Who We Are
Sophia Lorenzi · Founder + Director
It all started with gelato. My first job at 15 was scooping gelato at the local mall, and I’ve been hooked on delivering people joy through food ever since. For over 15 years, I’ve worked too many jobs in food and hospitality, from steaming milk as a barista to teaching kids how to cook. I also wrote about Bay Area food trends for publications including 7x7 Magazine, Eater SF, and Flaunt. And because I just couldn’t get enough food from cooking it and writing about it, I led food tours in SF with Edible Excursions for several years, so I could talk to even more people about food. The cooking, the writing, and the talking (not to mention all the eating) eventually led me into consulting, producing events and designing custom culinary itineraries for tech companies, luxury travel agencies, and non-profits. Fun fact: one summer I created and produced over 90 cooking classes for kids in 9 weeks of summer camp.
Currently, I serve as an advisor to the The Cooking Project, a non-profit that teaches at-risk youth fundamental cooking skills. I also create monthly events as the Events Director for The Proof Collective, a Bay Area-based community of women who live, love and work in food.
Somewhere between processing rabbits in Crete and slurping hột vịt lộn in Saigon, I realized the two things I like most are: 1) bringing people together around food and 2) collaborating with passionate food people to make that happen. This is why I started HØSTE.
Michael de la Torre · Head Chef SF, Dining Experiences
Michael de la Torre was born and raised in the Coachella Valley, CA, where he grew up feasting on the diverse spreads from his mother’s Italian and his father’s Mexican families. He cooked with fire and smoke with his dad at family barbecues and made stuffed manicotti with his mom. Propelled by his rich backgrounds, he graduated from UC San Diego with a degree in Ethnic Studies, then continued his education at California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. Working alongside chefs from Chile, France, Mexico and Greece, he further tapped into the culinary nuances of his own indigenous and Mediterranean roots. Over the years, Chef Michael has specialized in breads of the world, fermentation, mole sauces, vegetarianism, cooking over fire and cooking with the seasons' offerings. When not educating, he works as a private chef and runs an Arab-style tacos pop-up. He lives in Oakland with his kombucha mother.
Martin Sheehan-Stross · Head Sommelier, Wine 101 Facilitator
Martin Sheehan-Stross first became enthralled with restaurant service while still in high school. He began studying fine wine while still in college and moved to San Francisco upon graduating to further his sommelier career at restaurants such as Spruce and Gary Danko, earning the Rudd Scholarship for the high score at the Advanced Sommelier Exam in 2013.
In 2015 he was named one of Wine and Spirits Magazine’s Best New Sommeliers in America and also took first place in the Guild Of Sommeliers Top New Somm national competition. The next year, he traveled to Lichtenstein where he won the prestigious Chaine de Rostisseurs World’s Best Young Sommelier final. In 2016, while holding the position of Lead Sommelier at Michael Mina, Martin co-founded Foot of the Bed Cellars, a monthly wine club that explores the diversity of West Coast growing regions. When he’s not pouring or enjoying wine, Martin can be found running or golfing somewhere in the Bay Area.
Virginia Miller · Whiskey 101 and Saké Expert Facilitator
Since founding The Perfect Spot in 2007, Virginia Miller has been Zagat SF editor, Table8 National Editor/VP, SF Guardian critic and is the West North America Chair for World's 50 Best Restaurants. She regularly covers dining, restaurants, travel, international spirits, cocktails and bars at Liquor.com, Time Out, Distiller, Gin Magazine, Where Magazine and beyond. Miller has been published in over 60 publications, including Food Republic, Whisky Magazine, Thrillist, Alaska Airlines and London Times. She judges for dozens of competitions and on many international, national and local awards panels in dining, food, spirits, cocktails, drink and bars, recently passing the 10,000 mark in number of restaurants and bars she’s visited around the world.
Emily Kessler · Head Chef NYC, Dining Experiences
Emily Kessler, a classically trained chef, has worked at Blue Hill at Stone Barns among other Michelin star restaurants. She spent years working at the James Beard House as their house sous chef cooking with innovative chefs who taught her about ingredients and new techniques. When Emily isn’t in the kitchen, she is traveling around the globe learning about new flavors. Emily’s passion is supporting local farmers by elevating their incredible products through applying creative cooking techniques and world flavors. She is the owner of Emily Kessler Inc. a medically collaborative private chef company catering to people with special dietary needs.
Veronica DuBoise · Chocolate 101 Expert Facilitator
Born and raised in the Bronx, I’ve been in the food service industry for over 17 years. I graduated from the Institute of Culinary Education with a certificate in Culinary Arts. I originally pursued a culinary career but I became enamored with the pastry arts. I found that was a great complement with my arts background.I’ve worked in several high-end restaurants (Daniel, Eleven Madison Park), as well as some of the top catering companies of NYC (Creative Edge Parties, Union Square Catering (formerly Hudson Yards), Great Performances). In 2007, I decided to go out on my own and started a small specialty cake and petit dessert company, You Deserve It…From Scratch.
Maia Hirschbein · Olive Oil 101 Expert Facilitator
Maia Hirschbein holds a Masters in Food Culture and Communications from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Piedmont, Italy. While in Italy, Maia worked with award winning producers in Tuscany, Liguria, and Sicily, which inspired her passion for olive oil back at home in California. As part of her Masters research, Maia completed a comprehensive study of California olive oil, in which she traveled the state and interviewed dozens of producers. Since 2013 she has been working for the largest extra virgin olive oil producer in the United States, California Olive Ranch. For California Olive Ranch Maia has led their olive oil education program and research in foodservice, helping COR raise awareness while working closely with chefs and restaurants.
Lindsay Kinder · French Macaron 101 Expert Facilitator
Lindsay is the head chef and macaron expert at Food La La. She’s classically trained in French cuisine and relishes in teaching her guests how to make fun, beautiful, and delicious food. Her specialty—the French macaron—is complete only with an artful splatter of gold paint, and a delicately placed sugared crystal. She loves fancy (but not fussy) and cannot wait to teach you her macaron-making secrets. Together, you’ll make even Ladurée drool!
Henry Hsu · Dumpling 101 Expert Facilitator
Born in Taiwan and raised in Texas, Henry’s culinary predilections stem from this hybrid of Pacific Island and Gulf Coast cultures. His training ground was his grandfather’s vegetable garden, and his mother and grandmother’s kitchen. Henry studied anthropology, Latin America, and public health with stints in restaurant kitchens and organic farming. He worked in architecture and furniture design, lived in Ecuador and started a dumpling business. Now he works for local, artisanal tofu-maker Hodo Soy and in off-hours he volunteers for Green Gulch Farm, loves to cook, eat, talk & obsessively photograph food. IG: oramasama
Joshua Clever · Natural Chef, Dining Experiences
If six years of living in Paris taught Joshua Clever anything, it was appreciating seasonal, local and sustainably grown food. Highly influenced by the therapy and value of a whole foods diet, Joshua decided to return to California and pursue a career in the culinary arts. He became a certified Natural Chef at Bauman College in 2008, a culinary program based on holistic nutrition and married his two passions, food + yoga. After working years as a private chef under his own company, Urban Provisions, he decided to bring a third element into the mix, wine. Life is about balance and for Joshua, yoga + food + wine is the perfect combination to achieve just that. Joshua continues to work as a private chef, co-hosts yoga retreats down the California coast, leads health & well-being inspired culinary classes, and offers food + wine pairing events in the Bay Area.
Vanessa Silva · Chocolate 101 Expert Facilitator
Vanessa’s curiosity around food started very early at her Italian grandmother’s kitchen, rolling gnocchi and making aioli before she was 10 years old. She went on to study Food Engineering, Holistic Nutrition and has founded and ran a few food-related businesses. The first one started while she was in college: a chocolate confection and artisanal chocolate Easter eggs. A few ventures later, these days Vanessa can be found running a culinary program for kids in San Francisco, where she shares her passion for eating and cooking with kids 2-12 years old.
Vanessa is Brazilian and uses that as an excuse to unapologetically exaggerate the flair and vivacity that she brings to her classes and to life in general.
Ian McCarthy · Cocktail 101 + Custom Cocktail Experiences
Ian McCarthy is a bartender and educator in the worlds of spirits and cocktails. He has owned and operated the mobile bartending service Sharpshooter since 2015, after working bar and wine programs locally and across the country. Unwilling to keep himself behind the bar, Ian also works on the production side of the alcohol industry; distilling for several years under other labels, and marrying his knowledge of wine, botany, and distillation under his own project - Artemis botanical wines. It is this approach from all-angles that he hopes can give a unique perspective on hospitality and education.