Slow Food Miami
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Michele Baker Benesch, President

Michele Baker Benesch was born and raised in Miami and spent her summers on her family's farm in Green Valley, Iowa. She graduated from Palmer Preparatory High School, then earned her undergraduate degree from University of Miami with a BA in Business Marketing. After working in corporate marketing for ten years, Michele opened a division of her family's company Menu Men in New York City. Upon the arrival of her first born, Michele returned to Miami and assumed a leadership role at Menu Men while maintaining her client base in New York City. Michele is on the Advisory Council for Common Threads, Restaurant Chair for Sylvester Cancer's fundraising committee "Design for a Cure" and a member of Beaux Arts. Michele believes that healthy eating and taking care of our planet are essential and teaches these values by example. Michele was previously our Farm to Table Director in charge of the successful Hidden Kitchens and Snail of Approval Programs.

Lisa Newman, Vice President & Director of Events

Lisa Newman was born and raised in Miami, received a BA in Psychology, with minors in Business and Spanish, at Indiana University. Before returning to Miami, she worked in New York City as a media planner with and Primedia Inc. As a member of Ransom Everglades Alumni Board from 2002 to 2006, she planned many alumni fundraising events. Lisa spearheaded The PJ Library Book Club Event Series, which promotes a love of reading with young children and families. She is passionate about eating fresh and local foods.Lisa was previously our Director of Fundraising Events.

Amy Stokes, Vice President

Amy Stokes was born and raised in Miami and earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering from Cornell University. During her career at Florida Power & Light, Amy worked in a variety of engineering and management roles focusing on the operational reliability, continuous improvement, and strategic planning of the corporation’s communications networks. She is an ardent reader and health-conscious eater and is committed to making improvements in the health and education of our children.

JJ Snow Hansen, Treasurer

JJ Snow Hansen grew up in Coral Gables, graduated from Gulliver Preparatory School, earned her undergraduate business degree from Emory University and MBA in Finance from the University of Miami. She spent the majority of her career at a boutique investment bank advising companies through merger and acquisition activities and issuing fairness opinions. JJ has served on the boards of the Junior League of Miami, Beaux Arts and The Barnacle.  She is also the founding member of her book club, “Wine and Words”.

Cristina Jimenez Krislav, Secretary

Cristina Jimenez Krislav was raised in Miami, earned a BA from the University of Florida and a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School. Cristina worked as a corporate and real estate lawyer in London and New York prior to returning to Miami five years ago, where she served as Of Counsel in the law firm of Murai Wald Biondo & Moreno. She is an avid home chef who sources her produce from local farms and acquires dairy and meats from family-operated farms.


Serena Berra, Director of Marketing

Serena grew up in suburban New York and received her BA in Economics from Connecticut College.  She spent 14 years in NYC in communications strategy across a range of categories from consumer goods to non-profits, including packaged foods. She is passionate about helping to foster a better culture around food that’s desirable and accessible. Since relocating to Miami Beach with her family, she has been teaching at the Miami Ad School and raising her son.

Natacha Payan, Director of Membership

Look out for more info on Natacha.

Wendy Levitz, Director of Gardens

Wendy Levitz was raised just a short bike ride away from Fairchild Tropical Garden in Miami, graduated from Ransom Everglades, earned her BA in Comparative Religion from Columbia College in New York City and a MA in Clinical Social Work from NYU. She is a fellow of the Kampong and supports the Playground Theatre in Miami Shores. Wendy recently became a Master Gardener and believes, quite literally, in a “grass-roots” attempt to teach one child at a time to see from where the sustenance of our lives comes.

Carol Lopez-Bethel, Director of Development

Carol López-Bethel, a native of Cuba and Drexel University graduate, returned to Miami after living in Washington, DC and México City. She has over 30 years in Commercial Real Estate, at home and abroad, including asset management for the U.S State Department in 25 countries. In 2007, she completed The Sommelier Wine & Food Society Wine Captain's Course and Instructor Certification with The French Wine Academy. Carol was previously chairperson of Grants.

Luis Robaina, Director of Social Events

Luis Robaina III, was born and raised in Miami, Florida. He is a graduate of St. Brendan Catholic High School and earned a degree in Advertising & Design at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. Luis is the VP of Quality Engineering Products Corp., based in Doral, FL; which his family started over 35 years ago. He is an avid home cook that is passionate about the creation, taste, and presentation of delicious locally sourced food. Luis was previously chairperson of the Thighs & Pies event.

Cynthia Seaman, Kitchen Director

Check back soon for more info about Cynthia.

JoEllen Strump, Cookbook Director

JoEllen Rooks Strump JoEllen was born and raised in Miami. She holds a degree from Richmond College in London in International finance as well as a Masters in Neuropsychology. After spending several years in the financial world she switched over to marketing and advertising where she has had several jobs working for Bal Harbour Shops and Bionic Brand Lab her husbands branding, advertising . design and Internet company. After taking a break from the world of paying jobs to raise her children, she volunteered extensively raising funds and serving on the boards for her children's schools as well as many worthwhile charities in the South Florida area. Having a strong interest in The Slow Food movement, she grows most of her own food during the growing season as well as raising her own chickens. Her part- time hobbies include teaching cooking and catering.

Melissa Dominguez, Farm Liaison

Melissa Dominguez grew up in Saint Louis, MO and then earned a degree in Interior Design from TCU in Fort Worth, TX. She worked as an interior designer specializing in kitchen and bath design in New York City before moving to Miami with her husband, and their two daughters in 2012. One of her passions is to provide a healthy lifestyle for herself and her family and she is continually encouraging others to do the same by using fresh and local foods.

Hillary Scurtis, Member-at-Large

Hillary grew up in Houston, Texas, and earned a BA from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Hillary graduated from Parsons School of Interior Design in New York City and is the principal of HLS Design in Coconut Grove. Hillary resides in Coconut Grove with her husband Taki and three sons Jonathan, Kristian & Rollins. Fair, good and clean food, art and children's advocacy are particularly important to Hillary. She is a fellow at The Kampong, an active member of Beaux Arts and Slow Food Miami. Contact email:

Sean Reichert, Member-at-Large

Sean Reichert was born in Pittsburg and majored in Business at Point Park College. At 17, he became the youngest elected official in Pennsylvania. During the next 18 years, he represented 17 local communities and served as a liaison between local, state and federal agencies. Currently, he is a Realtor with Grove Properties. A lifelong gardener, Sean is a past President and an active member of the Coconut Grove Garden Club. Sean is a hands-on volunteer with Slow Food Miami, having helped to install over 50 gardens in schools and in the community. Sean was previously Director of Education.