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Board and Executive Committee


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President, co-founder:   Gerry Rounds

Vice President, co-founder:   Bruce Kraig

Secretary:   Casey Placket

Gerry Rounds: Funding, Membership, Cookery Manuscript Project

Bruce Kraig: Research and Publications, Speakers 

Casey Plackett: Grants, Education

Wanda Bain: Community Events Coordinator; Publicity  

Ellie Carlson:  Culinary History Coordinator

Kevin Davis: Historic Recipe Road Show Coordinator

Eleanor Hanson: Website Administrator    

Deborah Lorentsen: Community Cookbook Coordinator   

Michelle Podkowa: Museum Liaison/Coordinator

Cynthia Clampitt: Ad Hoc member   


Standing Committees​​

Dave Hayes: Graphics Tech Consultant/Social Media Manager

Catherine Barnett:  Book Group Discussion Facilitator

Thea DiLeonardi: Special Projects Assistant



President: Gerry Rounds

Gerry Rounds is currently digitally archiving over 100 handwritten family recipes, bringing back numerous memories of growing up on the east coast. An educator, with over 25 years experience teaching foods in northern Illinois, she is also a culinary historian, writer and consultant. Rounds, who enjoys international travel, has developed and written curricula for many culinary projects, including the PBS Hidden Journey Series (Hidden Korea, Food for the Ancestors; etc) and the Chicago Encyclopedia of Food. She has judged local and state fair culinary contests and contributed to and has been an education consultant on numerous culinary and educational projects and partnerships. She has developed curricula for and taught both graduate and undergraduate courses. Rounds, (BS, M Ed, C.A.S.) has recently retired from the award winning Naperville School District #203.

Vice President: Bruce Kraig

Bruce Kraig is Professor Emeritus in History at Roosevelt University in Chicago and has  taught culinary subjects at the culinary school of Kendall College, Chicago. Kraig has appeared widely in the electronic media as writer and on-camera host and narrator for a multi-award winning PBS series on food and culture around the world. Publications range from books and articles in academic journals on European and world prehistory through American history. He has written hundreds of articles on food in newspapers, journals and for encyclopedia. His books about cookery and culinary history include Mexican-American Plain Cooking, The Cuisines of Hidden Mexico, Hot Dog: A Global History, Man Bites Dog: Hot Dog Culture in America, editor Cooking Plain: Illinois Style (2012), co-editor (with Colleen Sen) Street Food Around the World: An Encyclopedia of Food and Culture (2013), co-editor (with Colleen Sen and Carol Haddix) Food City: The Chicago Food Encyclopedia (2017) and A Rich and Fertile Land: A History of Food in America (2017). He is the editor of the “Heartland Foodways” book series for the University of Illinois Press.


Secretary: Casey Placket

Casey was born in Chicago and has always had a great love of all the ethnic foods the city has to offer. She is a retired junior high teacher who has a passion for travel especially enjoying the street food in the countries she visits.  She received an undergraduate degree from Illinois State University and a graduate degree from Northern Illinois University.  Besides teaching 7th grade math and language arts, she taught graduate classes in education at DePaul University.  For years she has cooked dinner for Hesed House, a homeless shelter in Aurora, and is a volunteer for Meals on Wheels in the western suburbs where she resides now.  She also volunteers time at Our Lady of Angels food pantry in Chicago and with the Port Ministry Food Truck, also in Chicago.  


Michelle Podkowa 

Michelle grew up hearing stories about her grandfather and great-grandfather in the Great Wars and watching her rural, agricultural family run their dairy and beef farms. Although her parents are not farmers, both grew up in farm families and both work in the ag industry. Her family nurtured her love of history and agriculture and it resulted in Michelle earning her History Master’s Degree focusing on Agricultural History from Northern Illinois University. She currently works at DuPage County Historical Museum as the Museum Manager and Educator, where she can continue her own learning through educating the general public about history of DuPage County and their rural heritage. 


Eleanor Hanson

Ms. Hanson has an undergraduate degree in Foods & Nutrition from the University of Illinois at Urbana and an MBA from Northwestern University Kellogg Graduate School of Management. Hanson was with Kraft Foods for 17 years and served as Manager of Grocery Products and later as Director of their highly regarded Kraft Kitchens. She was the co-founder of FoodWatch, a culinary trend consulting business until 2011. Eleanor grew up in DuPage County and enjoyed many years of blue ribbons and participation at the County and State Fairs as a 4-Her. She is a member of Les Dames d’ Escoffier.


Ellie Carlson

Elizabeth Carlson, also known as Ellie, has been cooking since she needed a step stool to reach the counter. She  has a B.A. with honors from Roosevelt University and a Masters of Historical Administration & Museum Studies from the University of Kansas.  She completed her professional internship at the Smithsonian’s NMAH. Ellie performs characters in the 19th and early 20th century as first-person interpretation including Mamie Eisenhower, Amy McCormick, Carry A Nation, and Mamah Bouton Borthwick, She gives lectures, workshops and programs on various Domestic Arts topics and produces Tasting History events which are time machine experiences for all the senses.


Wanda Bain

Wanda Bain is a food enthusiast beginning with helping her mother (Mrs. Jane Slaby) in the kitchen as well as helping her with special events at PNA 1437.  She assisted in many cookery events through the years, including being a food contest judge.  Today, she continues using her culinary knowledge by chairing the Italian Dinner for GFWC Woman’s Club of Port Charlotte. Receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree from Roosevelt University, she is an advocate of the Culinary Historians of Northern Illinois and other not-for-profit groups, utilizing her public relations skills.

Deborah Lorentsen

Deb was raised in a home that nurtured a passion for history not only by visiting historical sites on vacation, but also through supporting local history in her hometown. Her Italian heritage continues to fuel an ongoing interest in food as a means of connecting with family and friends. The Culinary Historians of Northern Illinois allows these two passions, food and history, to intersect in a unique way. Deb and her husband restored and reside in the Jesse C. Wheaton homestead in Wheaton, IL. They were also owners of Emelie’s Café and Ice Cream Parlor in downtown Wheaton (now Kimmer’s Ice Cream). Deb has an undergraduate degree in nursing from the University of Illinois and a master’s degree in biblical studies from Wheaton College. Along with teaching and speaking in various settings, she is active with the Charles Simeon Trust.

Kevin Davis 

Kevin Davis recently retired (Jan 2022) as Library Administrator for the Messenger Public Library in North Aurora Illinois. He is a Board Member (Since April 2022) for the Winfield Illinois Historical Society, a contributor to the Encyclopedia of Chicago (2004) and past editor of the Warrenville Historical Society Newsletter.  Kevin  volunteers at the St. James Farm Forest Preserve (Warrenville Illinois). He has presented papers on both the McCormick family and the history of St. James Farm for the Illinois State Historical Society’s’ Illinois History Conference. Kevin is a two time graduate of Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois where he earn both a Bachelors degree (History) and a Masters in Library Science. 

Ad Hoc Member: Cynthia Clampitt 

Cynthia is a writer and food historian. She has pursued her love of culture, history, and food in thirty-seven countries on six continents (so far), but has in recent years focused her studies on the American Midwest. She is the author of Midwest Maize: How Corn Shaped the U.S. Heartland, published by the University of Illinois Press. She has also written more traditional history and geography for every major educational publisher in the U.S., including the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and National Geographic Learning. Clampitt is a member of the Society of Women Geographers, Culinary Historians of Chicago, the Agricultural History Society, the Association of Food Journalists, the Midwestern History Association, and the history section of the International Association of Culinary Professionals.



We are a 501(c)(3) educational charity, staffed by volunteers 


CHNI is incorporated NFP (Not for Profit) in Illinois.

Graphics Tech Consultant/Social Media Manager

Dave Hayes

Dave Hayes has experience in both the education and business field having received a Bachelors 

Degree in Fine Arts and Education from SIU and two Masters degrees; in Marketing 

Communications and in Education. For the past 38 years he has been involved in the 

development of marketing/advertising programs both in business and in an educational 

environment at the high school level. For the first 20 years of his career he worked for Panduit, a manufacturer in the electrical and telecommunications industry in advertising and promotions. This included a multitude of disciplines involving print, promotional, merchandising and trade show development. During this time he received several advertising and design awards for programs he created. After Panduit, Hayes entered into education initially teaching both Marketing and Graphic Arts at Naperville North High School. After two years he took on the sole role of teaching Graphic Arts for the next 16 years. The high level of work his students were producing became known throughout the school

community and they were offered design work from local clubs, organizations and some local

businesses. Hayes retired from teaching in 2018 and is currently spending time with grandchildren and 

family and restoring a 74 Plymouth.


Book  Discussion Facilitator

Catherine Barnett

Catherine Barnett is Programming & Outreach Supervisor at Chillicothe Public Library (Chillicothe, IL), where she facilitates several book clubs, among her other duties. She also serves as a (very part-time) certified tutor with the Peoria Public School District. She appreciates books, conversation, and food as things that can—on their own or in any combination—be shared with others in order to connect, explore different perspectives, and be nourished.

Special Projects Assistant

Thea DiLeonardi

Thea DiLeonardi has been around good food and good cooks her whole life. She watched how effortlessly her mother, grandmother, aunts, and uncles cooked, and started baking when she was young. She continues to seek out and try new recipes, and is currently attempting to master bread in all its forms. Thea has a degree in English from Loyola University Chicago, and works for a medical licensing board, editing and developing tests for medical students. She has also worked for several newspapers, including the Daily Herald and the Northwest Herald, editing news stories and designing the layout of the papers. 


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