Midwest-raised, James Beard Award-winning Chef Chris Shepherd has helped change the landscape of the Houston culinary scene since opening Underbelly in 2012. He built the restaurant to support the Houston food community and its suppliers by buying local and drawing inspiration from the people and cultures that live in the city. Thanks to Chris’ vision and passion, Underbelly was a James Beard Award semifinalist for Best New Restaurant, was named one of the best new restaurants in the country by Bon Appetit and Esquire and was named one of 38 essential restaurants in America by Eater. Chris was named one of the 10 Best New Chefs in America by Food & Wine in 2013 and was then awarded the 2014 James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southwest.
In 2018, he closed Underbelly to expand his Underbelly Hospitality restaurant group, which includes Georgia James steakhouse—named the Best New Restaurant in Texas by Texas Monthly and one of the Best New Restaurants in America by GQ and Robb Report; Georgia James Tavern, and Underbelly Burger. Underbelly Hospitality will open Wild Oats, a fresh take on traditional Texas cuisine, and Pastore, a red sauce Italian restaurant, in 2022.
Chris was a semifinalist for the James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef in 2019 and was named Robb Report‘s Chef of the Year the same year. Chris’ first cookbook, Cook Like a Local: Flavors that Will Change the Way You Cook—and See the World, was published by Clarkson Potter in September 2019 and was nominated for a 2020 James Beard Foundation Book Award.
Chris began his fine dining career at Brennan’s of Houston, where he spent seven years in the kitchen and then ran the wine program for two. He left Brennan’s in 2006 to open Catalan Food & Wine, which was named one of Esquire’s Best New Restaurants in America that same year.
Chris’ foundation Southern Smoke has distributed more than $9.8 million directly to people in the food and beverage industry in need via the Emergency Relief Fund.
Lindsey Brown launched Lindsey Brown Public Relations in 2016 to utilize her knowledge and experience to promote businesses that share her business philosophy of hard work and innovation. Prior to starting her firm, she was the public relations and events director for Clumsy Butcher, a restaurant and bar collective in Houston. Prior to joining Clumsy Butcher, Brown was director of marketing and public relations for the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau for 10 years. She launched the Where the Chefs Eat Houston Culinary Tours program—winner of the Public Relations Society of America’s Silver Anvil Award in 2011—and worked with local, regional and national media to further Houston’s reputation as a tourist destination.
Brown graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in public relations. She began her career at Vollmer Public Relations in both the company’s Dallas and Houston offices. She also served as the special projects coordinator for the Houston Ballet Academy; a trained ballerina through age 18, Brown later would go on to co-found the Houston Ballet’s young professionals group, Ballet Barre, which has more than 200 members in its sixth year. She continues to support the organization as a member of the Board of Trustees and serves on the advisory board of Hermann Park Conservancy.
Petter Aa. Pettersen, a native Norwegian turned Texan, graduated from the University of Oslo with a Master of Law. During his 12-year career with AIG, he relocated from Oslo, Norway to Houston in 2011. He quickly fell in love with Houston’s vast and diverse culinary community, having worked and managed events in the hospitality industry for several years in Norway while in law school. Petter now considers Houston his home with his wife and two rescue dogs and currently holds a Global Product Executive and local leadership role with AIG, focused on catastrophic insurance within the energy industry.
He is an avid outdoorsman and also holds board positions with two private companies in addition to serving as a planning committee member for the Houston Marine & Energy Insurance Conference.
Dr. Kevin Gee is a native Houstonian who graduated from the University of Houston with a Bachelor of Science in Biology in 1998. He earned his Doctor of Optometry degree from the University of Houston College of Optometry in 2002.
As a student, he was involved in various organizations serving the student body as an officer of the Student Texas Optometric Association. He was chosen by his peers to give the student address at their convocation and inducted into the Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society.
After graduating from optometry school Dr. Gee was appointed Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Texas A&M College of Medicine and Senior Staff Physician at Scott & White Memorial Hospital in Temple, Texas where he focused on the care of patients affected with diabetes, cancer and autoimmune diseases like lupus and Sjogren’s disease. His responsibilities involved the training of medical students and ophthalmology residents at the Scott & White Eye Institute. While in Temple, he served the optometric community of Waco, Temple and Killeen as the president of the Heart of Texas Optometric Society. In 2004 he was included in the “Guide to America’s Top Optometrists” by the Consumers’ Research Council of America.
Dr. Gee returned to Houston in 2004 to private practice where he expanded his interests into refractive surgery and cataract care. He is also an Assistant Clinical Professor at the University of Houston College of Optometry and is involved with sports vision care of athletic teams in the city of Houston. In 2006, Dr. Gee completed his certification in Oklahoma for Anterior Segment Laser Treatment. The Cambridge Who’s Who’s Registry of Executives recognized Dr. Gee in 2007. In 2009, Dr. Gee was named the Young Optometrist of the Year by the Texas Optometric Association and nominated by the American Optometric Association for the same award on the national level. In 2010, he was honored by the American Optometric Association with the appointment to the Meetings Center Executive Committee. Dr. Gee served as President of the Texas Optometric Association in 2013 and is currently the Chair of Student Support and Meetings Committees. Dr. Gee is also the Co-Chair for the Texas Optometric Association Association Support Committee and served on the Legal and Legislative Committee. In 2011 Dr. Gee completed and successfully passed the American Board of Optometry Board Certification examination and now distinguished as a Diplomate of the American Board of Optometry. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry and was a former board member of the local optometric society. Dr. Gee was awarded the Optometrist of the Year in 2018.
As a member of the community, Dr. Gee supports all the local elementary, middle and high schools. A proud sponsor of Scanlan Oaks, Sienna Crossing, Jan Schiff and Donald Leonetti Elementary Schools as well as Billy Baines and Ronald Thornton Middle Schools. He was one of the first supporters of Ridge Point High School and was honored into the Purple Jacket Club in 2017, Dr. Gee has served on the Campus Based Leadership Teams of Scanlan Oaks and Ridge Point. He enjoys sponsoring and mentoring all activities from sports, dance and charitable organizations. One of which is the Southern Smoke Foundation that contributes to the MS Society and helps aid restaurant works in times of need. Away from the office, Dr. Gee is a huge fan of the Houston Astros and University of Houston Athletics. He is a writing instrument collector and glasses collector as well. In his spare time, he plays the saxophone and is fascinated by gadgets of all types!
Martha Paterson is an attorney who worked at Baker Hughes, Inc. for seven years in the Contracts group and was regional contract counsel for Reservoir Development Services Group. In this role, she drafted and negotiated various types of contracts, including oilfield service contracts, confidentiality agreements and consulting agreements and provided risk assessment and advice on complex legal contractual issues. Prior to Baker Hughes, she spent two years as staff attorney at the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality, where she provided preparation, legal guidance and assistance on contract matters for agency staff. Additionally, she advised the agency management on personnel issues, trained personnel on employment laws and ethics policies and conducted internal investigations on employment issues.
She received her B.B.A in Marketing from the University of Texas at Austin and her Juris Doctorate from University of Houston Law Center. She is now a stay at home mom of two boys and is active in her children’s school and West University Little League Auxiliary.
Kristy Junco Bradshaw is a Portfolio Manager at Invesco working with the Dividend Equity team, which manages a combined $25 billion across multiple mutual funds. Mrs. Bradshaw joined Invesco in 2006 upon completion of her Master of Business Administration and was previously an investment banking analyst in the Energy Group at Morgan Stanley prior to business school. Kristy earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with Honors from The University of Texas at Austin. She is a CFA charterholder.
When Kristy is not working or chasing after her three young kids, she is actively giving back to the community. She has served on the Houston Ballet board and Hermann Park Conservancy board for nine years, holding a variety of roles with each. She is currently the Vice President, Trustee Development for the Houston Ballet board and is the incoming Board Chair of the Hermann Park Conservancy. She is also on the advisory board for Dress for Success Houston. Mrs. Bradshaw has chaired a number of events, including the March of Dimes/Houston Chronicle Best Dressed Luncheon, the Houston Ballet’s Jubilee of Dance Onstage Dinner, Hermann Park’s Evening in the Park Gala, Collaborative for Children’s Gala, An Evening for Dress for Success Houston, Home SAFE Home Gala, amongst others. She also co-founded the Houston Ballet’s young professionals group, Ballet Barre, and co-chaired the Museum of Fine Arts – Houston’s Family Circle patrons group. Mrs. Bradshaw was a recipient of Houston Magazine’s Fresh Faces award in 2010, Houston Grand Opera’s Ovation Award in 2011, Houston Chronicle’s Best Dressed recognition in 2015 and 2019, Texas Children’s Hospital’s Community Champion honoree in 2017, Crohn and Colitis Foundation’s Women of Distinction in 2018 and Easter Seal’s Hats Off to Mothers honoree in 2019.
LeighAnn Bakunas is the Director of Food, Beverage, and Music for YETI where she currently leads and manages the marketing efforts to drive awareness, affinity, and advocacy for the brand and products within these communities globally. She has over 15 years of professional experience in the marketing realm. Prior to YETI, LeighAnn was the Special Events Director of Texas Monthly where she oversaw the events division and marketing and promotional efforts for Texas Monthly’s TMBBQ brand and Texas Monthly advertisers. She graduated from Texas State University – San Marcos with a BBA in Marketing and is on the Leadership Council for the Andy Roddick Foundation and a member of the Les Dames d’Escoffier Austin Chapter.
Chree Boydstun is the Chief Development Officer at Legacy Community Health. Chree has been involved in fundraising for over 20 years and during that time has raised more than $150 million for disadvantaged and underprivileged communities. Legacy had three outdated facilities when Chree came aboard. The agency now boasts 34 locations across three cities in Southeast Texas, including flagship clinics in the Montrose and Southwest districts of Houston, which were financed in large part thanks to Chree’s fundraising efforts. Chree has led the marketing, human resources, and development teams while at Legacy, and is proud to have created an environment where patients and employees alike feel welcomed, respected, and valued.
Chree earned her Bachelor of Arts in speech communications at Texas Tech University. Chree’s first position after leaving Tech was at Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center, where she helped coordinate the 1990 Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations, also known as the G7. From there, Chree moved to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center where she became the Executive Director of the Texas Cancer Pain Initiative and the Associate Director of Conference Services. As the Director of Development and Communications for Amigos de las Americas and Director of Development for Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, (better known as CARE International), Chree traveled extensively and lived with families the world over in need of assistance. She built latrines, helped administer vaccines, and planted gardens in impoverished communities in South America and South Africa.
Chree is committed to improving the lives of those living in the Greater Houston community, and serves as a Trustee for the M.D. Anderson Proton Therapy Center, and on the Boards of Directors at Houston’s Society of the Performing Arts and Theater District Houston. She is on the advisory committee for the Latin Women’s Initiative Advisory and is on the Board of Directors for the Southern Smoke Foundation, where she plays an important role on the Grants Committee. Chree is a lifetime member of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, where she serves as a member of the Wine Sales Committee, and was named one of Houston’s 50 Most Influential Women in 2018 by Houston Woman Magazine.
“Find what you love and let it kill you” is the famous quote wrapped around a global knife tattooed on Ikimi’s back. Destined to be a lawyer to help her Brooklyn community, Ikimi ended up in culinary school by accident. Securing her first job at the World Trade Center Marriott as a silver polisher was a humbling and knowledgeable experience. Ikimi attended Johnson & Wales University, and after graduation, utilized her time traveling the world studying culture through food. Upon her return to the states, she was the youngest and first woman to complete the Marriott & Ritz Carlton management training program. Her career led her to lead culinary and management teams at sports organizations, restaurant groups, and prestigious educational institutions. After leading the culinary team on Capitol Hill through the largest sustainable food initiative, Ikimi rediscovered her passion to mentor the next generation. In August 2017, in conjunction with Lifeworks Restaurant Group, she designed and opened LEO MKT, a food hall in Washington, DC, focusing on cuisines around the world. Known for her ability to create managers, lead large teams, encourage growth of women, and minorities in the business, she hasn’t stopped yet. In the midst of a pandemic, Ikimi co-founded The Roots Fund, a nonprofit for BIPOC to secure education and careers in the wine industry. As the Executive Director, she has already built relationships and created a strong impact in the wine industry. “When there is no room for me at the table, I usually stand on the table.”
Aaron Franklin is the co-owner of Franklin Barbecue, winner of Texas Monthly’s coveted Best Barbecue Joint in Texas and Bon Appétit’s Best Barbecue Joint in America. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential pitmasters in the U.S., and received the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Southwest in 2015. He is the host of the popular PBS series, BBQ with Franklin, and has co-authored Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-smoking Manifesto, a New York Timesbestseller.
In 2017, he partnered with James Moody (Mohawk, Guerilla Suit) and Mike Thelin (Feast Portland) to launch an annual food and music festival , Hot Luck Fest, in Austin, TX. He then opened the Asian smokehouse and bar, LORO, with fellow James Beard Foundation Award winner, Chef Tyson Cole in spring of 2018. Aaron’s second book, Franklin Steak, showcases his deep love for steak by exploring dry aging, reverse searing, and other cooking methods.
Born in the Philippines and raised in Texas, June is one of 26 women in the Americas to earn a Master Sommelier credential. She joined Goodnight Hospitality as a partner in 2019 and opened two new concepts the same year: Montrose Cheese & Wine and Rosie Cannonball, a 2020 James Beard Award semifinalist for Outstanding Wine Program. The Houston-based restaurant group will open fine dining restaurant March in 2020.
Most recently, June was VP of Operations for McGuire Moorman Hospitality, a hospitality group with 10 restaurants in Austin and one in Aspen. She remains a partner in June’s All Day, her namesake restaurant that was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s Restaurants of the Year in 2017.
She is known as a leader in the beverage community and her accolades include: Wine Enthusiast’s Sommelier of the Year 2018; Wine Enthusiast 40 Under 40 2016; Key Panelist at Women in Wine Leadership Symposium and numerous Food & Wine Festivals across the nation; Food & Wine magazine’s Sommelier of the Year 2014, Star Chef’s Rising Star Sommelier 2012, Wine & Spirits Best New Sommelier 2011 and TEXSOM Best Sommelier Winner 2009.
An avid sparkling wine drinker and determined to find cause for celebration in day to day life, in 2017 she launched her private label wine, June’s Brut Rosé, with Austrian winemaker Markus Huber.
Outside of restaurant operations, June loves doing crossword puzzles with her husband, obsessing over her dog, admiring art she can’t afford, going to the occasional power yoga class, and laughing really heartily with her friends.
John deBary is a bar expert and author with over a decade of experience in New York City. He’s the creator of Proteau, a line of zero-proof botanical drinks, as well as a co-founder of Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, which is dedicated to supporting structural solutions to the quality-of-life crisis facing restaurant workers. He’s also the author of Drink What You Want: The Subjective Guide to Making Objectively Delicious Cocktails, freelance journalist, and Food52’s first Resident Drink Expert.
Kathryn joined Southern Smoke Foundation in 2017. She brings over two decades of experience in nonprofit administration and event production. She has worked for some of Houston’s most prestigious organizations, such as Houston Grand Opera, Society for the Performing Arts and the Children’s Museum of Houston.
Since joining as Executive Director at Southern Smoke, Kathryn has worked closely with foundation founders, Chris Shepherd and Lindsey Brown to develop the national Emergency Relief Fund and the free mental health program for food and beverage workers and their children. The foundation has provided a critical safety net for thousands of vulnerable workers and has distributed over 9.6 million dollars to those in crisis nationwide.