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SPOTLIGHT ON

TOP WOMEN IN METRO NY FOODSERVICE AND HOSPITALITY : CORPORATE

Beth Whitcomb Bunster and Kelly Ann Friend Whitsons Culinary Group, Islandia, NY

B

eth Whitcomb Bunster is the CFO and Kelly Ann Friend is the COO of Contract Management of the family-owned business that was founded in 1979 by Elmer Whitcomb. Whitsons Culinary Group® provides dining services to consumers and public and private organizations throughout the Northeast. Services include school nutrition, residential and healthcare dining, prepared meals, and emergency dining; ranging in scope from consulting services to complete, onsite turnkey solutions. As one of the top 20 largest dining service providers in the U.S., they lead the industry with their customized services, innovative programs, commitment to quality, focus on nutrition, local sourcing and community support. Beth and Kelly Ann sat down with Total Food Service’s Joyce Appelman to talk about their roles at Whitsons Culinary Group. Can you please share your background with our readers? Where did you grow up? Who got you interested in cooking, food, and business? Beth: I grew up on Long Island with seven brothers and one sister. Mom was always cooking or baking something—homemade bread

was a staple. Family dinners were a nightly event. Kelly: I grew up in a beautiful waterfront community, just across the bay from Fire Island. My father was a remarkable entrepreneur, but on the weekends, a brilliant chef. I became fascinated with his commitment to using only the best ingredients and making everything from scratch.

The life lessons she has taught, and continues to teach, are priceless. My Brother Bob’s perspective and kindness pushed me to learn and grow during my early professional years. Kelly: My father inspired both my work ethic and my passion for food. CPO Doug Whitcomb’s business advice over the years significantly impacted the direction of my career.

Who were some of the mentors that had an impact on your career? Beth: First and foremost is my mom.

Did you go to culinary school or business school? Beth: None of my siblings shared my love of math. So, I was naturally drawn

to the financial side of the business after I graduated from Hofstra. Kelly: I minored in hospitality at Southampton College, but my professional life actually began in elementary education. Walk us through your career path. For Beth, Tell us about your role in the family business. Beth: I started in accounting when Whitsons was very small. Today, as CFO, I am proud of the very talented leaders who make Whitsons successful. Kelly: For 12 summers, I managed a popular East End clam bar. A customer offered me a great opportunity in Manhattan with a start-up restaurant, but after 2 years, I knew it wasn’t for me. When I met the Whitcomb family, I was drawn to their brilliant business model and deep family values. I started as a director, played a major role in business development, and have since held diverse responsibilities. I continue to evolve, even 27 years later. What’s your day-to-day like? Beth: I interact with our corporate and operations teams to navigate legislative changes and economic fluctuations in order to exceed customer expectations.

Beth Whitcomb Bunster

32 • July 2019 • Total Food Service • www.totalfood.com

Kelly Ann Friend

continued on page 102

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