Karen-Lee Ryan - Founder & CEO of Walk Eat Nashville
Walk Eat Nashville founder Karen-Lee Ryan is a lifelong explorer and storyteller. She moved to Nashville in 2005 after falling in love with the city during a cross-country road trip to find a new place to live. Nashville’s creativity and collaborative spirit drew her in like a warm embrace.
Despite her love affair with Music City, she relocated to San Antonio, Texas, in 2012. She couldn’t pass up the opportunity to become a newspaper executive—the culmination of a 15-year career in digital and print media. But, she left her heart in Nashville and returned after 18 months. She launched Walk Eat Nashville in October 2014 to share her passion for her adopted hometown.
Karen-Lee was recently inducted into Les Dames d’Escoffier, a philanthropic society of women in food, wine and hospitality. She’s also a Platinum Ambassador for The Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. Before delving into hospitality, she was a frequent contributor to The Washington Post and also wrote for National Geographic Traveler, Backpacker, Shape and other magazines.
She was part of the Tennessean news team recognized as a Breaking News Finalist for a Pulitzer Prize. And she helped launch websites for Microsoft, Marriott and other Fortune 500 companies. Her most rewarding work yet? Introducing folks to the people, places and dishes that make Nashville such a dynamic place to live and visit.
A culinary storyteller, Jennifer Justus moved to Nashville more than a decade ago. She is the author of Nashville Eats, a cookbook filled with stories and recipes about Music City, as well as The Food Lovers’ Guide to Nashville.
She worked as the food culture reporter at The Tennessean for six years before embarking on a freelance career that led to work in TIME, Southern Living, Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown, Serious Eats, The Bitter Southerner, Imbibe, AFAR, The Local Palate and others. Her writing has been featured in two editions of Cornbread Nation: The Best of Southern Food Writing. Jennifer also teaches reporting and food writing in the Journalism department at Middle Tennessee State University.
Growing up with parents who worked hard outside the kitchen but not so often in it, she had her first culinary education at a local meat-and-three restaurant over plates of fried chicken and collard greens. She received her formal training at Boston University where she created her own food writing curriculum with courses in Journalism and Gastronomy.
Prior to journalism, she researched the emotional connections we make with food. She spent hours in the kitchens of home cooks looking for the reasons behind the comfort in a pot of chili and conducted deprivation studies with American teenagers to understand the craving for a slice of pepperoni pie.
A member of the Southern Foodways Alliance and Les Dames d’Escoffier, Jennifer also co-founded Dirty Pages, a recipe storytelling project based in Nashville and featured in The New York Times.
A food, drink and travel writer, Chris Chamberlain has lived in Nashville his entire life, except for four years in California where he studied liberal arts at Stanford University and learned how to manipulate chopsticks.
He is a regular writer for the Nashville Scene and its “Bites” food blog, as well as Nashville Lifestyles magazine. Chris is the Southern correspondent for FoodRepublic.com and often writes travel pieces for Thrillist and GetawaysForGrownups.com, while serving as a local editor for Google, Zagat, Conde Nast Traveler and The Local Palate. Several national television shows have sought his expert opinions, including Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, Eat Street, Unique Eats and Best in Chow. And, Chris has judged more culinary and cocktail competitions than he can remember.
His travel guide and cookbook, The Southern Foodie: 100 Places to Eat before You Die and The Recipes That Made Them Famous was released in 2012 by Thomas Nelson Publishing. The sequel The Southern Foodie’s Guide to the Pig was released in 2014, the same year History Press published his book “Nashville Beer: A Heady History of Music City Brewing.”
Despite the fact that his doctor follows him on Twitter and occasionally offers unsolicited advice about his lifestyle choices, Chris has been known to drive more than three hours for a barbecue sandwich. Smoked meat is a passion—to travel for, to cook at home and to judge as a professional KCBS-certified judge.
Nashville guide and trainer, Ad Hudler grew up in a five-generation newspaper family on the high plains of eastern Colorado. After living in several small American cities while raising a daughter and writing novels, he moved to downtown Nashville in 2009, before it bustled with Airbnbs and bachelorettes.
Ad is a former lead concierge of Omni Nashville, the city’s largest four-diamond hotel. In addition to leading Walk Eat Nashville tours, he trains hotel staff and other Music City hospitality professionals on Nashville's culinary and entertainment venues.
He's written four internationally-published novels with Random House, most of them with food prominently featured in the prose. Though he tries to sample every new Nashville restaurant, he prefers to cook at home -- and he knows the city's ethnic grocery stores better than most.
He likes Korean food, crunchy fried chicken, museums, hiking and any cocktail made with a dry London gin. ("Leave gin to the Brits, please. No one makes it better.") An avian enthusiast, he and his wife of 25+ years are on a quest to hike to every waterfall in the state of Tennessee.
Kate knew she had a passion for food as early as kindergarten when she proudly proclaimed her favorite food as "Avocado and Crab Meat Salad!" Her friends gave her quizzical looks as they still hadn't ventured past the blue box mac and cheese or pepperoni pizza.
Kate moved to Nashville to attend Belmont University and has called Music City her "home away from home" ever since. She’s been an unofficial Nashville food tour guide to friends and family for years.
She spent five years at Country Music Television (CMT) and learned the beauty of a well-executed plan. She managed everything from pre-production and initial creative pitches to post-production and project wrap up. She built budgets, acted as the legal and risk management representative oversaw set construction, created shoot schedules, booked the crew, negotiated location clearances and more. You can still catch her from time to time sprinting through downtown with a headset on, working on the annual CMT Music Awards or CMA Awards.
Her strategic nature and penchant for adrenaline were an ideal fit to help propel growth at Walk Eat Nashville. Now, she’s combining her knack for operations and love of food at Walk Eat Nashville as Operations Specialist and Guide. When she isn't working, you can find her hanging out in her beloved neighborhood Germantown, or scoping out the best happy hours and brunches around Nashville.