2022 40 Women to Watch

This honor recognizes the creativity, leadership and contributions of women across all hospitality industry sectors. The first class included honorees from restaurants, bars, caterers, hospitality venues, purveyors, educational institutions, advocacy and tourism groups, and care facilities.

Thank you Delta Dental for sponsoring the 40 Women to Watch in Hospitality!

As Event Director for Big Grove Brewery, Addison oversees events, community engagement, and philanthropy for four locations. She started with the brewery about 4 years ago in Iowa City but recently moved to Des Moines as part of Big Grove’s expansion. From expo to bartending, Addison has worked nearly every role in the restaurant and appreciates how the industry daily gives her chances to learn, coach, and improve. Says Addison, “Don’t be afraid of change. Just because something works well doesn’t mean it can’t be better. Be open to trying new things that might improve your efficiencies and culture.”

Addison Mittlestaedt

Big Grove Brewery,
Des Moines

Alyssa Dreeszen’s multiple nominators credit her with leading the revival of their western Iowa community by resurrecting the local theater. In 2019, she purchased CornerHaus 101, a main street coffeeshop that is equal parts eatery and meeting place. It quickly became the community hub for the town of 1,400. Alyssa attended the Kansas City Art Institute and her creativity shows in everything she does including her volunteer efforts to raise funds for Ida Sheltered Services, an organization helping individuals with physical and intellectual disadvantages. Concluded one nominator, “Iowa just needs more people like Alyssa.”

Alyssa Dreeszen

Cornerhaus 101,

Over the past 18 years Amanda Ripperger has helped grow Sports Page Bar & Grill from one to four central Iowa locations, employing 180 people.  In addition to managing the back of the house operations of her growing local chain, Amanda Is a visible presence in her restaurants, as well as her community. She serves as the chair of the Indianola Chamber of Commerce, the Indianola Downtown Commission, and many other charitable organizations.  The young mom says the industry is a great place for those looking for flexible hours and lucrative opportunities that allow you to be home with your family.

Amanda Ripperger

The Sports Page Bar & Grill,

Angela Lose, Marketing & Engagement Coordinator at Orchestrate Hospitality, always knew she wanted a career in a public-facing field. She worked at KCCI 8 News and the Iowa Secretary of State Office, but knew she’d landed in the right place when she took a position in the hospitality industry.  In her role at Orchestrate she coordinates guest engagement for 9 restaurant brands, developing social media content, fielding customer feedback and initiating a number of marketing campaigns. She currently serves on the IRA’s Education Foundation Board and often visits high schools to talk about careers in the industry.  “The opportunities for women in our industry our endless,” says Angela.

Angela Lose

Orchestrate Hospitality,
Des Moines

Angela Harrington is the only woman hotel developer/owner/operator (all three) in Iowa. She has been honored for both her Grinnell and Iowa City locations and was recognized as Entrepreneur of the Year in Cedar Rapids/Iowa City. She was named one of the Corridor’s 250 most influential leaders and was presented with the Governor’s Rural Development Council Iowa Impact Award. Angela serves on the inaugural board of the newly formed Iowa Hotel & Lodging Association. She encourages women to consider careers in the industry. Says Angela, “No matter what your strengths and opportunities for growth are there is a great career to be had in hospitality.”

Angela Harrington

Hotel Grinnell | Highlander Hotel,

Nishapat (Aom) Meesangkaew came to Iowa 9 years ago to work on her PHD in hospitality management at Iowa State University.  Two years into her program she opened a Thai restaurant in West Des Moines, while teaching at ISU and continuing her studies.  Upon finishing her studies, she stepped away from academia and instead expanded her hospitality venture, opening Ocha Bubble Tea & Dessert Café.  She now has a second Ocha location and intends to franchise the concept nationwide. Aom has no regrets about joining the industry, rather than teaching about it.  Says Aom, “”To do what you like is freedom, but to like what you do is happiness.”

Aom Nishapat Meesangkaew

Eat Thai, Thai Eatery | Ocha Bubble Tea & Dessert Cafe,
West Des Moines

Whether it’s healthy meal prep, adding a delicious soup or salad to your own table or grabbing something to share with a friend, Beth Jackson, owner of Nourished, loves creating food that is wholesome and delicious.  Currently she uses her culinary talents to create vegan and vegetarian meals from a shared use kitchen in the Drake neighborhood.  Her handcrafted food is available by pre-ordering from her website, but can also be found at The Iowa Food Coop, Mars Cafe, Savor the Rise, Thistle’s Summit, and Kava DSM.  Beth is also getting ready to launch a new venture in the Des Moines area that is 75% women owned. She’s excited to support others looking to take their food businesses to the next level.

Beth Jackson

Des Moines

Carolina Hudman, owner of Euphoria Cakes, describes herself as a “passionate baker on her journey to opening up her first bakery.” She has built a reputation creating cakes that are as beautiful as they are delicious. Carolina appreciates the opportunities the industry has given her to both showcase her skills, as well as support causes important her. She tells those hoping to establish a business to not get discouraged, even when days are tough or long, and to always put a bit of themselves into their work. Says Carolina, “Ultimately, I’m a true believer that the best ingredient you can put into your product is love.”

Carolina Hudman

Euphoria Cakes,
Des Moines

Chef/Owner Christine Johnson says her restaurant Joppa Experience aims to feed “mind, body and soul.” She had a strong following for her catering, meal prep, and personal chef services when she fulfilled her dream of opening a restaurant in June 2021. Joppa Experience serves Southern and Chicago-style food. Fans track social media for specials which include everything from ox tails to collard greens. A native of Chicago, Christine is serves up flavors unique to the Windy City, and often missed by Chicago natives.  “I wanted to be authentic and give them a taste of home—even when they’re not there,” says Christine.

Christine Johnson

Joppa Experience,
West Des Moines

Colleen Brennan is the owner, businesswoman and pastry chef behind Bread Worthy, a popular home bakery in Iowa City. She studied Hotel and Restaurant Management at Penn State, spent a semester in the pastry program at Apicius University (Florence, Italy), and completed The Culinary Institute of America’s Accelerated Culinary Arts Program. She worked in France, Australia, and Chicago working in the kitchens of some of the world’s finest restaurants.  Those experiences confirmed for her that baking was her true passion. Says Colleen, “It’s okay to hate one setting and then feel like you thrive in another. The best part of this industry is that there are so many options.”

Colleen Brennan

Bread Worthy Bakery,
Iowa City

Deja Keppler, owner of Savor the Rise in Indianola, introduced her community to baked goods they didn’t yet know they loved at her Farmer’s Market stand. In a matter of weeks, people lined up before she was open in search of a “surprise egg biscuit” (cheddar-chive biscuit with a hard-boiled egg nestled inside and a side of homemade buffalo sauce). She took that momentum and opened a storefront on the Indianola town square selling artesian bread, pastries, fresh private label olive oils, and other specialty items. The mother of two encourages aspiring business owners to, “Just start. Go into it with No expectations and a strong desire to learn.”


Deja Keppler

Savor The Rise,

Elise Vaux, On Premise Sales Consultant for Johnson Brothers Liquor Company, built a career in New York City before returning to Iowa with a vision. “I love restaurants, wine and people,” says Elise. “I saw the potential to cultivate a wine culture unique to the Des Moines metro.”  A certified Italian Wine Professional, she was inducted into Les Dames d’Escoffier Des Moines Chapter. Already an Introductory Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, Elise is currently studying with the American Wine School in Chicago.  Upon completion of her WSET Diploma, Elise intends to start an organization for industry professionals looking to expand their wine education.

Elise Vaux

Johnson Brothers of Iowa,
Des Moines

In addition to her associate professorship in Iowa State University’s Hospitality Management Program, Dr. EunHa (Lena) Jeong is the Director of Food & Beverage Research for the university’s Department of Apparel, Events, and Hospitality Management (AESHM).  With students and faculty, Dr. Jeong help oversee the department’s food & beverage facilities including the Joan Bice Underwood Tearoom, the longest student operated restaurant in the United States and SPARKS, a student operated café. Dr. Jeong’s area of teaching and research are consumer behavior & psychology and service marketing


EunHa (Lena) Jeong

Iowa State University,

Heather Sheffer, owner/operator of Tin Pig & Gamble Block Brewery, says the hospitality industry is always changing so you must be willing to change with it. It’s advice she’s taking herself. The 30-year industry veteran is now trying her hand at brewing beer in a venture with her son David. They’ve opened Gamble Block Brewery in Perry alongside the Tin Pig restaurant. Heather might be best recognized as a former co-owner and creator of four Sports Page Grill concepts, but she’s excited to talk about her new venture. Says Heather, “Restaurants have been my life’s work, but the  brewery is my new passion.”


Heather Sheffer

Tin Pig | Gamble Block Brewery,

Heidi Messelheiser wishes she would have discovered the hospitality industry earlier in her career journey. The one time top performing off-premise sales rep for Southern Glazers Wine and Spirits, Heidi transitioned into a hands on hospitality role as the Food & Beverage Purchaser for the Marriott Downtown in Des Moines.  She has settled comfortably into the fast paced world of hospitality, managing multiple weddings and large scale events weekly while building trusting and profitable relationships with her vendors. She appreciates the strong women she works with daily saying, “The women in the hospitality industry consistently show kindness, attention to detail, organization, flexibility, and willingness to help one another.”

Heidi Messelheiser

Marriott Des Moines Downtown,
Des Moines

There isn’t much Heidi Young, owner of Happenings in Steamboat Rock doesn’t do. She is the customer service manager at Heart of Iowa Communications Cooperative in Union,  website designer, ordained minister as well as a dabbling in photography. In 2017, she opened a bar in Steamboat Rock called Happenings. In addition to serving as a local gathering spot, restaurant, bar, and live music venue, they recently added a golf simulator and beer garden. Says Heidi, “it really comes down to our AMAZING Team, without their vision, dedication, loyalty, and SO much hard work we would not be where we are today! And all the people that support us!!”

Heidi Young

Steamboat Rock

Des Moines-based Jackie Akerberg describes food as a love language, a source of pleasure, and a path to health and wellness. Says Jackie, “Spreading joy and knowledge in the form of healthy, nourishing, and delicious recipes is something I am passionate about.” She is following through on this passion with her popular vegan food blog Jackfruitful Kitchen and colorful Instagram account, @jackfruitfulkitchen. Her social media, blog and in her forthcoming cookbook, show that eating more plants can be fun—and delicious. She has tested and photographed EVERY recipe touting the benefits of better skin and mental clarity, fewer cravings, and feeling less puffy and foggy.

Jackie Akerberg

Jackfruitful Kitchen,
Des Moines

Jennifer Ferrell, owner/operator of Yesterdays Restaurant in Arnolds Park, bought the iconic Okoboji eatery in 2019.  She always knew she belonged in hospitality and spent the better part of 20 years preparing herself for ownership.  Says Jenn, “In every restaurant I’ve worked, someone served as a mentor.  Whether teaching me how to manage front-of-house staff or watch food and labor costs, there are at least 10 people who played a role in me wanting to continue in this business and who made me the owner I am.” Jenn intends to “pay it forward” and hopes to inspire others to pursue their dreams in the industry as well.


Jennifer Ferrell

Arnolds Park

Jillian Harrington, owner of Apres Bar Company in Des Moines, has worked in the hospitality industry for nearly a decade.  From her first job in a neighborhood bar, to orchestrating large scale weddings and events, to owning her own mobile bartending business, Jillian has built a reputation as a logistics and details expert.  Say one of her nominators, “She is so good at anticipating what people want, while recognizing what they need, that her clients are ensured a stress-free beautiful wedding or other event.” Jillian is also an award-winning craft mixologist, most recently being selected by Cityview readers as Des Moines’  “best mobile bar.”

Jillian Harrington

Apres Bar Co.,
Des Moines

Joan Sherwood is the owner and operator one of Iowa’s most popular independent pizzerias, Great Plains Sauce & Dough Company in Ames. She is a graduate of Iowa State University’s Hotel Restaurant Management program and like many restaurant operators, leaned into her education during the pandemic when she found ways to quickly transform operations from 80% in-house orders to 80% carry-out & delivery. Even more impressively, she retained all of her staff.  In addition to being a vivacious and welcoming presence in the restaurant, the new mom has made mentoring a team member with Down’s Syndrome a priority—helping her develop valuable workplace skills.

Joan Sherwood

Great Plains Sauce & Dough Company,

Julie Stow, Director of Meetings and Conventions at the Cedar Rapids Tourism Office, has been a tireless champion of Cedar Rapids for more than a decade. The California native has not only promoted, but elevated, the city and its reputation–drawing businesses, visitors, guests, and celebrities from across the country, and world, to the Corridor.  Prior to her current role, she was part of the Cedar Rapids Metro Alliance and Area Chamber teams. Julie was recently honored with the “Smart Women in Meetings Award” as one of the country’s fiercest, most energetic, and inspirational leaders working to build back the tourism culture post-pandemic.


Julie Stow

Cedar Rapids Tourism Office,
Cedar Rapids

Chef Katie Porter, executive chef and Food Programs Manager for the historic Wallace House in Des Moines, always enjoyed food and cooking. She attended the American Culinary Federation of Colorado Mountain College and held culinary positions across the country, and world, before returning to her home state.  Today, Chef Katie oversees the Wallace House farm-to-table dinners, seasonal culinary classes, and Real Food summer camp for teens.  Well recognized as one of the state’s top chefs, she has appeared in numerous television, radio and print interviews, including Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Ingredient.

Katie Porter

The Wallace Centers of Iowa,
Des Moines

After graduating from the Iowa Culinary Institute, Chef Katie Van Dyke headed to the Napa Valley to work in a Michelin-starred restaurant.  Seven years later she returned to the ICI to serve as an adjunct instructor, and soon after help launch a series of pop-up “innovative wine pairing dinners” featuring many of her California-inspired recipes. “This industry has offered me a way to express myself creatively as well as soulfully,” says Chef Katie.  Always the instructor, Chef Katie adds, “My advice to all young humans is to be willing to be adaptable and always push for growth. Your success in the industry solely lies within yourself.”

Katie Van Dyke

Iowa Culinary Institute,
Des Moines

After years of working in area restaurants, Kayleigh Phillips, followed her dream and opened her own eatery. This year, she launched Ohana Poke Company, a Hawaiian-inspired rice bowl restaurant, in Marion.  Patrons build their own bowl or choose one of the house features. All feature Kayleigh’s original sauces.  Kayleigh credits her eatery’s success on relationships, as well as food.  “Even with something as seemingly simple as poké bowls, the bonds that are built with my costumers are very strong,” says Kayleigh. “The unique and kind people that come in, are the reason why I love coming to work each day.”

Kayleigh Phillips

Ohana Poke Company,

Krista Matthes, owner/operator of SOMM Wines in Fairfield, discovered her passion for wine while working as a server at Emeril Lagasse’s Fish House in the MGM in Las Vegas. She was in her 20s and had to “beg” the managers and head sommelier to “give her a shot” but she soon advanced to assistant sommelier. She later moved to Caesar’s Palace as Lead Sommelier. Today Krista is the owner of SOMM Wines, a boutique wine store and by the glass lounge located in a renovated house in Fairfield. Says Krista, “The hospitality industry really taught me the difference between being good at something and thriving in your field.”


Krista Matthes

SOMM Wines,

Throughout college and graduate school, Kristen Daily worked as a barista and prep/line cook.  She taught writing/communications classes centered on food narratives at Iowa State University but wanted to be more “hands on.”  She opened a Des Moines-based home bakery with her partner Andrea called Pie Bird Pies. “Food has always been about connection and community for me, so opening my home bakery, has been the perfect way to express that care and joy,” says Kristen.  The duos pies quickly skyrocketed to cult status, continually selling out at every market and pop-up they do. They share their success by donating to local LGBTQ causes including One Iowa and Iowa Safe Schools.


Kristen Daily

Pie Bird Pies,
Des Moines

Krystle Mohr, owner/operator of 5th Quarter Bar & Grill in Van Meter, has worked in hospitality, marketing, sales, finance, real estate and agricultural. She says for her, the common denominator in every industry has always been her passion for customer experience and service. That’s also why her bar & grill became an instant success when it opened a year ago. “The Hospitality Industry encompasses more than meets the eye. It’s an industry where your creative juices can flow,” says Krystle.  “I love that I get to teach, learn from, and grow with my team. Sometimes I truly wonder if I chose the hospitality industry or if it chose me.”


Krystle Mohr

5th Quarter Bar & Grill,
Van Meter

LeShawn “Shawnnie” Smith started baking as a hobby with her mother. That led to a side gig as an in-home baker and quickly developed into a full-time career. The one-time corporate IT and HR specialist moved her home business into Cedar Rapid’s popular NewBo Market in 2019.  “Entrepreneurship drives me,” says Shawnnie, who markets her specialty cakes as being baked with “love and soul.” Shawnnie’s NewBo location was just finding its footing when COVID mandates limited operations. However, she got a special boost when her business caught the attention of late-night television host Stephen Colbert who featured Shawnniecakes twice as a deserving small business as part of a national “Small Biz Bump” segment.

LeShawn Smith

Cedar Rapids

Lesley Rish has been recognized for her culinary prowess and entrepreneurship for more than a decade.  From founding Dumpling Darling to co-owning Nosh Cafe & Eatery in Des Moines, Lesley has been honored for her food by Savor Des Moines and Cityview, and was named DMACC’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year. But for many her latest concept, may be her greatest.  Lesley’s home-based Oh High Bakery has elevated the chocolate chip cookie to new heights by stuffing it—with everything from brownies and peanut butter, to cream cheese.  Says Lesley, “Hospitality is so much more than just food on a plate. It’s using creativity to promote human interaction through food.”


Lesley Rish

Oh High Bakery,
Des Moines

Chef Lumarie Rodríguez-Soto, Food & Beverage Director and Executive Chef for the Waterloo Convention Center, grew up in a culinary family in Puerto Rico.  She earned a BA in Advertising and a Masters in Human Resources, but ultimately – the hospitality industry drew her back. “It was waiting for me,” says Chef Lumarie.  She owned one of the top three bakeries on the island until 2015, when she moved to Waterloo. She owned an Iowa bakery until accepting her current role. Today, the multi-award winning American Culinary Federation certified executive pastry chef, is also a Latin American social media personality promoting regional and global cuisine to her more than 75,000 followers.

Chef Lumarie Rodriguez-Soto

Waterloo Convention Center,

As the Consumer Insights & Engagement Manager for the Iowa Soybean Association, Lydia Zerby leads the Iowa Food & Family Project (Iowa FFP.) She also serves as editor of the quarterly magazine Fresh Pickings which celebrates the incredible food, farms and families that make Iowa a special place to live. Prior to leading the Iowa FFP, Lydia was the program manager for the Downtown Des Moines Farmers’ Market. Lydia is proud of Iowa’s role in world food production and loves promoting the symbiotic relationship between agriculture and hospitality. Explains Lydia, “I’m passionate about connecting consumers with the Iowa farmers who tirelessly work to grow safe and nutritious food.”

Lydia Zerby

Iowa Soybean Association,

When Lyssa Wade, owner and operator of Veggie Thumper, realized that Des Moines had room for more vegan food options, she decided she was “just crazy enough to buy a school bus and convert it into a mobile restaurant.” Since 2019 she has been sharing her plant-based recipes on her colorful food bus, Veggie Thumper. A staple at the Beaverdale Farmers Market and other Des Moines areal events, she has amassed a large following of vegans and omnivores. Her menu changes weekly and Lyssa enjoys recreating classic comfort foods with her own signature twist. “If something seems like it shouldn’t go together, I want to know why—and how can I make it go together,” says Lyssa.

Lyssa Wade

Veggie Thumper,
Des Moines

Chef Mary Sanigular considers the opportunities the hospitality industry gives her to serve her community a gift. As Head Pastry Chef at The Café in Ames, she helped establish the restaurant as a premier culinary destination. Recently, she became the first employee of an up and coming sourdough micro-bakery Bread By Chelsa B, where she holds the title Kitchen Collaborator. Mary says she choose the hospitality industry because she loves marrying the relationship between food and people. You can also see that in her work as a food stylist for companies such as Hy-Vee, Ayo Foods, and Life Beautiful Magazine.


Chef Mary Sanigular

The Cafe,

Sandra Hendred, owner of Polar Xpress, a frozen yogurt shop in Ottumwa, is equal parts community advocate and restaurant owner.  In fact, part of her motive for opening her independent frozen dessert shop in 2015, was to contribute to the revitalization of Ottumwa’s downtown. She has been a very visible promoter of the city since moving there in 1987, most recently as part of the Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation. Sandra’s advice to women looking to start businesses is “find a mentor.”  Says Sandra, “I found great success in working with S.C.O.R.E and the Small Business Administration. Having someone who has navigated the waters helps you know if your business plan is sound.”

Sandra Hendred

Polar Xpress,

Sara Ostrander knows women on a mission get things done. The Jefferson native graduated from culinary school and completed with a business management degree.  That combination – culinary talent and business acumen—is what true an all women investment group called Why Not Us? To Sara when they began recruiting someone to own and operate a restaurant in a downtown Jefferson renovated historic building. Sara opened The Centennial this past July and the crowds keep coming. Sara is thankful to the sisterhood that invested in her. “It is because of a group of amazing women that I am able to own a restaurant,” concludes the now chef/owner.

Sara Ostrander

The Centennial,

Shaunna Zanker-, Owner of Stanhope Locker and the soon to be opened Tavern 17, has always loved the rush of a busy Friday night in a restaurant. She worked as a server and bartender throughout high school and college and eventually earned a degree in human services. However, the hospitality industry was always in the back of her mind. “I guess you could say I was always good at “peopleing,” jokes the mom of four.  Today Shaunna owns a full-service meat locker and will soon be opening a small bar & grill. Says Shauna, “The hospitality industry has limitless skies—for me it means I have the privilege of seeing the food product from start to finish.”


Shaunna Zanker

Stanhope Locker & Market,

According to Brian and Jayme Cadwallader, Shaye Wynn is the “operational backbone” of their four Council Bluffs restaurant concepts.  In 2009, a 19-year-old Shaye started working for the couple and her natural management skills were almost immediately evident.  However, Shaye worked her way through the ranks as a hostess, server, bartender, supervisor and general manager. Today she is the Director of Operations for all of the Cadwallader’s hospitality properties which include: The Salty Dog, Caddy’s Kitchen & Cocktails, Big Kel’s Pizza & Wings, and Hugo’s Tacos. Shaye was instrumental in opening two of the restaurants off, as well as shepherding all of their properties through COVID. “We simply couldn’t do it without her,” says owner Brian Cadwallader.

Shaye Wynn

The Salty Dog Bar & Grill,
Council Bluffs

From the time she was a girl Sheri Hansen,  Assistant Director of Food & Beverage for Prairie Meadows in Altoona, watched strong women achieve leadership roles in the hospitality industry.  In fact, she bussed tables for her restaurant-owner grandmother. “I was always taught that hard work and dedication are key to success,” says Sheri, who has been integral to the food and beverage operations of the state’s largest casino, Prairie Meadows, for more than 25 years. Today she takes every opportunity to help others find fulfilling careers in the industry. “I have a strong commitment to mentoring and helping other women,” says Sheri. “The hospitality industry is one industry where hard work, spirit and energy bring opportunities.”


Sheri Hansen

Prairie Meadows,

Stephanie Mehmen, COO of Black Sheep Social Club, Black Sheep Brewed, Lucky Penny and soon to be Pickle Palace, all in Cedar Rapids, is described by those who know her best as “a force to be reckoned with.”  Her multiple employee nominators described her as a role model, mentor and “the best manager that’s ever been.”  The ten-year industry veteran takes it all in stride and credits her father for shaping her approach.  “When we started this business, my dad told me one thing that will always resonate and be my focus–Your obligation is your employees and then you build from there,” says Stephanie. “I’m not sure if I could’ve received better advice.”


Stephanie Mehmen

Black Sheep Social Club,
Cedar Rapids

Tanya Doyle is the founder of Whatcha Smokin’ BBQ + Brew, a Central Texas style BBQ restaurant which was recently recognized by Food & Wine as the Best BBQ in Iowa. Tanya was able to transform a one-time gas station-turned-motorcycle shop into a multi-million dollar culinary destination, drawing people from across the state to the tiny community of Luther, population 120.  Tanya recently sold the restaurant and became an improvement coach, helping other businesses learn to recognize and respond to the “voice of their customer.” Says Tanya, “We want to deliver value to the customer…and see them become raving fans, returning time and time again.”

Tanya Doyle

Tanya Doyle Culture Coaching,