Meet our Advisory Council members
Chef Jason E. Flagg
I was born with a passion for Culinary Arts instilled in me by being the son of a retired United States Army Airborne Infantryman that was obsessed with recreating the flavor profiles he experienced overseas.
Before joining BCA, my culinary experience was limited to my military service as well as assorted Supermarket production/operations jobs. I joined a supposed high-end culinary association while in as in culinary school getting my certificate and was very disappointed. I was quickly disenchanted with the high-end culinary association because of the lack of engagement, community-related activities and most important apparent lack of people of color in prominent positions.
What made me decide to join the BCA was my Chef Instructor at the New York Restaurant School (Later Arts Institute of New York), Chef Jason Wallace. While in culinary school for my Associate's Degree, Chef Wallace illustrated the value of improving one’s self via education coupled with experience, the importance of giving back and supporting your peers as well as those coming up while honoring those who blazed the trail. Plus it filled me with great pride and respect to be involved with an association that not only supported the ideals mentioned above but fully embodied and drove those goals not to least say the embracing not only people of color involved but all creeds, backgrounds, ethnic makeups.
Since graduating Culinary School with my Bachelor’s Degree and joining the BCA my career has sky rocketed. My experiences have been in both high end restaurants in New York City to top tier Institutional/Hospitals Food Operations across the country bringing gourmet experiences to both the collegiate and medical industries. Currently, I am the Executive Chef/Assistant Director of NYU Langone Orthopedic Hospital of the Langone Health Care System in New York City, New York.
Chef Robin, owner and chef of Robin’s Artisan Catering, serving NYC and NJ, has been cooking for as long as she can remember. It all started in her grandma’s garden where she taught Robin how to plant seeds, nurture their growth and harvest their bounty. Then it was into the kitchen where Robin learned how to transform these vibrant ingredients into mouth-watering savory dishes and addictive sweets.
After attending the culinary arts program at Hudson County Community College, Robin launched her plant-based catering company. During this time, a passion for fitness grew into a hobby as a competitive bodybuilder. This expertise combined with the demand by her clients for a holistic approach to overall health and wellness has led Chef Robin to create programs that incorporate food and fitness to deliver customized, transformative programs to help people elevate their lives.
Robin loves research and development as is always experimenting with new concepts and recipes to make delicious plant-based food to be enjoyed by vegans and non-vegans alike.
Edward Washington has supported BCA Global for 4 years. With a goal to add partners to the American Express employee legacy group, he first learned of the organization by searching for nonprofits that support people of color in the foodservice industry, “What I found online wasn’t much and not the focus I was looking for so when I started my relationship with BCA Global and got really into who they were, I knew it was the organization I wanted to support.”
Edward’s background is uniquely suited as a fit for BCA. His father has been a manager and executive in the industry his entire life and started him at an early age experiencing the business from short order to fine dining, “having knowledge that runs the spectrum allows me to understand the mission this organization’s need to empower their membership base.” Working in Manhattan for some of the city’s best caterers doing food prep and as a cater waiter, Edward wants to help as much as he can to give us the tools necessary to grow membership and accomplish the mission of sustainability, entrepreneurship, and healthy eating.
Memphis born and New York raised, Jawed Halepota fell in love with food while growing up eating Pakistani food and Soul Food at home. Jawed credits his Hospitality Management/Business acumen to his studies at St. John’s University and honing his Culinary skills at the Institute of Culinary Education and under Michelin-starred Chef Bill Telepan. Jawed has experience as a Personal Chef for several professional athletes from the New York Knicks, New York Yankees, Boston Celtics and Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots. He plans to continue adding value to others while merging his passion for food, sports and entrepreneurship.
Blondie is the visionary, and dessert connoisseur behind Blondie's Divine Desserts. Blondie is not only a baker she is also a certified chef, who caters private event as well.
The bakery has been in existence since July 2013 and offers a broad variety of cakes, and cupcakes with unusual flavors. Such as Blondie's Signature Banana Pudding Cupcakes, and Banana Pudding Cake regular or infused with Jack Daniels Honey Tennessee Whiskey. Blondie's Assorted desserts such as her classic Red Velvet, Chocolate, Strawberry, and Lemon cakes are always a big hit, as well as Blondie's Homemade Banana Pudding.
Blondie's Divine Desserts is a bakery located in Harlem New York, serving customers in the Tri-State area daily. The bakery provides freshly baked desserts, and will also bake to order.
Chef Sonya Cook is the Founder and CEO of Forestine’s Catering, a full service catering company that provides freshly prepared menu items. She graduated from New York Restaurant School and has more than 20 years of experience in the culinary industry.
“We are all about pleasing our clients. It is very important that we build a certain level of professionalism and trust to people that come to us for their catering needs”, says Sonya Cook. She has a passion for cooking and always focus on pleasing her clients, making them feel comfortable and building good long lasting relationships.
Chef Coralene T. Franklin
Chef Coralene T Franklin was born in Queens, New York in September 1974. In 1982 after the death of her father her mother moved Coralene and her 3 siblings to Harlem. At a very young age, Coralene had an entrepreneurial spirit, she began packing bags at the local met food supermarket on 140th and Lenox Avenue. As time passed Chef Coralene obtained fast food jobs in the local Wendy’s and other fast food franchises, not realizing that this was a set up for her future.
Chef Coralene held many jobs before coming to the realization that her call was to be a Chef and serve people. However life handed Chef Coralene a few difficult blows, she became pregnant at age 16 and had her first child at age 17. This didn’t stop her drive if anything this fueled her need to be successful. Chef Coralene T Franklin was determined to finish her education and be the best she could be for her child and herself. Later on Chef Coralene obtain her G.E.D at Monroe College where she also studied business management. At that point, Chef Coralene began to understand how important is was to own your own. So she started baking cakes and cupcakes out of her apartment on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, New York to help Financially Support her Family. Once she realized she had a gift for baking and cooking she began to sell cake and cupcakes to her neighbors. Word spread fast and the orders began to come in. Chef Coralene then decided to attend the Culinary School of New York on 14th street and 7th Avenue. Upon graduation, she received an internship in the executive dining room at U.S. Trust, Bank of America. Chef Coralene worked very hard and learned all she could about cooking, prep work, production, inventory control and everything about food service. Since that time Chef Coralene T Franklin has worked at many notable placed such as Lincoln Center Film Fest 2015, Goldman Sacs, 200 west, 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza all while building her company TYQULAE CATERING. Chef Coralene T Franklin is now the Chef/Owner of TYQULAE CATERING in the Bronx, N.Y.
TYQULAE CATERING is based on community building and believes in community enrichment and empowerment, community first, community only. Chef Franklin is heavily vested in volunteering her time whenever possible to non-profits and community organizations. Chef Coraline's love of cooking has allowed her to be photographed by Getty magazine, also have two menus published in a cookbook designed to uplift victims of domestic abuse. Chef Coralene is a proud member of the BCA Global and the proud mother of 4 children, 1 dog, and 1 cat. Her faith allows her to believe that nothing is impossible.
Chef Margot Olshan
Chef Margot is a graduate from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. When she began her culinary career she decided that she would only work for the best. She did her externship at Po Restaurant for Mario Batali, worked for Brendan Walsh at the Elms Restaurant and Tavern in Ridgefield, CT and for six years worked at Martha Stewart Omnimedia. While her full time position with Martha was as the Commissary Chef at the television studio in Westport, Margot also worked in the capacity of private chef, often traveling to Ms. Stewart’s various homes with her. During this time Margot was cast as on-air talent for the PBS nationally syndicated cooking series, “Everyday Food”, produced by MSO. Margot was on the show for five seasons, also appearing occasionally on Ms. Stewart’s show as well.
Margot went on to open her own businesses, the first was a bakery/cafe in South Norwalk, CT and a cafe/wine bar in Stamford, CT. Margot has also worked extensively as a personal chef and caterer for some very high profile clients.
In 2010, after closing her cafe and moving to New York City, Margot found a passion for education in the culinary realm. She was first an instructor and then the Department Chair of the Culinary and Hospitality Programs at Star Career Academy of New York. There she enjoyed working with a very challenged and diverse student body, helping to mentor and develop them into professionals in the industry.
After Star Career Academy closed in 2016, Margot was hired at the Institute of Culinary Education as the Assistant Dean of Students, right back where her culinary journey had started.
At ICE, as the school is known as, she is still all about professionalism, getting students to give back and volunteer, building toward their own successful careers.
Darlene Lee is a career coaching and development professional who after more than thirty years of Human Resources experience in the corporate sector, is now owner of her own business, DARE Career Coaching, LLC. With a passion for helping clients perform to their fullest potential, she acts as a catalyst to inspire them to fulfill their dreams and goals, and take ownership for their own development and career management. Not only has Darlene followed her passion in her corporate profession, she has also used her qualifications to conceive, manage and implement projects working with community organizations, other not for profit organizations and her church.
As a Learning & Development manager at JPMorgan Chase, she coached managers and HR Business Partners on how to identify, manage, retain talent, and create roadmaps for future development. She mentored professionals on career development and transitions, and advised senior managers on staff planning, organizational restructurings and downsizings. She has also coached managers on how to increase diversity awareness and sensitivity, resulting in their creation of more diverse and inclusive work environments.
Darlene holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology and a Certified Career Management Coach (CCMC) certification.
Tim Pitts has been working in the culinary field for over 18yrs throughout NY, NJ and Conn. His dedication and perseverance to the culinary industry has allowed him to ascend to the title of Executive Chef and as a Private Chef/Personal Chef. Currently, he is the Executive Chef at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway NY. Tim has proven himself to be a strong team leader and mentor to our young chefs of the future. His continued support of The BCA is a glowing example of him passion and determination for the continued expansion of the culinary arts.
His interests are reading and collecting cookbooks, working out in the gym, fishing and landscaping his yard. During the football season, he is an avid NY Giants fan.
In 2005, while doing my externship from ICE (Institute of Culinary Education), I met a wonderful woman by the name of Natividad Roman (Natty) who was an employee of BCA. Natty introduced me to the President of BCA, Alex Askew and in that same year, I attended my first BCA Gala event. Once I attended the Gala I knew I wanted to be involved with this organization. Natty and I became good friends and she invited me to be a volunteer with the organization. From my first time volunteering, I learned so much and made so many positive connections.
At the time being a recent Pastry Chef graduate (2005), BCA afforded me the opportunity to see how things in the culinary world really worked. I was able to work in the Tavern on the Green kitchen with some of the top chefs as well as meet many dignitaries of the culinary world such as Jefferson Evans, Melba of Melba’s Restaurant and much more.
Over the years, I have become the BCA Volunteer Director, a position that I take very seriously. Bringing volunteers together to continue to make Alex’s dream stay alive has been very rewarding. Working with Alex and the rest of the team on a regular basis to help inner-city students fulfill their goals and dreams has been not only an inspiration but my pleasure.
Over the past 2 years, I have had the opportunity to showcase my baked goods at the annual BCA Food and Wine Experience which has also afforded culinary students the opportunity to work directly with chefs and enhance their knowledge and perfect their skills.
As a Pastry Chef, I now have an online business and I assist other students and bakers in any way I can. I am grateful to Alex and BCA for their support and guidance
Aja Valentine is a New York City native, raised in the community of Harlem. Professionally she has worked in media, fashion, marketing and the food industry. Growing up Aja watched her mother turn her passion for baking into a lucrative business and eventually caught the culinary bug as well. This led to apprenticeships with well-known pastry chefs and private specialty foods chef positions. Aja Valentine is currently chair of events for BCA global as well as the founder of Sweet Alchemy By Kathy. She plans to remain in, evolve in and explore the food industry on many levels.
Chef Danielle Saunders
While Chef Danielle Saunders may not have been born with a silver spoon in her mouth, she was raised with a pan in her hand and an everlasting passion for the culinary arts. Following in the footsteps of her late grandfather, who was an amazing chef, Danielle's lifetime love of cooking began at the tender age of 5. Danielle’s early experience helping her family prepare Sunday dinner was the landmark for the start of her culinary journey.
Upon graduating high school, Danielle entered Norfolk State University in Virginia and majored in Chemistry. After a 2 year stint at Norfolk, she decided to finally pursue her dreams of becoming a chef. In 1997, Danielle enrolled at the New York Restaurant School, where she studied Culinary Arts under Chef Neil Becker (Silver Medalist ‐ 2000 IKA Quadrennial Culinary Competition/“Culinary Olympics”).
After graduation, Danielle had the opportunity to work under the tutelage of renowned chef greats including Anne Rosenzweig (Arcadia, Lobster Club) and Michael Lomonaco (Porter House, 21 Club, Windows on the World). She was fortunate enough to work at Windows on the World right up until two weeks before 9/11. Danielle soon after moved on to be the Executive Restaurant Chef at Panevino Ristorante at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City for 3 1/2 years.
In 2005, Danielle decided to transition into the private sector of the business and accepted the position of Personal Chef to Media Mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs. As Personal Chef, Danielle traveled across continents sampling various cuisines and cooking in kitchens all around the world. Following over 2 years with Mr. Combs, Danielle realized that she had opened the doors to a whole new world. As her reputation for being an A‐list celebrity chef grew, so did her client roster. Danielle has cooked for the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Jann Wenner, Tom Hanks, and Gary Sheffield to name a few.
Much like her celebrity clientele, Danielle is no stranger to the media. She made her first television appearance on VH1's “I Want to Work for Diddy 2” in 2009 as a guest chef. Additionally, after seven seasons, Chef Danielle is the first female African‐American winner of Food Network's hit TV show "Chopped.” In doing such, she was invited by Food Network to compete in their special championship series, “Chopped Champions.” In the Fall of 2011, Chef Danielle won “Chopped Champions” and made history again by becoming the first female chef to ever win the competition.
With such a wide array of international experiences and traditional southern techniques, instilled in her since childhood, Danielle is helping reinvent the distinctive "Soul Fusion" style and interpretation of food. Chef Danielle is currently working on her first cookbook based around her late grandfather's original recipes and his personal memoirs. Ever since Danielle was certified by world-renowned nutritionist, Dr. Oz Garcia, she has been an advocate for sensible diets and healthy living. Her mantra, “superb food and eating healthy” is ubiquitous in every dish she creates. She is a force to be reckoned with, fusing eclectic souls with great food.
James Francisco is a Brooklyn native who earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management from Saint Peter's College. James has worked in numerous positions and has gained experience in general retail management, real estate sales, transportation, security and the hospitality industry. His exposure to these different settings has led to his unique set of skills and abilities. James hopes to use these skills to foster the improvement of business management systems across diverse industries. Currently in a healthcare management role, James is always looking for new consulting opportunities to help improve business systems, for the benefit of everyone involved in a "business ecosystem". He is a firm believer that better businesses build better communities and better communities are the foundation to building a better world! He is looking forward to working with BCA global to achieve all of these goals and beyond.
Tommy A. Thothongkum
Tommy Thothongkum is the Executive Chef for Restaurant Associates at SONY. He previously was the Executive Chef at Y&R, a global marketing firm, and Executive Sous Chef that oversaw the entire culinary operation of the largest cultural center in NYC, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. His goal is to bring a personal and “homey” restaurant feel to any operation.
Born and raised in New York, Tommy attended Cornell University and studied Geological Sciences and Education. He envisioned becoming a secondary teacher in the sciences when he found a passion in cooking. Tommy went on to study at the French Culinary Institute and got a degree in Hospitality and Tourism at Rockland Community College.
Before arriving at the MET museum, Tommy spent time working at establishments such as the Waldorf=Astoria hotel, BLT Fish, MESA Grill and Enduro Kitchen. He has been fortunate to work alongside the likes of Laurent Gras and Bobby Flay to serving dinners for the President of the USA and other heads of state. Tommy’s has also spent time as a personal chef to Bob and Suzanne Wright doing various events for Autism Speaks.
In his 10+ years in the kitchen, Tommy’s biggest take-away has been his inherent love for food and teaching. He strives to stay simple and true to the ingredients while presenting them in an artistic and uncompromising way. He believes that the food will speak for itself and that creating an “experience” is what will put his guest over the top.
Liat Siegel, is the owner and founder of Hadar Interiors, providing quality luxury design, utilizing cutting edge technology for higher performance, faster, and better results. Hadar Interiors is an innovative 21st Century design firm.
They help re-design commercial spaces to meet both aesthetic, branding and business needs, as well as transforming their clients' dysfunctional homes into gorgeous escapes. Saving you time and money, and looking great while doing it! She is also a great business woman, implementing business strategies for her clients' designs, for bigger and faster return on their investments. Her latest work is The Hotelier Lounge, a podcast dedicated to innovating and increasing CLTV (customer lifetime value) in the hotel industry.
Hadar Interiors top goal is to deliver only the best to their clients.
Liat has partnered with companies and professionals from across the US and abroad. Her team includes *World Wide International* with over 30 years of experience and offices in the UK and the US. This company has been doing it all from construction to architecture and design. They've been building everything from luxury residential to commercial spaces including complex projects such as hotels.
Another powerful member and partner is QT&CD, an emerging cutting-edge construction and project management company based out of Houston, TX. This company includes members with over 20 years of construction, finance, and engineering experience who have taken on some of the worst post-hurricane rebuilding efforts this country has ever seen, plus, effectively bringing our offices to two of the four largest cities in the US.
Hadar Interiors is constantly innovating in the design industry. Their dedication to provide powerful frameworks that are tailored around their clients' needs, along with the well-rounded knowledge and experience that their partners bring to the table, Hadar Interiors customers receive a level of service that is virtually unrivaled.
While Liat loves talking about business, empowering women and/or having a meaningful deep and spiritual conversation, she also loves Jazz, a cool glass of bubbly sweet wine and dancing into the night - a true free spirit and a fun, approachable person. She won't bite, I promise.
We encourage you to check out her website, and look for her on FB, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
Marilyn entered the workforce after graduating NYU. Over the next few years, she was an English teacher, an editor at Random House, and further balanced being a wife and mother of three. In 1990, she co-founded Butler Kane, a commercial real estate brokerage firm, and became a Managing Director to the national real estate firm Sperry Van Ness.
In 2009, Marilyn founded Iridium Capital, a real estate fund management firm, to hold income-producing property. She started with a single $500,000 asset. By the end of 2013, Iridium Capital was managing a portfolio of over 20 Net-Lease properties, with an aggregate value in excess of $45M across 13 states.
Marilyn was named one of "New York's 100 Most Influential Women in Business" by Crain's and one of the top "100 Women Real Estate Leaders of the 21st Century" by Real Estate Weekly.
Marilyn’s much-publicized landmark child support case put her on the cover of People magazine, the subject of an article “Ex-Wife that Nailed America’s Worst Deadbeat Dad.” She became a leading advocate for child-support initiatives. She addressed the House of Representative's Ways and Means Committee and influenced a Federal Law making it a federal crime to avoid child support by crossing state lines.
Marilyn is delighted to be affiliated with the Advisory Group for BCA Global and devoted to their goals.