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Meet The International Kitchen Team
Richard started at The International Kitchen as our Group and Incentive Travel Specialist, and took on the role of President and co-owner in October of 2015. He brings many years of experience to the position, in sales for Alitalia Airlines, with a large Midwest tour operator specializing in Italy and Europe, and working for The International Kitchen. He discovered his love for Europe and travel with his first French class in high school. This blossomed into a love of French and Italian history, about which he is very knowledgeable, along with an associate degree in the liberal arts. Over the years, Richard has also developed an interest in cooking, and particularly baking which he claims to be extremely therapeutic! He has an easy and open manner, a quick sense of humor and is always on hand to give any assistance. We are delighted to have him at the helm!
Vice President, Owner
Favorite Travel Memory
Diving for sea urchin in the sea off the Sardinian coast, and eating them there on the rocks accompanied by some white wine, bread, and the salt spray of the waves.
Margaret (Peg) Kern is a native of Ohio who received her BA in Italian from Columbia University and her MA and Ph.D. in Italian Literature from the University of Chicago. She joined TIK in 2004, took some time off to raise her two sons, and took on the office of Vice President and co-owner of the company in 2015. She enjoys an obvious love for Italy, especially Rome, but enjoys traveling pretty much anywhere and has loved infecting her young children with the travel bug. She is a passionate foodie and bread baker as well, and would be happy to help you plan your trip!
A three month backpacking trip to Southeast Asia in 2007 inspired Adrian to leave academia for the wide world of travel. He has since had the good fortune to travel extensively in Europe, Southeast Asia and South America. In fact, Adrian liked South America so much on his first visit there in 2009 that he decided to move there the following year. From late 2010 to 2012, he lived and worked in Buenos Aires, using the cosmopolitan Argentine capital as a base to discover more of South America. Adrian has a genuine love of travel and appreciation for the unique experiences that only immersion in foreign countries and cultures can provide. He would be happy to speak with you about your travel plans and help ensure that your culinary vacation with The International Kitchen exceeds your wildest imagination.
Karen Herbst was for many years a research editor for Playboy Magazine, followed by a stint as a producer and director for five talk shows at CBS radio. She then left the full-time work force to raise her family of three sons. Upon her return in 1983, she chose to enter the travel industry, where she specialized in small group travel to Italy and France. In 1994 she decided to combine her travel experience with her lifelong passion for food and wine to create the The International Kitchen. She is a former member of the Board of Directors of the Italian Travel Promotional Council, a non-profit organization working in conjunction with the Italian Government Tourist Office, as well as a member of the Slow Food Organization and the James Beard Foundation. In 2004 Karen was the honored recipient of the La Medaille d'Argent du Tourisme, the French Silver Medal of Tourism awarded by the French government. In 2008 The International Kitchen was given the coveted award of "Best Special Interest Product" by the French Government Tourist Office. Karen retired in 2015, but still leads the occasional group for TIK!
Favorite Travel Memory
A perfect day in Florence: David! The Uffizi (with salumi, formaggi, and vino on the roof)! The Ponte Vecchio! Topped off with a pizza napoletana and an evening stroll with my TIK family.
Sharon brings extensive financial expertise that she has gathered through over 30 years of her accounting career. She is delighted to be a part of The International Kitchen, as it reflects her love of travel, art, multi-cultural interests, and did we mention the wonderful food? Sharon's upbeat spirit and contagious laughter is greatly appreciated by the rest of the office. Currently her favorite cities are Florence and Sant' Agata sui Due Golfi, where she toured with The International Kitchen staff. But what does Sharon love more than art, travel and food? Her beautiful granddaughter, with whom she spends as much time as possible! And if being a grandmother didn't keep her busy enough, Sharon is also the Oak Park/Near West Suburbs Chapter Coordinator for Project Linus, a non-profit organization that provides blankets and afghans to comfort children in need.
An avid traveller, Leonardo Balli has explored countries across the globe but always returns happily to his hometown of Florence, Italy. Leonardo has been involved in different aspects of the travel industry since attending a special Italian High School for Tourism. He lived in London for a number of his formative years and has worked in all aspects of hotel and resort management – from porter, part of a summer animation team, to Director. For an Italian tour operator he has led small and large groups abroad and even managed summer operations on the island of Crete. He has been owner and director of this own tour company since 1995 and is proud to be a close collaborator with The International Kitchen since its inception. Leonardo works to ensure top quality, control, service and of course cuisine (!) for all International Kitchen programming in Tuscany. When not traveling Leonardo enjoys spending time with his daughter Olympia, going to the movies and listening to music from his wonderful terrace overlooking the Tuscan hills. His favorite city (other than Florence)? London. A destination he still has yet to visit ? Chile.
Ele was born and raised in the countryside outside of Florence, where she still lives with her family. Her passion for local traditions and interest in tracing her ancestors' biographies are part of her everyday life: she is currently working on a special degree on the History of Tuscany at Florence University. Ele works alongside Leonardo at The International Kitchen's sister office in Florence, where she takes an active part in creating our cooking packages. Ele is also an accomplished singer and songwriter! She hopes to have the opportunity to help people understand that Tuscany is something more than a tourist destination: each town has its own story to tell through its art, its food, its inhabitants. Through her work she hopes to provide you with the essential instruments to be a good listener to these stories: you don't need anything more!!