young works in education as a Principal of a charter school in Washington, DC – KIPP DC College Preparatory for grades 9-12. An equitable, diverse, and affirming learning community, KIPP empowers students to develop the 21st-century skills necessary to pursue college, career, and choice-filled lives. They are focused on ensuring that as many Washingtonians as possible have access to a high-quality education and commit to building a strong, diverse community where everyone feels a sense of belonging.
Stephanie has been working with DC charter schools for years. She is extremely passionate about creating communities where all staff and students feel empowered, included, and joyful. Stephanie is a native of Buffalo, NY and attended college for her master’s degree at Canisius College before eventually moving to D.C. to continue a career in education. Where she also received her second master’s degree from Georgetown University.
Stephanie is also a Farmers Restaurant Group (FRG) fan for life. Her first encounter with FRG was at Founding Farmers in DC, and since that moment, she’s been hooked. What Stephanie loves most about FRG is the intersection of good food, good ethics, and a good cause — and that combination keeps her coming back. She is always looking for new ways to invite FRG’s team to speak with students and staff about the work they do.
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 Vice President 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
When it comes to restaurants, David feels at home in the kitchen and working with guests. At one point early in his career, he was both as a prep cook in one restaurant and a bartender in another.
For over 25 years, David has worked in the hospitality industry, beginning as a prep cook at 16 years old in a Maryland scratch kitchen and working his way up to management by the end high school. A graduate of the University of Maryland, David worked in restaurants through college, eventually landing at the Cheesecake Factory where he remained for nearly two decades. He held positions from server to senior general manager and is proud to say he has always been instrumental in helping his team reach their career goals, promoting countless managers, while managing a fast-paced restaurant.
In his career, David has become a dynamic, high-performing leader focused on raising standards in food quality and service, developing people, building strong company culture, ensuring exceptional safety and sanitation standards, and raising profit margins. His lifelong passion for food, people, and all things hospitality is a natural fit for FRG. “Throughout my years in the DMV, I have always been a big fan of the FRG restaurants. I am excited to join the company and help grow the brand.”
FRG Listening Member
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Kendra attended California State University where she studied Communication Theory and Theatre.
Some may say, the perfect complement to her success as managing partner, overseeing her Farmers Restaurant Group team and restaurant guests every day.
During her freshman year, Kendra took a job as a host for an upscale restaurant group and soon moved up through the group’s ranks and into the industry that would become her career.
A move to New York City kept her with the company, and soon Kendra was offered a management position. During the decade that followed, Kendra continued developing her industry skillset, learning from her diverse experience within the group, and growing in the ranks of senior management.
Kendra joined FRG in 2012 as general operations manager for our flagship Founding Farmers in Washington, D.C., then moved stores to become general manager of Farmers Fishers Bakers. By the summer of 2014, Kendra was promoted to managing partner, where she has met the demands of the job and continues to thrive.
Her drive to rise above and learn from challenges with grace and ease is what makes Kendra a success. Her love for what the dining table represents shines through to her guests and team every day.
In witnessing the thousands of guests that come into her restaurant each week to share a meal, whether business related, a gathering of friends, a first date, or a family affair, she relishes in those shared experiences and seeing guests brought together at our table, enjoying our food and drink.
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.