Jill Whelan‘s love of theatre began at age seven when a summer musical theatre program introduced her to acting. After sending her own school picture to a San Francisco Talent Agency, she did a number of national commercials and, at the age of 10, starred in her first drama TV series, Aaron Spelling’s Friends on ABC.
That same year, she filmed the classic comedy film, Airplane, and guested on The Love Boat playing Vickie Stubing, Captain Stubing’s daughter. The guest character proved to be so popular with viewers, that Aaron personally called 11 year old Jill, and told her he she was to become a permanent cast member.
The Love Boat ran for 10 years on ABC and afforded her the opportunity to work with hundreds of legendary performers including Frank Sinatra, Carol Channing, and Ethel Merman. Through that time she hosted many ‘Variety Club’ telethons to benefit children with prosthetic limbs. For the telethons, she toured and sang/performed with Sammy Davis Jr and Liza Minnelli. In 1987, Jill was directed by the legendary Martin Sheen in the Emmy award-winning movie of the week, Babies Having Babies.
Through the 1980s, Jill worked with Nancy Reagan as her national spokesperson for the Just Say No! anti drug campaign. Jill has sung at the White House for two presidential administrations (Reagan and George Bush Sr). After The Love Boat ended, Jill attended college in England at Guildford studying English literature.
After her studies at Guildford, Jill moved to New York to do theater and performed in several off-Broadway productions. Feeling it was important to learn the “other side” of the business, Jill started a career as a producer at Madison Square Garden, where she produced live events including the MTV Birthday tribute to Bob Dylan, the ESPY Awards, Harry Connick Live, and many more.
When her firstborn child, Harrison, was three, Jill landed a role on the daytime soap The Young and the Restless, but realized that with a new child she needed to find a job with more stable work hours. A lifelong fan of news and headlines, she began working at KCOP News in Los Angeles as an assignment desk assistant, and worked her way up to an investigative producer. After four years, Jill decided to leave after their news became ‘infotainment’.
Jill moved back to the Delaware River Valley where she gave birth to her second child, Grant, in 2005. During this time, Jill also formed a successful acting studio for children and adults in Bucks County and Philadelphia where she taught improv comedy, scene study, film, television and commercial acting.
Jill has co-hosted two popular podcasts, The Venus Diaries, and then in 2012, joined forces with Brian Phelps, of KLOS’ popular The Mark & Brian Show, to form The Brian and Jill Show, which debuted at number one on iTunes.
Recently returning to her acting and singing career, she created a one-woman cabaret show, Jill Whelan: An Evening in Dry Dock, which she performed off-Broadway, and internationally. She’ll be touring the show in 2015 including a week on the RSVP Gay Cruise Line on Valentine’s Day week, where she’ll be the celebrity cohost along with Kathy Najimy.
She recently starred in the Christmas television movie, A Christmas Tree Miracle on Up TV, and the indie horror film, 6 Degrees of Hell.
In 2014, she and the cast of The Love Boat christened the Princess Cruise Lines for their 40th Anniversary in an all star celebration. The cast will also reunite for the 2015 Rose Bowl Parade on New Years Day.
Suzanne Tracht, chef and owner of the critically-acclaimed Jar Restaurant, was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. She began cooking professionally at the age of 19, when she left college for an apprenticeship under Siegbert Wendler, legendary chef at the four-star Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa. After three years she moved to Southern California to work in the kitchen of the prestigious Hotel Bel-Air and later served as sous-chef at Noa Noa. In 1992, she became chef de cuisine at Nancy Silverton and Mark Peel’s Campanile. Four years later, she embarked on her first solo venture at executive chef at the Cal-Asian restaurant, Jozu. In its debut year, Jozu ranked number two for “L.A.’s Best New Restaurants” in Los Angeles magazine’s restaurant issue.
In 2001, she opened her modern chophouse, Jar, with her longtime chef de cuisine Preech Narkthong. Quickly, Tracht and Narkthong built a reputation for cooking cozily familiar American retro food – pot roast, steaks, pork chops, braised lamb shanks — with a modern twist. The following year she was named one of Food and Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs. Since then she has made numerous national appearances on the Today Show, Food Network and Extra. Tracht was inducted into the Fine Dining Hall of Fame by Restaurant News in May 2007. She participated in Fortune magazine’s Most Powerful Women Summit in 2003, 2005, and 2009. Tracht was honored at the 2009 Women in Food James Beard Foundation Awards gala in New York, was a featured chef at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, and is the featured host chef for Argentina444, a culinary expedition highlighting top chefs and wineries of Argentina. To this day, fans of “Top Chef Masters” remember Tracht’s inventively winning dish of Fried Shallot Rings with Microgreen Salad and Dr. Pepper Aioli created for a challenge that required cheftestants to create an amuse-bouche using ingredients found in a vending machine.
Jar still regularly wins praise from the press, from inclusion in Pulitzer Prize winning food critic Jonathan Gold’s “Best 101 LA Restaurants” to Eater LA’s “The Best Lobster Dishes To Eat in LA Right Now”. In her review of the restaurant, Los Angeles Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila wrote, “Tracht’s attention to detail sets Jar apart. It’s not only good, it’s absolutely reliable. How rare is that?” Brad Johnson of Angeleno Magazine wrote, “I can’t think of anyone who makes a better pot roast than Tracht.” (On The Food Network’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate,” Chef Rocco DiSpirito seconded Johnson’s opinion by selecting Tracht’s pot roast as his all-time favorite.) In his review of Jar, Los Angeles Magazine’s Patrick Kuh remarked that Tracht might have “the most finely tuned and modern sensibility of any cook working in L.A.” and that she has “a French sense of proportion, and Italian appreciation of minimal intervention, and a Japanese awareness of modulation.” For years Jar has been among Los Angeles Magazine’s top 75 restaurants named in the magazine.
In light of the success that cooking has brought her, Tracht believes in giving back to her community. In 2009 Tracht donated to SOVA, a community food and resources program of Jewish Family Service of LA, her $10,000 prize from her stint on Bravo’s show Top Chef Masters. She continues her work with SOVA and other important causes, like the Cedars-Sinai Women’s Heart Center, Inner-city Arts, and Saban Clinic.
Suzanne has two children, Max and Ida.
Kristina Wong was recently featured in the New York Times’ Off Color series “highlighting artists of color who use humor to make smart social statements about the sometimes subtle, sometimes obvious ways that race plays out in America today.” She is a performance artist, comedian and writer who has created five solo shows and one ensemble play that have toured throughout the United States and UK. Her most notable touring show – “Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” looked at the high rates of depression and suicide among Asian American women and toured to over 40 venues since 2006. It’s now a broadcast quality film distributed by documentary juggernaut,Cinema Libre Studios.
She’s been a commentator for American Public Media’s Marketplace, PBS, Jezebel, xoJane, Playgirl Magazine, Huffington Post and a guest on Comedy Central’s The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, FXX’s “Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell”, Al Jazeera’s “The Stream” and AM Tonight on Fusion TV. Her work has been awarded with grants from Creative Capital, The Map Fund, Center for Cultural Innovation, the Durfee Foundation, National Performance Network, five Artist-in-Residence grants from the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, and a residency from the MacDowell Colony.
Kristina has twice given the commencement speech at UCLA, her alma mater. On television, she’s been on General Hospital, Nickelodeon’s “Nicky Ricky Dicky and Dawn”, and Myx TV’s “I’m Asian American and Want Reparations for Yellow Fever”.
Her newest solo show “The Wong Street Journal” navigates privilege and economic disparity and premiered in June 2015. She spent a month in Northern Uganda researching that show and recording “Mzungu Price” a rap album with local rappers. Kristina’s mail order bride website is www.bigbadchinesemama.com. This Fall, she is a guest professor at Cal Arts in the MFA Creative Writing Program.
Health and wellness coach, author, addiction counselor and speaker, Erica Spiegelman is helping change lives by working with individuals on personal growth with an emphasis in treating the Mind, Body and Spirit. Erica is the founder of her effective multi-media health platform — ericaspeigelman.com — a portal to her diverse area of expertise. Ms. Spiegelman provides consulting and counseling solutions on how to live healthy and the quickest path to getting there. She treats the whole person, providing each with tools on how to reach emotional, mental and physical freedom with guided methods which creates real results. Erica provides information on how to rewire one’s brain to live more authentically and end reliance on any “crutch”. She shares this insight directly to clients, consumers and industry professionals via her blog, monthly newsletters, speaking engagements, live events and her forthcoming book, Rewired: A Bold New Approach to Addiction and Recovery (Hatherleigh Press).
Ms. Spiegelman holds a Bachelor degree in Literature from the University of Arizona and a degree as a California State Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor, CADAC – I from University of California, Los Angeles. Ms. Spiegelman academic background, coupled with her range of experiences from counseling individuals, families and group therapy to consulting for sober livings, transitional living facilities and businesses gives her the unique ability to relate to people from all walks of life. Erica implements personal growth programs for companies and their staff.
Ms. Spiegelman has a private practice where she conducts counseling to individuals and their families. She is a sober coach and is a contributor to online health outlets and blogs.