Award-winning writer and Louisville native Susan Reigler is the author of Kentucky Bourbon Country: The Essential Travel Guide (now in its second edition), and is a co-author of The Bourbon Tasting Notebook (with Michael Veach), The Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book and More Kentucky Bourbon Cocktails (with Joy Perrine). Her other books are Kentucky Sweet & Savory: Finding the Artisan Foods and Beverages of the Bluegrass State and The Complete Guide to Kentucky State Parks. From 1992 to 2007, Reigler was the restaurant critic, beverage columnist, and travel writer for the Louisville Courier-Journal. She has also written about bourbon for Wine Enthusiast, Malt(now Whiskey) Advocate, and LEO (Louisville Eccentric Observer). She has been a judge for the James Beard Foundation Restaurant Awards since 1997 and in 2015 she was invited to join Les Dames d’Escoffier International, a society of women culinary professionals.
A certified Executive Bourbon Steward, Reigler has lead bourbon tastings from Seattle to Savannah as well as tastings to benefit non-profit organizations including Locust Grove, the Falls of the Ohio Foundation, and Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill. She has been a judge for craft spirits awards and numerous bourbon cocktail contests and she regularly helps restaurants and retailers select barrels from distilleries for private bourbon bottlings, including Party Mart in Louisville as a member of its three-person Bourbon Board of Directors. Reigler is also the current president of the Bourbon Women Association, which has members across the United States.
A graduate of Indiana and Oxford Universities, she is a Research Associate in Biology at Indiana University Southeast where her research examines the possible effects of bourbon warehouse staining on polymorphism in Geometrid moths. She lives in Louisville.
Graham Elliot an award-winning chef, restaurateur, television personality and cookbook author. Elliot, a self-proclaimed “Navy brat” who has traveled the world and all fifty US states, has accrued many prestigious accolades including multiple James Beard Foundation Nominations. At age 27, Elliot became the youngest four-star chef to be named in any major U.S. city and was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s “Best New Chefs” in 2004. In May of 2008, Elliot opened his eponymous restaurant, Graham Elliot, which went on to become one of only 15 restaurants in the U.S. to be awarded two Michelin stars.
“Food to me, in one word, is ‘creativity’ or ‘expression.’ It’s simple, ‘This is who I am at this point in time, and this is what I want to cook for you.”
In 2016 after 10 seasons with the MasterChef & MasterChef Jr. franchise, Chef Elliot left the show to join Bravo’s Emmy Award-winning hit cooking competitions, Top Chef as a full-time judge alongside Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi, and Gail Simmons. Beginning 2019, Graham will join up alongside former Iron Chef, Cat Cora and restaurateur, food maven and NY Times best-selling cookbook author Ayesha Curry and Cat Cora in a new family-driven competition series on ABC, Family Food Fight.
As a life-long baseball enthusiast, Major League Baseball has recently tapped him to be the host of their MLB Grub Tour as well as their Culinary Correspondent. Elliot, an avid music lover, and guitarist in his own right is also Culinary Director of the Lollapalooza music festival, an honor he’s held for the past decade.
As of February 2018, Elliot launched his first restaurant project in Asia, Coast at MGM Cotai. In 2013, Graham decided to make a life change and focus on his health and family, and to date, has lost an amazing 150 pounds (starting at 400 and now down to 250). Since then he has run a marathon and continued to keep the weight off so that he can spend more quality time with his wife Allie and his three boys, Mylo, Conrad, and Jedediah.
As far back as she can remember, Joyce has had a passion for chemistry. She earned a Master’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Louisville’s Speed Scientific School, and for 15 years worked as a process engineer in industrial-scale distillation. She then spent a decade teaching high school chemistry and physics before her husband Bruce’s dream of opening a distillery reignited her passion for the distillation process—and the rest, as they say, is history.
Her deep love for farm life, as well as her many years working her family’s land, have given her invaluable insight into growing the wide variety of crops used in Jeptha Creed’s products. It has also inspired the distillery’s distinct ground-to-glass maxim. In addition to being a Master Distiller and owner of Jeptha Creed, Joyce is a devoted mother of two who has a passion for all things Kentucky. She couldn’t be prouder to carry on the state’s long history of distilling the finest spirits in the world.
At a time when most people feel constantly distracted by technology and barraged by the news, authenticity and straightforward honesty are paramount. There’s something about the music of The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys that cuts right through the noise of the world and speaks plainly to the soul. Formed in the Smoky Mountains, The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys are at once exactly what you would expect and not at all what you would expect from a tattooed East Tennessee Bluegrass outfit. No strangers to hard work, the boys are as much at home riding in their 1965 GM Tour bus as they are crawling underneath to fix it when it needs maintenance. But they take pride in being ambassadors of their genre, and the group has brought their music from rural bluegrass festival stages to the rock clubs of Europe, with stunning results. “I think to a certain extent everyone is just craving music that they can feel, and any music that feels real will reach any audience,” says CJ Lewandowski, the group’s founder, “We want to put bluegrass right where it’s least expected”.
Lewandowski was working at Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery in Sevierville, TN when the band first formed. The distillery employed musicians to play for visitors seven days a week, and Lewandowski, who primarily plays Mandolin and sings, was occasionally hired to fill in when the entertainment didn’t show. Eventually, the distillery approached him about forming a band for a full-time slot, so he reached out to long-time music friends Jereme Brown, who plays banjo for the group, and Josh Rinkel, who plays guitar. “Jereme was doing a lot of welding work at that time, and Josh was running a sign company”, says Lewandowski, “I think we were all ready to do something new, something with our music but we didn’t know when or how”. Bassist Jasper Lorentzen happened to be working in the tasting room at the distillery, and he turned out to be the perfect final addition to the band. The four friends played multiple times a week for a year and a half, honing their band sound, meanwhile, the word was spreading about their music. “The first gig we played out of town was a festival in Alberta, Canada, and a week later we went on a two-week tour of Europe, it was crazy”, says Lewandowski.
Material for the group’s debut album “Back To The Mountains”, was a combination of original songs and old numbers that honor the group’s mentors and bluegrass heroes. “We love to dig up old songs that haven’t been heard in years and bring them back into the spotlight”, explains Lewandowski. It’s no surprise, then, that their latest single “Next Train South”, is a song cut by one of Lewandowski’s teachers from his native Missouri. “This song hasn’t been recorded since 1974 when it was recorded by Dub Crouch, Norman Ford, and the Bluegrass Rounders,” he says. “Dub was a guy that I learned from back in the day. He was a close friend, and I was with him the day before he died. He was a popular guy for his region, but his music was not as well known on the national circuit. That’s why we love to sing these songs because when we take these songs and bring them to a larger audience, our heroes and their music will not be forgotten”.
The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys passion for bluegrass is as clear as it is contagious. With a heavy touring schedule across the United States and Europe and a recently signed record deal with the esteemed Rounder Records, the Boys are well on their way to becoming the quintessential bluegrass band of their generation. Despite all of their recent success, they maintain a humble perspective. “Bluegrass has left such a mark on us that we feel like we owe something back to the music”, says Lewandowski. “We want to do something for the music to show our appreciation… There’s no telling what could have happened to us, what we would have become if we hadn’t found this music. It’s gotten us through a lot, the good and the bad. When I think about all of the damn medications that I didn’t have to take because I had music to turn to. We didn’t have to go to the doctor and pay for something to make us feel better, because we had this music, so we really want to honor it by bringing it out of the shadows and onto new stages and wider audiences. Because we know that if we can bring Bluegrass to new folks, those folks will come with us and support the bluegrass community.”