About the Speakers


Dr. Timothy Harlan, MD

The Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine: Tulane University School of Medicine

Timothy Harlan MD

Dr. Harlan is a board certified internist primarily practicing at the Tulane University Multispecialty Clinic in Downtown New Orleans.
Dr. Harlan currently serves as Associate Dean for Clinical Services at Tulane University School of Medicine and is the Executive Director of the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine, the first of its kind teaching kitchen operated by a medical school. The center offers an innovative program teaching medical students about diet and lifestyle that bridges the gap between the basic sciences, clinical medicine, the community and culinary education. Medical students work side-by-side in the kitchen with culinary students to teach each other and, most importantly, teach the community and patients how to return to their kitchens and transform their health.


Chef Leah Sarris

The Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine: Tulane University School of Medicine


Chef Leah Sarris has worked in diverse areas of the foodservice and related industries from restaurants, to instructing culinary arts at a prestigious university, foodservice consulting, farming and community outreach to improve school nutrition. Currently, she is the Program Director for the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane University in New Orleans. This means she has built and developed the first interdisciplinary program between culinary science, nutrition and a medical school, teaching future doctors and those currently in the medical field how to cook and prescribe healthier foods and lifestyles to their patients. This program is the first of its kind and over 30 other medical schools around the nation have licensed the curriculum.

Leah’s passion lies in teaching everyone from medical students, to community members taking free cooking classes at the center, to professional chefs how to make delicious food that just happens to be good for you. She strives to teach people that nutritious food should be tasty, easy to make and affordable, while arming them with the knowledge and skills to bring that vision into their kitchens.


Dr. Glenn R. Mack

Brightwater: Center for the Study of Food

Dr. Mack is an educator, author, cook, and researcher. Originally trained as a Sovietologist, Glenn covered the Soviet Union as a photo editor for seven years in Moscow and New York with Time Magazine. After the fall of the USSR, he spent a year on the Silk Road in Central Asia studying the culinary culture and history of the region. Dr. Mack trained in the culinary arts in China, Italy, Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and the United States. Before joining NWACC, Glenn served as President and Vice President of Academic Affairs with Le Cordon Bleu in the United States. Before that, he was owner and founder a culinary school in Austin, Texas. He currently serves as Chair of the board of directors at the International Association of Culinary Professionals and also as a board member of the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group. His research centers on culinary culture and history, student learning outcomes, and educational assessment. Glenn has degrees from Columbia University, The University of Texas at Austin, and Nova Southeastern.


Chef Lauren Altimont

Brightwater: Center for the Study of Food

Lauren, Student Advisor and Adjunct Instructor, has had a variety of unique experiences relating to the food world. Because of her passion for discovery, during her time in college at the University of Arkansas, Lauren immersed herself in many distinctive learning opportunities. Lauren completed her internship in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she worked on a restaurant development project. She also studied sustainable food systems and culinary arts in Tuscany and volunteered as a hunger relief coordinator at Cobblestone Farms. Furthermore, after graduating with a degree in Restaurant Management and Hospitality Innovation focusing in global studies, Lauren jumped into another learn-by-doing experience by working as a winery cellar intern during harvest season in Sonoma. She sees food and wine as a connector to all people, cultures, and environments, which has given her a passion to continue studying culinary arts in a variety of settings.


Executive Chef Matthew Cooper

The Preacher's Son

Educated at Le Cordon Bleu Schools Northwest in Portland, Oregon, Chef Cooper garnered his craft at numerous Portland restaurants including Rheinlander, Gustav's, Aquariva, and Everett Street Bistro. Matthew's passion for culinary arts stems from his mother and grandfather who were both food technologists. His style of rustic and traditional cooking and his dedication to community lead him to join the Ropeswing Group in 2015.


Jay Amargós

Founder and Chief Mindful Officer of i'mindful Studio

Jayshica (Jay) Amargós’ first encounter with meditation was in 2006 when she was diagnosed with clinical depression, but it wasn’t until 2012, when she was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and Lupus, that she began her practice in earnest. Jay rediscovered meditation in her quest for a way to heal her pain and ease her anxious mind. Since then, she has focused on studying and understanding the positive impacts that mindfulness meditation has on the mind, body, and emotions. Through years of experience leading teams, Jay has gained an extensive understanding of human behavior and a knowledge of how to bring out the best in people. She is the former Executive Consultant and Head of Minority Business Inclusion for Startup Junkie Consulting based in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Collaborating with federal funders, private investors, foundations, and higher education, her focus was to help build Northwest Arkansas’s reputation as an entrepreneurial hub. Jay has also worked both as an employee or as a consultant with several Fortune® 500, local and world class companies, namely Arvest Bank, ALPFA, Accenture, KPMG, SBA, Kiva, Grandslam Performance and Associates, Walmart Stores Inc., Boeing, TJX, Corning, Zappos, Sales Force, Santander, State Street, Eastern Bank, Tyson Foods, J.B. Hunt, Walton Family Foundation, Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, The Jones Center for Families, EngageNWA, and the Northwest Arkansas Council. 

She was honored as one of Northwest Arkansas Business Journal's Forty under 40 in 2011 and recently honored as one of Celebrate Magazine 16 to Watch in 2016. Jay holds an MBA from the University of Phoenix and has over 18 years of experience in employee engagement, emotional intelligence, operations, finance, community engagement, social entrepreneurship and content development for new ventures, small businesses, and corporate clients. Jay founded i'MINDFUL Studio in 2016 to guide and support individuals to learn and grow in the practice of mindfulness meditation.


Tomiko Townley

Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance

Tomi Head Shot Culinary Summit

Tomi Townley is the SNAP and Older Adult Outreach Manager with the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance. She loves working with people and is committed to eliminating senior hunger in Arkansas.


Emily DeYmaz

Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance

Emily Head Shot Culinary Summit

Emily is the Fresh2You mobile market manager and an AmeriCorps Direct member with the Cooking Matters Team at the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance. She is passionate about helping people get the food they need at a low cost in an accessible way.


Pearl McElfish, MBA, MS, PhD

Associate Vice Chancellor, UAMS Northwest Regional Campus

Dr Pearl Head Shot Culinary Summit

Dr. Pearl McElfish began her tenure as Associate Vice Chancellor of the UAMS Northwest Regional Campus on October 1, 2016 and is the second person to serve as leader of the regional campus.

In addition to her role as Associate Vice Chancellor, Dr. McElfish oversees the Office of Community Health and Research, serves as Co-Director of the Center for Pacific Islander Health, and holds faculty positions in the UAMS Colleges of Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health. She is the founder of the Office of Community Health and Research at UAMS Northwest Regional Campus and of the Center for Pacific Islander Health at UAMS. Since late 2014, she has been awarded more than $10 million in federal and private foundation grants for investment in community health in Northwest Arkansas.

Dr. McElfish holds a PhD in public policy, a master’s degree in community and economic development, and a master’s degree in business administration. She is a certified Project Management Professional and a Certified Community Developer and has more than 15 years of experience working in health care administration and community health.


Aria Kagan 

As seen on The Food Network’s "The Next Food Network Star."

Aria Head Shot Culinary Summit

Aria began her culinary career as a dishwasher in her parent’s restaurant at the age of 10. Her love for food grew when she visited the Dane County Farmer’s Market in Madison,Wisconsin. She fell in love with local ingredients, the farms and the dedicated farmers. She graduated in 2001 from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. After her Father was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2004, she turned her enthusiasm for food and cooking into a quest to learn everything about food and nutrition. Her passion led her to the Institute for Integrative Nutrition where she earned a degree as a Holistic Health Coach. She lives and works in that beautiful place where food, flavor, cooking, nutrition, health and wellness all intersect. Culinary Medicine is her passion. Aria is driven by her mission to be a catalyst for helping healthcare professionals define a new way to prescribe health. 


Emily English MPS, MPH

Program Administrator in the Childhood Obesity Prevention Research Program at Arkansas Children's Research Institute

Emily English Culinary Summit Headshot 

Emily English is a Program Administrator in the Childhood Obesity Prevention Research Program at Arkansas Children's Research Institute, where she oversees research and programming focused on increasing access, availability, and consumption of locally grown and produced good food for kids. In this role, she is the Program Director of Arkansas GardenCorps and Arkansas Farm to School and serves as the Arkansas Core Partner for the National Farm to School Network. She is also Co-Chair fo the Access to Healthy Foods team for the Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention and Healthy Active Arkansas. She received her Master of Public Service from the Clinton School of Public Service and her Master of Public Health from the College of Public Health at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, where she spent much of her time working on developing farm to school initiatives in Arkansas. Prior to graduate school, Emily worked on and managed small organic farming operations in Arkansas and Oregon. When not in the office, Emily spends her time gardening, cooking, wrangling a toddler, and trudging her way through a doctoral program in public health leadership.


Sergio Montoya

Chef, Aria Hotel Costa Rica

Sergio Montoya Headshot Culinary Summit

The good seasoning has always been present in this young chef  life, his passion to the mix traditional and exotic flavours accompany its formation.

His career in the culinary arts began at an early age and since then he has struggled to collect the  necessary experience for his personal and professional development. He has worked for high level brands providing high standards of quality and flavor in each dish.This no doubt led him to choose a gastronomic "restoration House" ideology,  where every traveller as well as rest, want to taste an exquisite meal. As part of its commitment to satisfy the palates of his guests, this passionate young chef conveys in every bite sensations and messages through each meal.His holistic trends also involve in the food preparation a perfect balance between feeding the body and to exalt the soul of his comesals in each bite. His vision is to create true restoration.This passion for flavors, hot pans and professional cuisine inspired him to investigate and create new dishes that combine local products as the "grandmother´secrets” and new trends in High cuisine.