Staff

How was your experience with us?

I am so thankful to now know about your company and will not only recommend it to many of our friends and family, but will surely be using you again. My husband had such a great time that he is already planning our next ‘cooking vacation!’”
Vicky J., from Colorado
The Chicago staff was wonderful, professional and helpful. They are the reason I chose to book my vacation through The International Kitchen.”
Becky B., from California
I have to say, they are one of the most professional companies I’ve had the pleasure to do business, with from start to finish.”
Karen M., from New Jersey
We are experienced travelers and this trip was one of the best. We look forward to booking another vacation with your Company. Rest assured we have and will continue to tell all of our friends about this wonderful vacation and how first rate the entire experience was.”
Theodore S., from Pennsylvania
The International Kitchen staff was very knowledgeable and courteous. All of my emails were answered quickly. We can’t wait to attend another International Kitchen class in another place. Thank you for making our first cooking class a wonderful experience...”
Robin, from Texas
Thank-you for putting all your talents and passions together to give us such lasting memories, and warm-fuzzy thoughts to dreamily tuck in our hearts forever. applause!!! I’m terribly jealous of your jobs!!!”
Linda F., from California
This was my first ever trip as a solo traveler. I was so scared at first. It was so nice to know that you and your staff at the International Kitchen were there to help me with anything I might have needed. As for being scared of solo travel…never will I be afraid of anything again! Thank you, thank you, thank you again for the best trip ever and I can’t wait to book another trip with you. ”
Isa M., from New Jersey
I was totally pleased with the experience, it certainly exceeded my expectations. The International Kitchen staff was friendly, knowledgeable, and very accommodating….do not change a thing.”
Allen R., from Virginia

Meet The International Kitchen Team

Richard Davis

President, Co-Owner

Favorite Trip

A Food Lover's Paradise in Norcia

Favorite Travel Memory

Driving through the Loire with my parents & stopping in a small town on market day. My mother picked up a celery that was 2-3 feet long – almost half as tall as she was!

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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!

“After 28 years in the airline and travel industry I had the opportunity to come to The International Kitchen, and I was thrilled to make the move. I am proud to work at The International Kitchen. I have a product I am proud to sell supported by stellar customer service unrivaled – in my opinion – in the travel industry. I’m one of those lucky people who enjoy coming to work every day!”

Peg Kern

Vice President, Co-Owner

Favorite Trip

Delectable Portugal in Historic Évora

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.

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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!

“When I decided to leave academia I knew my ideal job would be something combining my love for Italy, food, and travel. I didn't know culinary travel existed back then, and it was a wonderful surprise when I discovered a job posting by The International Kitchen. I was so excited I called my husband at work and told him I had to have that job!”

Adrian Hall

Director of Business Development

Favorite Trip

Cooking and Culture in Southeast Asia

Favorite Travel Memory

Sitting with my best buddies and a case of beer in Redwood National Park, California, watching the sun set over the Pacific.

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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.

“Before going to Southeast Asia I had never traveled anywhere on my own. That trip opened my eyes to the huge diversity of human experience our world has to offer. About a month in, I found myself sitting on the stern of a boat in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam, feeling like every day was the best day of my life. It was impossible to go back to the insulated world of academia after that feeling. The best trips create moments of perfect equilibrium where there is nowhere else you would rather be. At TIK, we understand the high hopes our clients have for their hard-earned travel time and we take that responsibility to heart.”

Darlene Pereda

Marketing and Communications

Favorite Trip

Culinary Adventure on the Croatian Coast

Favorite Travel Memory

During a European backpacking trip in 2013 I fell in love with a tiny island off of the coast of Croatia called Vis, a beautiful, tranquil, hidden gem.

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A Chicago Native, Darlene moved to NYC in 2006 to pursue an undergraduate degree in International Studies from Marymount Manhattan College. After graduating, Darlene moved to Istanbul, Turkey, where she taught at Bahçeşehir University for a year. Darlene has a master’s degree in International Public Service with a concentration in nonprofit management from DePaul University. She is an avid traveler, believing that travel helps broaden the mind and make us more empathetic, understanding world citizens.

“I love to visit new places, try new vegetarian food, and to do as much good as I can when I am traveling. Working at The International Kitchen is like traveling every day. There’s never a dull moment! ”

Karen Herbst

Founder

Favorite Trip

Bonjour Provence

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!

Sharon Kurth

Financial Manager

Favorite Trip

Mediterranean Cooking Experience

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.

Leonardo Balli

Favorite Trip

Living the Real Tuscan Dream

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. As well, she works for the Essence of Italy office (The International Kitchen's local representative and 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 an 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!!