2021 In Charge – Food

Each year, our In Charge list brings together business, political and civic leaders from all corners of the Middle Tennessee landscape. This year's list is our 12th iteration and features roughly 500 people driving change across the region. We thank our friends and colleagues at the Scene and Nfocus for their help in creating it.


Darek Bell — Founder, Corsair Distillery: Founder of Nashville’s first microdistillery, Bell moved operation to Wedgewood-Houston from Marathon Village in 2015. Bought warehouse in The Nations in 2018 and opened revamped Marathon Village space Brewstillery in 2019.

Bob Bernstein — Owner, Bongo Productions: Leader of Nashville’s breakfast scene for a quarter century with his Bongo Java cafés and coffee. Fido remains a fixture in fast-changing Hillsboro Village. In 2019 closed Jefferson Street Café and 12 South’s Box and moved his roasting operations to Alloy at Tech Hill.

Nick Bishop Sr. and Nick Bishop Jr. — Co-owners, Hattie B’s: Father and son founded popular Midtown hot-chicken outpost in 2012 and have since opened locations as far afield as Atlanta and Las Vegas. Long lines still found at locations on Eighth Avenue South, Charlotte and the original Midtown spot.

Matt Bodnar — Partner, Fresh Hospitality and Fresh Capital: Part of group behind expansion of Jim ‘N Nick’s and Martin’s BBQ, among others. Opened the Hunters Station food hall in East Nashville to house a collection of Fresh-backed concepts, as well as a large commissary kitchen for food trucks and ghost kitchens.

Sean Brock — Restaurateur: The former Husk chef/partner walked away from his Charleston properties to focus on a series of East Nashville projects, including Red Bird and Audrey. In 2020 opened Joyland and will launch The Continental in the Grand Hyatt Nashville this year.

Maneet Chauhan — President, Morph Hospitality Group: Food Network fixture opened Chauhan Ale & Masala in 2014, then a succession of high-profile successes: Mantra Artisan Brewery, Tànsuŏ and The Mockingbird. Chaatable slid right into Charlotte Avenue’s burgeoning dining scene in 2018.

Will Cheek III — Partner, Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis: Leads law firm’s alcoholic beverage team and provides licensing and regulatory compliance advice to restaurants, hotels, art venues, bars and clubs. Go-to source for Tennessee liquor law.

Sandy Cochran — President and CEO, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store: Former Books-A-Million CEO earned a contract extension in 2018. 2019 investment in Punch Bowl Social went south in a hurry but purchase of Maple Street Biscuit Co. showing more promise. Last year fought off another board challenge from activist investor Sardar Biglari.

Mignon Francois — Founder, The Cupcake Collection: Entrepreneur started baking business in Germantown in 2008 with a handful of dollars and a dorm-sized fridge. Today, Francois’ operation has expanded to her hometown of New Orleans and last year connected with Taziki’s in the wake of the tornado.

Benjamin Goldberg and Max Goldberg — Co-Owners, Strategic Hospitality: Builders of eclectic restaurant collection that ranges from crowd-pleasers Merchants and Pinewood Social to critic favorites Bastion, Henrietta Red and the still-unmatched Catbird Seat. After revamping Paradise Park into Downtown Social Club, the duo brought back the Paradise Park concept in 2019.

Clint Gray, Derrick Moore and Emanuel “E.J.” Reed — Owners, Slim & Husky’s Pizza Beeria: Trio has grown pizza and beer (and cinnamon roll) empire beyond North Nashville to locations in Antioch, Atlanta and Sacramento. The former TSU classmates also teamed with Gemaal Pratts to open E G & Mc on Jefferson Street.

Howard Greenstone — Restaurateur: New York veteran owns or is partner in well-known restaurants such as 404 Kitchen, Adele’s, Bajo Sexto and Emmy Squared. Also is a strategic adviser to Marcus Samuelsson’s restaurants.

Linus Hall — Owner, Yazoo Brewing: Moved highly successful brewery from The Gulch to a spot overlooking the Cumberland River in Madison. His quiet leadership among the city’s brewers was key in getting the state’s beer tax structure under control.

Cordia Harrington — CEO, The Bakery Cos.: Former McDonald’s franchisee launched baking business in 1996, adding several plants and lines of business to build 500-employee company. In 2019 connected with private equity firm Arbor Investments to launch next growth phase, which resulted in several 2020 acquisitions.

Hal Holden-Bache — Executive Chef and Co-Owner, Lockeland Table: Opened his East Nashville mainstay with Cara Graham in 2012 after going through the Greenbrier Resort culinary apprenticeship program and then working at Nick & Rudy’s, the Capitol Grille and Eastland Café.

Doug Hogrefe — Partner, 4Top Hospitality: Teams with Paul Schramkowski, David Conn and Ben Brock to run nearly 20 restaurants in Huntsville, Memphis and Jackson, Miss. Nashville fixtures include Amerigo, Etch, Etc. and Char.

Chris Hyndman — Owner, MStreet: With Jim Caden, has transformed McGavock Street (aka MStreet) in The Gulch with Virago, Moto, Saint Anejo and Kayne Prime (as well as Midtown’s Tavern). Whiskey Kitchen is set to make way for Eleventh House hotel project.

Wesley Keegan — Founder and CEO, TailGate Brewing: Has built a substantial brewing operation focused both on Tennessee and exports to the United Kingdom. West Nashville base is the site of a massive taproom, complemented by boutique brewing operations on Music Row and Gallatin Pike.

Ned Lyerly — CEO, CKE Restaurants: Previously the leader of the international operations of the parent of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., Nyerly was tapped to take over after former boss Jason Marker left amid allegations of age discrimination.

Andy Marshall — Owner, A. Marshall Hospitality: Oversees Franklin company known for Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant, Deacon’s New South and Scout’s Pub. In 2020 revamped downtown Franklin’s Puckett’s Boat House into Americana Taphouse.

Pat Martin — Owner, Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint: Turned a strip-mall barbecue joint in Nolensville into a critically acclaimed empire with locations in Nashville, Louisville, Birmingham and Charleston. Hugh Baby’s chain of burger shops also was expanding quickly before COVID arrived.

Jim Mazany — CEO, SPB Hospitality: Former TGI Fridays COO and Joe’s Crab Shack president was named last year to lead reincarnation of Logan’s Roadhouse and Rock Bottom parent CraftWorks after its Chapter 11 restructuring.

Margot McCormack — Chef-Owner, Margot: The original East Nashville fine dining restaurant, Margot paved the way for much of Nashville’s current culinary scene. After last year’s tornado and the arrival of COVID, the regular James Beard nominee made the call to close her nearby Marché concept.

Charlie Nelson and Andy Nelson — Founders, Nelson’s Greenbrier Distillery: Brothers more than a decade ago (re)launched the family business their great-great-great grandfather had grown into a global brand in the late 1800s. After sourcing their product from Indiana for a few years, the venture is now producing and aging its own products to good reviews.

Catherine Newman and Will Newman — Owners, Edley’s Bar-B-Que and 12South Filling Station: Wife-and-husband team has steadily grown Edley’s from a single place to locations in Lexington and Chattanooga. Popular Filling Station complements 12South BBQ joint.

Deb Paquette — Executive Chef of Etch, Etc. and Jasper’s: Fixture of Nashville dining scene for more than three decades, Paquette’s menus at Etch in SoBro and Etc. in Green Hills are built on global flavors and are among city’s most creative. Last year teamed with longtime 4Top partners to convert West End’s Saltine to “fun and playful” Jasper’s.

Mark Parkey — CEO, J. Alexander’s: Took the helm of upscale chain from Lonnie Stout in 2019 and last year hit pause on a possible sale and cut overhead to help steer the company through the COVID pandemic. Has been with company since 1993 and had been CFO before being promoted.

Austin Ray — President and Founder, A.Ray Hospitality: Operator of M.L. Rose neighborhood pubs in Melrose, Sylvan Park and Capitol View, Also owns popular Von Elrod’s across from First Horizon Park and is a partner in Sinema, The Sutler, Rambler and Melrose Billiards.

Randy Rayburn — Owner, Midtown Cafe and Cabana Taps: Community leader whose name adorns culinary arts program at Nashville State Community College. Rayburn’s Midtown Café will look to reclaim power lunch spot status once COVID passes. Sought-after consultant also is part of the Belcourt Partners team that opened Moxy Hotel near Cabana.

Bailey Spaulding and Steve Wright — Co-Owners, Jackalope Brewing: A former Vanderbilt Law graduate who gave up a legal life for beer, Spaulding has teamed with Wright, who started as Jackalope’s biggest fan and worked his way up to run one of Nashville’s most beloved breweries. Duo expanded in 2018 to Ranch complex in Wedgewood-Houston then closed Gulch location last year.

Jimmy Spradley — CEO, Standard Functional Foods Group: Was 26 when family bought Standard Candy in 1982. Business grew to 500-plus employees before Spradley sold it in 2017 to refocus on Goo Goo Clusters. SoBro shop is a big hit with tourists.

Kent Taylor — Co-Founder, Blackstone Brewing: Status as city’s longest running brewer — Blackstone opened in 1994 — has made him the godfather of local beer scene. One of the few craft brewers to ship to all 95 Tennessee counties, Taylor’s acumen has made him a sought-after contract brewer. Brews Scott Mertie’s Nashville Brewing Company lagers, for example.

Tandy Wilson — Chef-Owner, City House: One of Nashville’s most decorated chefs — he won the prestigious James Beard Award as Best Chef in the Southeast in 2016 — Wilson’s City House has ranked near or at the top of the city’s best restaurants for more than a decade.

Ginna Winfree — Alcoholic Beverage Law Section Leader, Gullett Sanford Robinson & Martin: Former assistant director and interim executive director of the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission joined downtown law firm in 2016 to help lead work on licensing and regulation for hospitality clients and manufacturers, importers and wholesalers.

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