Gold Star is the Cincinnati-style chili known for its 13 secret spices that give real Cincy flavor, so we’re celebrating 13 National Chili Days by honoring 13 local Flavor Makers. All for a good cause — to help feed local kids in need by giving a portion of all chili menu items sold* Thursday, February 23 through Tuesday, March 7 to the Freestore Foodbank!
Meet Gold Star's 2023 Flavor Makers
National Chili Day is about celebrating local flavor, so Gold Star and the Freestore Foodbank have crowned 13 local Flavor Makers — people who are actively working as advocates for the flavor of the city every day!
DJ Vader (Kenyatta Smith)
Help us feed local kids in need!
National Chili Day is our day to bring the Cincinnati community together to help fight childhood hunger. Beginning Thursday, 2/23 through 3/7, Gold Star will donate a portion of all Chili menu items sold to the Freestore Foodbank’s Childhood Hunger Programs. The program's three initiatives include the School Pantry program, Kids Café, and the Power Pack program. These amazing programs work to ensure children in food-insecure households have access to nutritious meals. To donate to the Freestore Foodbank and learn more, click the link below.Donate to Freestore
*Gold Star will donate 3% of all chili menu items sold from 2/23/23 - 3/7/23 to Freestore Foodbank, up to $25,000. Donations not tax deductible.
Find Your “Way”
Find your nearest Gold Star and help support the Freestore Foodbank. It’s a delicious way to do a LOT of good!
Our 2022 Flavor Makers
As we welcome a new class of Flavor Makers, we still want to recognize our 2022 and 2021 Flavor Makers, who are still adding their own flavor to the city!
Regina Carswell Russo
Toilynn O’Neal Turner
Michael Cotrell (aka: Brooklyn Steele-Tate)
Chef Christian Gill
Our 2021 Flavor Makers
Jill P. Meyer
Jean-Robert de Cavel
Crystal L. Kendrick
Join the eClub
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President & CEO, ArtsWave
Alecia Kintner serves as Chief Executive Officer of ArtsWave, Cincinnati’s engine for the arts. Under her leadership, ArtsWave has developed a 10-year community impact strategy for 100 arts organizations; created a multi-faceted diversity, equity, inclusion and access plan; launched an African American performing arts series; piloted first-ever cultural tourism marketing campaigns; and successfully advocated for $14 million in federal dollars for arts relief during the pandemic. Recently she has directed the launch of a five-year countdown to ArtsWave’s Centennial Anniversary in 2027.
Alecia has been named a 2023 “Career Woman of Achievement” by the YWCA and as one of 2020’s “10 Women Who Mean Business” by the Cincinnati Business Courier.
Alecia is a board member of Visit Cincy and the Cincinnati Experience (CX); a member of the Cincinnati Women’s Executive Forum; and past chair of the Private Sector Council of Americans for the Arts. She is the recipient of AFTA’s 2004 Michael Newton Award for innovation in united arts fundraising.
Alecia is a Southern California native, with career stops in Moscow, Russia; NYC; Hartford, Connecticut; Roatan, Honduras; and finally Cincinnati, her home for the last ten years.
The Lang Thang Group Partner, AACAC Founder
Bao Nguyen is one of the partners of The Lang Thang Group, which owns Pho Lang Thang, Quan Hapa and The Hi-Mark. He is also one of the founders of the Asian American Cultural Association of Cincinnati (AACAC), which founded the Asian Food Fest and Asianati. His latest project, Asianati, serves as a resource to showcase Asian things in the city. Asianati has built a team of volunteers and interns to contribute to new ideas and host a series of events from meetups to a night market. Whether it be through business or non-profit organizations, he has a passion to share the Asian culture to and with the Cincinnati community through food and entertainment.
MORTAR & Cincy NICE Co-Founder
Billy Thomas is a free-thinker and passionate about creating a more inclusive, equitable and culturally fun world. Born and raised in Cincinnati, Billy has devoted much of his time to instilling these qualities in his hometown.
Through his work with the Cincinnati Preschool Promise, Billy led efforts to make access to quality preschool a reality for every child in Cincinnati. In 2014, he co-founded MORTAR Cincinnati with the goal of creating more opportunities for minority entrepreneurs and changing the face of entrepreneurship. He now spends most of his time with Cincy Nice, a company he co-founded in 2019 to create a more culturally rich and welcoming city.
Billy was recognized in the Forbes 30 under 30 list for Social Entrepreneurs and the Cincinnati Business Courier's 2018 40 under 40 list for his efforts to drive social change, fight inequity and create opportunities for others to turn their ideas into reality.
Billy hopes to continue to create a freer world for more people to be themselves, feel safe and follow their dreams.
Good Morning Cincinnati (WKRC) Co-Anchor
Bob Herzog joined the Local 12 team at the end of 2005. He anchors Good Morning Cincinnati with Sheila Gray. Bob is a Cincinnati guy. More specifically, he’s a proud West Side guy. As a hometown guy, he takes special pride in getting involved in community events and, on any given day, you will find him in a different pocket of a Cincinnati neighborhood emceeing a local fundraising event, performing as a star cast member in a Children’s Theatre production or showing up to support his fellow Cincinnatians. Bob is always inspired to see neighbors helping neighbors and friends helping friends. He graduated from Oak Hills High School and Xavier University. Bob also obtained a law degree from Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University. Bob loves all kinds of music and movies and has a passion for basketball, but his number one hobby is spending time with his wife and four children.
Beloved Cincinnati Food Enthusiast Community
Chowdown Cincinnati is a community of like-minded Cincinnatians who are passionate about supporting the local food industry in an exclusively positive way. With over 200,000 people in the positive-only community; Chowdown Cincinnati has transformed the local food industry by infusing their brand of positive reviews and recommendations to over 29 million people in 2022 alone. As a “thank you” to their faithful community, Co-founders Brandon Quillen and Travis Setter have introduced an app that offers 10 percent off at over 50 local restaurants.
ArtWorks CEO & Artistic Director
Colleen Houston has served as CEO & Artistic Director at ArtWorks in Cincinnati since 2020. Prior to this, Colleen served as Chief Program Officer, Vice President of Programs & Operations, and Director of Programs – all key leadership roles in the organization over the past 20 years.
The award-winning nonprofit creates community-based public art that provides career opportunities for artists of all ages. ArtWorks creates jobs for more than 300 artists annually, including young artists ages 14 to 24 in a signature apprentice program earning a living wage. Since 1996, ArtWorks has employed over 4,000 youth and 3,500 creative professionals, completing more than 14,000 public works of art, including sculpture, light-based installations and 250 permanent outdoor murals, contributing to the region’s global reputation as an arts destination.
Colleen launched the ArtWorks mural program in 2007. This mural program helped Cincinnati to win the 2010 City Livability Award at the U.S. Conference of Mayors and be recognized in the top 20 most vibrant art and cultural cities in 2020 and 2022. Cincinnati was also selected as Second Best City for Street Art by USA Today in 2021 and 2022.
Colleen holds a degree in Public and Social Art from Warren Wilson College. She is the 2020 Distinguished Alumni honoree for Warren Wilson College, received a Legacy Next Generation Leader Award and was honored as a Cincinnati Business Courier C-Suite honoree. Colleen is a graduate of Nonprofit Leadership Institute of Greater Cincinnati’s EXCEL, Leadership Council for Nonprofits’ BOLD (Board Orientation + Leadership Development), Leadership Cincinnati and Strong Cincinnati. She is currently attending Harvard Kennedy School toward certification in Nonprofit Leadership. Colleen serves on three boards: Creative Ohio (formerly Ohio Citizens for the Arts), Leadership Council for Nonprofits, and WavePool. In 2022, Colleen guided ArtWorks through Ellequate, an award-winning certification program to become a certified Equitable Workplace.
DJ Vader (Kenyatta Smith)
DJ Extraordinaire & Urban One Radio Personality
Born and raised in Cincinnati, Kenyatta Smith (aka: DJ Vader) grew up digging through the crates of records in his parents' collection. He started DJ'ing in 1992 spinning at house parties and producing mix tapes for friends. His career gained momentum as he became a favorite in Cincinnati nightlife, corporate events, weddings and Greek events in the early 2000s. In his 25-year career, DJ Vader has provided the sounds for hundreds of private parties, corporate events, weddings and for some of Cincinnati's biggest weekends such as Blink, The Cincinnati Music Festival and Cincy Soul. He has worked with some of the world's most energetic artists and entertainers, such as DJ Jazzy Jeff, Big Daddy Kane, Whodini, the late Biz Markie, Rick Ross, Slick Rick, Naughty by Nature and Cedric the Entertainer to name just a few. DJ Vader was the 2021 and 2022 DJ of the Year in Cincinnati, and two-time winner of “Cincinnati's Best DJ“ competition. His podcast WTFURadio.Podomatic.com has held the number one slot and top 10 in its Hip Hop category for several years.
DJ Vader is also a radio personality for Urban One Radio where he currently hosts the “Saturday Night Boom Box Side B” on RnB Cincy (WOSL 100.3FM) drawing thousands of listeners weekly. Outside of the DJ booth, DJ Vader is an award-winning, second-generation career Cincinnati firefighter and paramedic; a community leader focused on giving back through mentorship and art programs; and a legendary firehouse chef and published author of the cookbook, “Rescupies: Dishes to Save Your Night!“
SVP of Impact at the Urban League of Greater Southwestern
Ebony Young is the Senior Vice President of Impact for The Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio (ULGSO), whose mission is to help Black people and historically underserved communities achieve their highest true social parity, economic self-reliance, power, civil rights and justice.
Now leading the largest division at the Urban League, Ebony oversees a budget of over $3 million and is focused on driving strategic programmatic outcomes in areas which include: Workforce Development, Youth Programming, and ULGSO’s Financial Empower Center. Ebony also serves as a key representative of the Urban League within the community as the Executive Director for the Community Partnering Center whose focus is community engagement and violence interruption.
Ebony serves on several boards including, the Community Advisory Board; Our Tribe, a grassroots initiative created by members of the Black Autism Community to uplift families and mitigate the poor outcomes that disproportionately affect Black people diagnosed with autism; the African American Ambassadors for Excellence in Advanced Practice Nursing (AAEAPN), a non-profit with a mission to provide leadership, empowerment, mentorship and education to the African American Nurse Practitioner; Supply Chain Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana (SCOKI), a nonprofit 501c3 that helps youth and unemployed find job opportunities and education to strengthen the job market and create the next generation of Supply Chain in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.
Ebony has over 20 years of progressive healthcare and human resources experience. Prior to joining The Urban League, she held the position of Project Administrator and served as Chief of Staff for the SVP and Chief HR & Diversity Equity and Inclusion Officer at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. There she played an integral role in institution-wide strategic planning and organization-wide initiatives. Prior to her time at Children’s, she worked as a Senior Network Account Manager for United Healthcare where she was responsible for negotiating physician contracts and partnered with physician groups to help achieve population health key performance outcomes.
A Cincinnati native, she attended the University of Cincinnati, where she received her undergraduate degree in HR Management and Development, as well as her master’s degree in Healthcare Administration. She resides in Forest Park with her husband, Donny, and three children, Taylor, Donovan and Hillary.
VP, Sales & Consulting, CAI Insurance Agency | Bengal Jim
You can count on seeing Jimmie Foster, also known as “Bengal Jim,” at Paycor Stadium on game day supporting his beloved Cincinnati Bengals. The 2021 Bengals Super Fan of the Year has maintained a 30-year tailgate experience coined the “Before the Roar Tailgate,” attracting thousands of fans at home and away games. Outside of his full-time job as Vice President of Sales and Consulting at locally-owned CAI Insurance Agency; he also co-hosts the popular Cincinnati football podcast “Talking Football with Bengal Jim and Friends.” Much like his tailgate, the podcast attracts thousands of listeners every episode and regularly hosts notable city leaders, Bengals players and coaches. In addition to bringing the city together through a love for the Bengals, Jimmie is also well known for his dedication to helping those in need. Jimmie has led countless fundraising initiatives to support local charities like the Ken Anderson Alliance, Madi’s House and the Greater Cincinnati Alzheimer’s association to name just a few. This past season, Jimmie raised over $130,000 for more than 25 charities with the help of his four comrades, James, Tony (Da Tiger), Craig and Del. Jimmie’s motto, “my city, my team, there’s always a way” is lived out in full display through his commitment to the team, to his city and to everybody he comes in contact with – serving as an inspiration to so many Cincinnatians.
CFO, Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio
Joel Lam (he/him) loves Gold Star and always brings out-of-town guests to enjoy Cincinnati-style chili, which is obviously the best. He is honored to join Gold Star to celebrate several important anniversaries in 2023.
Joel serves best at the intersection of individual empowerment and diversity, which he supports inside and outside of work.
At work, Joel serves as Chief Financial Officer for our local Urban League (ULGSO), which focuses on financial and social empowerment of Black and historically underserved communities. Our local Urban League is proud to celebrate their 75th anniversary this year. As CFO, Joel focuses on empowering decisions, maintaining stakeholder trust, and delivering excellent talent to the Greater Cincinnati and Dayton regions. Prior to the Urban League, Joel oversaw all financial and administrative activities at The Trevor Project and developed his leadership at Macy’s, Verizon, and the global accounting firm PwC.
Outside of work, Joel spends his time volunteering. He is Board Treasurer and oversees all financial matters for Cincinnati Pride, which celebrates their 50th anniversary this year. He is also Board Secretary for Cincinnati Black Pride, which celebrates their 5th anniversary this year. Joel serves as a volunteer crisis counselor at The Trevor Project, which provides suicide prevention and crisis services to LGBTQ+ youth, and celebrates their 25th anniversary this year.
Joel is a Southern California native, who stopped in New York City before settling at home in Cincinnati. He currently lives in Northern Kentucky with his partner (Kenneth), cat (Isis), and puppy (Xena). They celebrate 10 years in Greater Cincinnati this year.
Rootin’ Tootin’ Art Monster
Pam Kravetz is a mural makin’, street paintin’ quilt sewin’, yarn bombin’, curatin’, flash mobin’, tutu wearin’ rootin’ tootin’ art monster. She is a regionally and nationally recognized visual artist and arts activist with more than 50 art exhibits and installations.
To Pam, Contemporary Art is not a spectator sport. It is understandable, accessible, interactive and community-oriented. She is inspired by the beauty in the chaos of the everyday. Her artwork ranges from street art, Artworks installations at Cincinnati’s Children’s Hospital to monumental Memory Quilts in the lobby of the Contemporary Arts Center.
Recently, Pam was the Art Director for The Blink Parade; and a Board Trustee for Artworks, The Art Academy of Cincinnati and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). She is currently Co-liaison for the National Council for the Ceramics Arts (NCECA) Conference in Cincinnati. She is the creator and face of CAC-TV and the curator of live art performances. Her alter ego, “Pinky Shears,” is the notorious mastermind of the BombShells of Cincinnati’s Yarn-Bombing Collective and performance art collective, The Polyester Spy Club.
Pam created an installation at the Cincinnati Art Museum Rosenthal Education Center: “Ace Ramone, Mr. Doodle-Boy, The Peanut and You” as the first artist-in-residence. She also uses her voice and platform to talk about her family, her Jewishness and antisemitism through her work – as evidenced in her recent interactive exhibit, “I Think My Uncle Gershun Was A Golem” at The Weston Art Gallery in Cincinnati. She currently has an installation at the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center in the Creativity Center’s UnMuseum titled “Pinkolicious Pajama’s House of Wonder and Silly Scooter’s Playhouse.”
Pam was named City Beat Best Artist of 2022 and one of Cincinnati Enquirer’s Cincinnati Women of the Year in 2017. She has numerous awards and recognitions as both an artist and art educator. Pam recently retired from her art teaching career at Harrison High School teaching “the coolest kids and having the support of the greatest administration, teachers, staff and community.” Pam co-created the grown-up synchronized swim team, The Rhinestones, at her home pool; and in light of a lifeguard shortage, passed her lifeguard certification to help keep a community pool open. She loves community, art, our city and, you guessed it, Gold Star. Pam is always up for the next larger-than-life bonanza of celebration of joy, art, activism and community. And being a 2023 Gold Star Chili “Flavor Maker” is just the bonanza she’s been waiting for!
Beloved Legacy Cincinnati Sports Columnist & Author
Paul Daugherty has been writing sports opinion in Cincinnati for 35 years, first at the Cincinnati Post and for 28 years (1994 to 2022) at the Cincinnati Enquirer. Daugherty retired from the Enquirer in July 2021, but still writes regularly on his website, The Morning Line, which can be found at themorningline.substack.com. He's also the author of five books, including An Uncomplicated Life, a memoir of raising his daughter Jillian, now 32, born with Down syndrome.
Cultural Event Curator Extraordinaire & Paloozanoire Event Director
Raven Fulton is a Cincinnati-based cultural event curator, currently serving as Event Director of Paloozanoire. Since 2019, Raven has been working with Paloozanoire; a social impact organization centered on enriching the lives of Midwest people of color through creativity, corporate leadership and entrepreneurship. The organization’s main initiatives include the Black & Brown Faces Art Exhibition and Juneteenth Block Party, creating experiences for over 50,000 guests.
Throughout the past five years, she has also served as Event Producer for programs including The Greater Cincinnati/ Northern Kentucky 17 Under Seventeen Youth Awards, the 101.1 The Wiz 30 Under 30 Gala, and Gallery at Gumbo, an inclusive barbershop with an art gallery in the back of the shop. Additionally, she served as Executive Producer for Gumbo Talks, a community-based podcast that ran out of Gallery at Gumbo for the last two years.
Raven was essential in opening and managing Cinema OTR, a premier bar and lounge dedicated to 90s R&B and Classic Black films. Before her role with Paloozanoire, she served as a digital liaison and producer at Radio One Cincinnati.
Raven is a Kent State University graduate, obtaining a degree in broadcast journalism with a concentration in television. Her illustrious career fuels her passion for digital storytelling, media production and creating spaces for others who look like her in arts and entertainment.
Executive Director, Cincinnati Experience
Chef Christian Gill
Owner and Executive Chef, Boomtown Biscuits & Whiskey
Director of Strategy & Engagement, Cincinnati Bengals
A native of Cincinnati and graduate of Dartmouth College, Blackburn joined the Bengals in February 2020 after previously working at the private equity firm KKR in New York City, and the consulting firm Bain & Company in San Francisco. Blackburn also spent six months working at the league office in New York, where she focused on NFL Management Council and Corporate Strategy groups.
Renowned Artist, Founder at Gee Horton Studios & ArtWorks Board Member
Founder & CEO, Reviv Family Support Foundation
Michael Cotrell (aka: Brooklyn Steele-Tate)
Festival Co-chair, Cincinnati Pride & Chair Member, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Out of the Darkness Walk Board & House Emcee, The Cabaret
Founder & CEO, Gratitude Collective (Grateful Grahams and Incubator Kitchen Collective Founder)
Regina Carswell Russo
Founder & CEO, RRight Now Communications
Founder, Paloozanoire & Executive Director, SoCap Accelerate
Artistic Director, The Children’s Theatre
Toilynn O'Neal Turner
Executive Director, Queen City Foundation & Founding Director, Robert O’Neal Multicultural Art Center
In 2005, Toilynn accepted a position at the Cincinnati Art Museum, where she worked as Education Coordinator for Community Engagement for six years. Toilynn continued her focus on arts education, diversity and inclusion by working as the Diversity Trainer and Educational Consultant for Rice Education Consulting, before moving to her new role as Director of Diversity at St. Ursula Academy, where she developed diversity initiatives and programs for staff, parents and students alike.
Toilynn's unending dedication to the city of Cincinnati drives her passion for community collaboration, diversity and cultural education for her city. Her extensive list of current volunteer positions includes membership on the board of the Cincinnati Arts Association, The Cincinnati Ballet, the Cincinnati Museum Center African Cultural Fest Committee, the African American Chamber of Commerce, Walnut Hills Area Council, the Nrityarpana School of Performing Arts and on committees for the Freedom Center Martin Luther King Breakfast, the University of Cincinnati Diversity Officer Roundtable, Boys Hope Girls Hope of Cincinnati School, the Mayor’s Commission of Gender Equality, the National African American Museum Association and the Freedom Center/ Youth Conference Planning Committee. Along with her many accolades and awards, perhaps one the most prestigious was given to Toilynn in 2019 when she received the MAC Award for Diversity and Leadership in the Arts from the Multicultural Awareness Council (MAC) of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
Currently, Toilynn is the Executive Director of Queen City Foundation, a non-profit organization whose vision is to provide educational opportunities to minority students through independent college preparatory schools.
Her latest venture is to secure a permanent location for the Robert O'Neal Multicultural Arts Center (ROMAC) in honor of her late father. As Founding Director of the ROMAC, Toilynn works to celebrate, advance and preserve African American culture and achievement through the arts, history and education, while also uplifting the rich diversity of artists and cultures of Greater Cincinnati.
Executive Director, The D.A.D. Initiative & Partner, Buildwell Development Group
Since 2014, The D.A.D. Initiative has served thousands of students, families and communities in the Greater Cincinnati area, providing programs both during and after school that provide mentoring, cultural exposure and 21st century skills training. DAD also leads community-based programs that focus on health, employment and parent advocacy.
Buildwell Development Group, a black-owned residential and commercial development company co-owned by Stallings, creates new and renovated housing throughout Cincinnati while providing employment and growth opportunities to minority contractors. The company’s priority on alleviating blight has resulted in community improvements in several Cincinnati neighborhoods through the rehabilitation of dilapidated and abandoned properties. Tyran has served on numerous nonprofit boards, including the Hamilton County Community Action Agency, Children, Inc. and currently Learning Grove, where he is chair of the governance committee. His work has garnered him numerous local and national awards and recognitions, some of which include Who’s Who in Black Cincinnati, ULYP Affirmed honoree designation, Cincinnati Regional Chamber’s 2021 Making Black History Award and WIZFM’s 2021 Pillar of the Community Award. He has been featured on countless local and national panels to lend his expertise on developing African American youth. Tyran is also a member of Leadership Cincinnati Class 45. His most important roles, however, are being a husband to wife Rachel and father to his son Tariq.