In Charge '14: Food Biz

As is our annual tradition, the Post team presents In Charge, a compendium of Middle Tennessee’s top business, political and civic leaders. The 450-plus women and men on our list — our fifth annual — make a positive impact not just on their individual sectors, but on the city in general. These folks are the best of the best — and always “in charge.”



1. Mike Andres — Chairman, President and CEO, Logan’s Roadhouse: The former Boston Market CEO replaced Tom Vogel this past February and was tasked with improving the performance at the steakhouse chain. Ran an $11 billion division within McDonald’s, where he was a U.S. division president.

2. Darek Bell — Founder, Corsair Distillery: Built Nashville’s first microdistillery, which moved into Marathon Village in 2011. The company’s quinoa whiskey won the gold 2013 International Review of Spirits Award. Also a principal at Bell & Associates.

3. Bob Bernstein — Owner, Bongo World Enterprises: Marking 21 years since founding coffeehouse Bongo Java on Belmont, now has multiple locations (including new outpost in the Omni), busy roasting operations, and flagship cafe Fido, with a popular farm-to-table menu.

4. Tyler Brown — Chef, Capitol Grille; Farmer, Glen Leven Farm: While his restaurant has garnered national accolades, his partnership with the Land Trust of Tennessee at Glen Leven Farm (located just four miles from downtown) is producing and preserving heirloom varieties of vegetables.

5. Will Cheek III —Member, Bone McAllester Norton: Leads the firm’s alcoholic beverage team and provides licensing and regulatory compliance advice to restaurants, hotels, bars and clubs. The go-to source for Tennessee liquor law. Authors Last Call, a blogsite covering Tennessee alcohol, restaurant and hospitality news.

6. Sandra Cochran — President and COO, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store: Former company EVP and CFO who has earned respect both within the company and on Wall Street after joining the restaurant and retail concept in 2009. Former five-year CEO of Books-A-Million has battled activist investor Sardar Biglari for several years.

7. Rick Going — President of the Nashville Division for Kroger: Three-decade Kroger veteran leads new Nashville division carved out from Louisville in June. Market leader and major local employer expanded its reach further with purchase of Harris Teeter last year.

8. Benjamin Goldberg and Max Goldberg — Co-Owners, Strategic Hospitality (Patterson House, The Catbird Seat): Founding partner Benjamin and brother Max scored another win in 2013 with Pinewood Social, a hard-to-describe destination for dining, cocktails, coffeehouse culture, chic socializing and bowling. Entrepreneurs with ideas to spare.

9. Philip Greifeld — President and CEO, Captain D’s: Restaurant industry veteran who has stabilized the Captain D’s ship. The 520-store chain since 2010 has posted two years of same-store gains and strong growth. Parent Sun Capital Partners sold Captain D’s to Centre Partners last year.

10. Linus Hall — Owner, Yazoo Brewing Co.: Turned a small start-up into a booming craft brewery that sells to stores and restaurants in Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama. Successfully rallied craft brewers behind Fix the Beer Tax, a movement to lower the state’s worst-in-the-nation levies and is now leading efforts to get high-gravity brews into grocery stores.

11. Cordia Harrington — CEO, Tennessee Bun Co.: “The Bun Lady” founded her first company, which supplies buns to restaurants such as McDonald’s, Chili’s and Pepperidge Farm, in 1996. TBC, with three plants and five product lines, now ships to the U.S., the Caribbean and South America.

12. Chris Hyndman — Owner, M Street: Visionary restaurateur who, with Jim Caden, transformed McGavock Street (aka M Street) in the Gulch with his stylish restaurants Virago, Whiskey Kitchen and Kayne Prime. Latest launches: Saint Añejo (Mexican cantina), The Rosewall (events space) and Moto (Italian enoteca).

13. Mike Kelly — Owner, Jimmy Kelly’s: His 80-year-old restaurant is the city’s landmark steakhouse and the third-generation owner has maintained its status as the place where city and state power brokers sit down to cut deals.

14. Robert S. Lipman — President and CEO, Lipman Brothers: A legend in the wine and liquor business, Lipman is a leading name in the state’s beverage distribution market, too. Acquired the family business outright in 1988. Lipman Brothers was established in 1939 as Tennessee’s first distributor.

15. Tom Loventhal — Co-owner Noshville, Blue Moon Waterfront Grill: Has diverse interests in restaurants, insurance, real estate and banking. Co-owns and manages venerable deli chain Noshville, and in 2013 relaunched a West Nashville marina restaurant. Heads Nashville Originals, a nonprofit independent restaurant association.

16. Margot McCormack — Chef-Owner, Margot & Marché: After five years at F. Scott’s, McCormack opened Margot in 2001, quickly establishing the European-style restaurant as a favorite of Nashville diners and a training ground for many of the city’s best chefs.

17. Tom Morales — Owner, TomKats, The Southern, Saffire: Founder of TomKats (a nationally prominent caterer to the entertainment industry) and managing partner in SoBro blockbuster The Southern Steak & Oyster. With Alan Jackson and partners, he’ll open Acme Food & Spirits on Lower Broadway this year.

18. Hazem Ouf — President and CEO, American Blue Ribbon Holdings: Oversees a company that operates more than 650 company and franchise restaurants in 43 states. Poured $15M into O’Charley’s locations in Tennessee in a bid to refresh the chain.

19. Deb Paquette — Executive Chef, Etch: Veteran Nashville chef joined restaurateurs Doug Hogrefe and Paul Schramkowski to create Etch, an elegant anchor of the rising SoBro scene. Culinary Institute of America grad also helped launch Miel, Local Taco and Urban Grub.

20. Miranda Whitcomb Pontes — Owner, Burger Up, Josephine: Key player in 12South neighborhood renaissance and advocate of local ingredients with her Burger Up eatery. With business partner Jim Lewis, opened Josephine in 12South in 2013 and plans Prima in The Gulch in 2014.

21. Randy Rayburn — Owner, Sunset Grill, Midtown Cafe, Cabana: Opened venerable Sunset Grill in 1990 and hasn’t looked back. A seasoned entrepreneur, civic leader and philanthropist whose causes include the Randy Rayburn School of Culinary Arts at Nashville State Community College.

22. Bailey Spaulding and Robyn Virball — Co-Founders, Jackalope Brewing Co.: College friends turned entrepreneurs who helped boost Nashville’s craft beer scene by opening Jackalope in 2011. Initially sold only via restaurants and Jackalope taproom. Recently began canning beer for retail.

23. Jimmy Spradley — CEO, Standard Functional Foods Co.: Bought with father Standard Candy in 1982. Has since 2009 brought to town hundreds of production jobs from elsewhere. Standard turned 100 in 2012.

24. Lonnie Stout — Chairman, President and CEO, J. Alexander’s: After steering company’s 2012 sale to Florida-based Fidelity National Financial, led spinoff into LLC which owns J. Alexander’s and Stoney River chains. Has led the restaurant group since 1986.

25. Kent Taylor — Co-Founder, Blackstone Brewing Co.: Oversees with business partner and co-founder Stephanie Weins. In addition to brewpub, BBC’s North Nashville operation now tops 1 million bottles. Aligned with St. Louis’ Schlafly to brew regionally for boutique beer stalwart.

26. Tandy Wilson — Chef-Owner, City House: Nashville’s rise on the national culinary scene has mirrored the rise of City House, opened in 2007 and generally regarded as the city’s best restaurant. Wilson is a perennial finalist for the James Beard Award, given to top U.S. chefs.