NOWFE Board Of Directors Announce 2018 Slate Of Executive Officers

NEW ORLEANS – The New Orleans Wine and Food Experience (NOWFE) has announced its newly appointed executive committee and Board of Directors for 2017/ 2018:


• Jim Fein, president (Marriott Hotel and Resorts)

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• Gail Varuso, vice president (Ralph Brennan Catering & Events)

• Phil Cusimano, treasurer (Brown-Forman)

• Ewell Smith, secretary (Marketing Consultant)

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• Traci Beninate, past president (Glazer’s Distributors)

• Chris Brancato (KREWE)

• Lauren Brennan Brower (Dickie Brennan & Co.)

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• Chef Michael Gulotta (MOPHO, Rum and the Lash, Tana, and Maypop)

• Susan Hislop (Home Team Productions)

• Rene A. Louapre, IV (Hogs for the Cause)

• James Moises (Moises Wines)

• Frank Oliveri (Republic National Distributing Company)

• Tod A. Smith (WWL-TV)

• Kristian Sonnier (New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau)


         Fein takes over as president of NOWFE on the heels of a very successful 25th anniversary, reps said.

         “Jim was a part of NOWFE’s committees and events for many years before becoming a member of the board,” NOWFE vice president Gail Varuso said. “His commitment has been integral in our accomplishments, and as he takes on the position of president he brings will him a toolbox of leadership skills and the passion to take NOWFE to the next level.”

         In 2017, NOWFE committed 100 percent of its proceeds to Nunez Community College Culinary Arts Program. Over NOWFE’s 25-year history, it has donated more than $1 million dollar to local organizations.

         “Our organization has grown immensely over the last 25 years, and during the last decade, with great thanks to the leadership of Jamie Peckenpaugh, NOWFE has experienced some of its most successful years and collected numerous awards and accolades along the way,” Fein said. “Currently, the Board of Directors is seeking a new executive director to lead NOWFE into the future.”

         Peckenpaugh departed NOWFE earlier this year to spend more time with family, reps said.

         The New Orleans Wine and Food Experience is conducting a search for a new executive director. This position is responsible for managing staff, increasing sponsorship commitments, implementing new short-term, mid-term, and long-range operating objectives and programming and overseeing strategic planning with the Board of Directors. The executive director also builds partnerships with corporate, nonprofit, government and funding communities to expand NOWFE’s visibility and create opportunities for significant growth and financial support. In addition to cultivating relationships with vintners, chefs and sponsors, the executive director conveys the vision of NOWFE’s strategic future to current and potential funders by representing NOWFE on local, regional and national levels.

         For 25 years, the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience has showcased the culinary excellence in the community alongside national and international wines at wine dinners in many of the city’s finest restaurants; at VINOLA, a premium tasting event; at the iconic Royal Street Stroll Presented by Rouses; at dozens of culinary seminars and demonstrations; at the Big Gateaux Show; and ultimately at the Grand Tasting, reps said. NOWFE has raised more than $1 million for local nonprofit organizations. In 2016, NOWFE chose Nunez Community College Culinary Arts Program as its sole beneficiary.

         For more information


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