Meet WHIRL Magazine’s 13 Under 30 Class of 2016
Produced and written by Liz Petoniak | Photographs by Michael Fornataro | Art Direction by Jason Solak + Alyssa Otto
After receiving an outpouring of nominations for 2016, these 13 [actually, 14 this year!] young professionals captivated us with their charismatic, bright, and ambitious attitudes. Hailing from a variety of backgrounds and career fields, they reflect the diverse and growing opportunity in our city. This year, our North Side neighbor, the Mattress Factory museum, graciously opened its doors to us, where the wide range of contemporary art harmonized with the forward-thinking mindsets and unique personalities of our honorees. We invite you to learn more about the next generation of movers and shakers, as well as the passions that drive them forward and even their favorite spots to dine in the city’s ever-expanding restaurant scene. These individuals are changing Pittsburgh’s professional landscape, and we’re eagerly waiting to see what inspiring projects they take on next.
Special thanks to Samantha Strahota Paolo + The Mattress Factory Museum. Mattress Factory | Museum of Contemporary Art, 500 Sampsonia Way, North Side. 412.231.3169. mattress.org.
Introducing the 2016 class of rising stars in Western Pennsylvania, all under the age of 30!
As someone who’s always considered Pittsburgh to be home, Annie Federoff is thrilled to join the generation of young professionals choosing to set up shop here instead of jetting off to other cities. “It’s really neat to watch our city grow, change, and thrive,” she says. “When I take a step back and think that each change probably began with something as small as one individual with one idea it makes me think, ‘yeah, the sky really is the limit.’” Federoff aims to instill that message every day. The power yoga instructor and personal trainer specializing in individual and corporate wellness owns Pure Power Yoga in Robinson as well as 13 O’Clock Personal Training. And word is her “boot camps,” held at the studio, are life-changing. “I love how our city is quickly rising as one of the most active in the U.S. Being a lover of anything fitness, it’s wonderful to see so many people out and about being healthy!” she says. With her next project, Federoff hopes to spread her passion for fitness even farther. Teaming up with her best friend, Anne O’Brien, the duo is working to organize her method of personal training into an online database of endless combinations of individually tailored workouts, expected to launch within the next few months. For more information, visit purepoweryogapgh.com.
+ Favorite Pittsburgh Restaurant: “Alla Famiglia. The food is phenomenal and the owner, Jonathan, is the best.”
No one is perhaps more in the know about the latest happenings in Pittsburgh than Elena LaQuatra. Born and raised in Mt. Lebanon, LaQuatra moved Downtown to study broadcast communications at Point Park University, with the dream of landing a job at a local news station. Today, she holds not one, but two positions that encourage her to go out in the community and participate in the best Pittsburgh has to offer. She says, “Pittsburgh is becoming a mecca of attraction for the ‘under 30’ crowd. Neighborhoods like Lawrenceville, East Liberty, and even Downtown are bouncing back and attracting more young professionals and young families. In turn, that’s caused the service industry to blossom so that there are more and better restaurants, boutiques, and nightlife. I’m so proud to brag about what an incredible city Pittsburgh is any and every chance I get.” In the coming months, we suspect she’ll have plenty of opportunities to do so. In her role as a digital video reporter for WTAE- TV’s lifestyle and entertainment channel, 4the412, LaQuatra brings her charismatic and friendly demeanor into play while covering charity events, festivals, concerts, and other city happenings. And this past December, LaQuatra was crowned Miss Pennsylvania USA 2016, allowing her to utilize her title to bring recognition to worthwhile causes, some very close to her heart, like the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, The National Kidney Foundation, Glimmer of Hope, and the DePaul School for Hearing and Speech, which she attended after contracting bacterial meningitis and becoming deaf in both ears. LaQuatra hears through a cochlear implant. As she prepares to represent Pennsylvania at the Miss USA Pageant this summer, our excitement to cheer her on during the nationally televised event will be building! For more information, visit wtae.com and misspennsylvaniausa.com.
+ Favorite Pittsburgh Restaurant: “One of my favorites is Vallozzi’s because it’s delicious, the atmosphere is great, and the owner, Julian Vallozzi [a former 13 Under 30er!], makes you feel like family when dining there. I could eat the lobster ravioli every day of my life!”
If you look closely at GreenLight Juice’s Logo, you’ll notice the straw features the beautiful Pittsburgh skyline. Owners and cousins Bill Donahue and Chris D’Orazio are proud to be born and raised in Pittsburgh, and as a result, the roots of their Squirrel Hill juice bar run deep in the community, forging a bond between local growers of fresh, organic produce to blend the ingredients into a product that’s quick, tasty, and healthy. In their case, two heads certainly are better than one, and their dynamic allows them to feed off each other’s strengths and propel the business forward. They say, “We saw Pittsburgh as a prime market for organic beverages, as the city is rapidly growing and in need of a local company with a keen eye for the latest health food trends. We put a major emphasis on being more than just another juice or smoothie shop.” Right now, GreenLight Juice is the first and only juice bar in the city to list the percentage of each ingredient on their labels, a transparency that’s appreciated by those seeking the essential vitamins, nutrients, enzymes, and minerals to feel their absolute best. “Pittsburgh is on the edge of something really big,” they say. “Technology giants of Silicon Valley are opening up offices left and right, the startup scene is thriving, and more health-conscious food spots are popping up. We’re excited to begin this journey in Pittsburgh because the demand for healthy options is at an all-time high!” For more information, visit greenlightjuice.com.
+ Favorite Pittsburgh Restaurant: Il Pizzaiolo is Donahue’s favorite, and D’Orazio loves Noodlehead.
Originally hailing from Philadelphia, Jamillia Kamara, moved back to the city of her alma mater, the University of Pittsburgh, to work with Coro Center for Civic Leadership as a program manager for Public Allies Pittsburgh. In 2013, Kamara also founded her own nonprofit organization, Internationally Smart Is Cool (ISIC), focused on using assets to drive achievement in kids grades 6-8 in underserved communities. ISIC is currently partnered with the Sister Thea Bowman Catholic Academy in Wilkinsburg, where she and her team run a six-month service learning program called Smart Impact and are heading up two important initiatives. The first, The #2MillPencils Drive, is striving to collect 2 million pencils for Wilkinsburg students enrolled in public, private, and parochial schools by May 14. At the time of publication, ISIC has collected 75,000. The nonprofit will also present its second annual #SmartSummitPGH event on May 5. “Health and Wellness” will serve as the theme of this career day of standards-aligned workshops for middle school students. She says, “What is happening in Pittsburgh is a microcosm of what is occurring across the country and around the world. It is empowering to be counted among the millennials who are passionate about creating a sustainable impact and undaunted by the fear of failure.” For more information, visit publicallies.org/pittsburgh, coropittsburgh.org, and smartiscool.org.
+ Favorite Pittsburgh Restaurant: “Spice Island Tea House in Oakland. I accidentally visited Spice on a rainy day while I was an undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh. If you go, try the pad thai. It is delightful.”
Falling somewhere between an “urbanite and ruralist,” Pittsburgh perfectly blends the two for Ian Smith, founder of SurfSUP Adventures, the area’s premier guide and outfitter for standup paddle boarding. “I love how quickly I can go from city events and culture to secluded parks and rivers. This also lets me offer standup paddle board adventures to Pittsburgh residents and visitors that can be either city-focused, or an escape to wild places,” he says. With locations in Pittsburgh, Oakmont, Cranberry, Johnstown, and Moraine State Park, SurfSUP’s “adventures” include eco tours, paddle board yoga, and even whitewater surfing. In 2014, Smith founded the First Waves Program, transforming his passion for paddle boarding into an initiative that uses the sport, along with the art of filmmaking and digital media, as a catalyst to inspire conservation of local waterways and mentorship of at-risk youth. With initial support from the Sprout Fund, First Waves has grown into three projects this past year and has partnered with Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Pittsburgh Filmmakers, and Paddle Without Pollution. He says, “We get to share our passions while helping local youth and our environment at the same time. It doesn’t get any better than that for me.” For more information, visit surfsupadventures.com and firstwaves.org.
+ Favorite Pittsburgh Restaurant: “I recently ate at Willow for the first time and was blown away.”
Rather than choosing Pittsburgh, Audra Lee feels the city chose her, calling her to tap into the city’s deficit of marriage and family therapy services, an issue she recognized early on in developing her passion for the mental health of families and couples. Today, Lee is a marriage and family therapist doing everything in her power to close that deficit. In 2016, she opened her own private practice in East Liberty, A Lee Consulting, where she provides individual, couples, and family counseling, as well as counseling consultation services to agencies and organizations. She also teaches psychology at Seton Hill University as an adjunct professor and serves as a board member for the school’s marriage and family therapy program, where she assists in making decisions on policy and curriculum. Additionally, she provides psychotherapy for children, teens, adults, and families in low-income and minority communities at Adaptive Behavioral Services Inc. Next up on her plate is developing a curriculum for a therapeutic creative expression initiative within the Pittsburgh Public School system, which will aim to give middle and high schoolers a space to work through traumas and express themselves in an effective, creative way. In all her ventures, Lee asserts she has felt inspired by the fearless young professionals she’s had the privilege of connecting with. She says, “I have seen more young professionals in the city addressing multicultural issues, which is a topic that isn’t always met with open arms. That to me says that we are being courageous in our efforts to make change, and courage is something I strongly revere.” For more information, visit ajleeconsulting.com, adaptivebehavioralservices.com, and setonhill.edu.
+ Favorite Pittsburgh Restaurant: “Tana Ethiopian Cuisine. The food is amazing and the atmosphere is incredibly welcoming with live music on Wednesday nights, where you can catch jazz greats like Sean Jones, if you’re lucky.”
Chances are, if you’ve frequented Walnut Street in Shadyside past midnight, you’ve probably indulged in some late night street food from the Burgh Bites cart. Building a following from these humble beginnings, Burgh Bites chef and owner Ricci Minella grew the cart into a full-service food truck and catering business in just a matter of a few short years. The mobile bistro still offers the same gourmet sandwiches and hot dogs, but has since expanded its menu with more sophisticated entrees, utilizing as many fresh ingredients as possible from his own garden. This summer, he’s opening Brick and Mortar in Bridgeville, his first — you guessed it — brick and mortar restaurant space. With this new venture, Minella positions his business on the growing list of highly anticipated restaurant openings in the city. “The best and brightest from local universities are finally staying here, and the restaurant scene has actually had a huge impact on the young people living in Pittsburgh because they want to have fun, and go out to the bars and restaurants. Seeing all of that happen here has really opened my eyes to how awesome Pittsburgh has become,” he says. In addition to taking home the “Best Pittsburgh Dish” award at WHIRL’s Chef’s Best Dish competition three years in a row, his biggest accomplishment to date is likely the popularity that surrounds the Friends of Grandview Annual Farm Dinners, where Minella and his team serve 100 guests atop Mt. Washington’s scenic Grandview Park. Mark your calendars — this fourth annual feast will take place on August 21 — and is not to be missed. For more information, visit burghbitestruck.com.
+ Favorite Pittsburgh Restaurant: “I love what the guys at Meat & Potatoes have going on with täkō and Butcher and the Rye; I love what big Burrito does; and I love The Vandal. But, my No. 1 restaurant in the city is Dish in South Side. They pay attention to food trends, but they stay true to what they do well and that’s what I strive for in my food.”
The sense that the local community operates with “all hands on deck” to make our city a great place to live, work, and visit is one of the many reasons Bradley Roth believes Pittsburgh is special. And, the Latrobe native certainly embodies that spirit, already making a mark on our region with his business savvy. In 2014, he and a partner purchased an insurance brokerage firm, McDowell Associates, located in Greensburg, and merged it with Kattan Ferretti Insurance, opening up an investment advisory business segment. Roth also co-founded a quantitative hedge fund, Sardonyx Capital, which launched in 2015. After a successful first year, the outlook for 2016 is already looking bright. Recently, Roth hosted a millennial leadership party in Market Square alongside First Commonwealth Bank, where he met with young professionals in the fields of business, entrepreneurship, community development, nonprofits, and health care, just to name a few. This experience inspired him to bring more millennial leadership events to fruition, in order to connect more young people, not just from Pittsburgh, but also Greensburg, Indiana, Altoona, and Johnstown. He says, “If we can take a regional approach to community development and entrepreneurship, I believe, in the long run, we can achieve much more.” For more information, visit sardonyxcapital.com and kattanferretti.com.
+ Favorite Pittsburgh Restaurant: “Il Pizzaiolo has some great food — I love the Diavola pizza. The atmosphere is great and it’s right in the middle of Market Square, so after dinner you’re only a short walk from many other great places.”
Living in Pittsburgh her entire life, Hannah Roth has witnessed the city grow from its industrial roots into a place that’s recognized nationwide as a destination, all while maintaining a strong hold on its identity. “We foster a culture of collaboration, not competition; we encourage others’ successes and relish in our own as well,” says Roth. “It’s true Pittsburghers have always had a sense of pride. We value our hardworking blue-collar heritage but have added to that philosophy. We’re all that plus a techy, foodie, and trendy metropolitan area. This is the ‘New Pittsburgh.’” As executive manager of private events at the Gateway Clipper Fleet, founded by her great-grandfather in 1958, Roth helps to carry on her family’s legacy and belief that the three rivers are the city’s lifeblood. She’s particularly excited to be working with Riverlife, an organization that the Gateway Clipper has supported since its inception, to ensure that the rivers continue to be enjoyed by both current and future generations. She says, “This initiative is not only important to my company, but to corporations, residents, and visitors alike who enjoy the benefits of great public parks along the water as well as new boat landings and riverfront trail connections.” As chair of Riverlife’s Rising Tides Committee, she looks forward to expanding the mission of restoring and promoting our riverfronts, and celebrating another successful Party at the Pier on August 26! For more information, visit gatewayclipper.com and riverlifepgh.org.
+ Favorite Pittsburgh Restaurant: “Vallozzi’s Downtown. My husband Brad [opposite page!] and I hosted our rehearsal dinner there. You could say it’s nostalgic; the menu is full of classics, but with a twist. The polenta is one of the best dishes I’ve ever had. We love to go sit at the bar, people watch, and have a bottle of wine. Like my business, Vallozzi’s is family owned and operated. This place has a story and history, and Pittsburghers appreciate that.”
While the city’s different neighborhoods and its great food scene are a close second and third, what LaTrenda Leonard Sherrill has always treasured the most about Pittsburgh is the ability for an individual to have an impact. In her role as the deputy chief of education for the Office of Mayor William Peduto, she witnesses this impact firsthand, with some of her responsibilities including securing equal access to pre-k, summer learning activities, and after-school programs for Pittsburghers. In all her experiences, she’s been impressed by her peers. “Young professionals in Pittsburgh are grinding! They are making moves, starting businesses, running for office, and challenging the status quo. I know many who are inclusive and creative, and are carving out spaces for themselves that others have not yet,” she says. Up next on her agenda? With Mayor Peduto placing a high priority on ensuring school-age children stay safe and continue to learn throughout the summer, Leonard Sherrill is eagerly gearing up to promote positive youth activities, from summer camps to summer jobs. And, she’s looking forward to serving as a coordinating ambassador for One Young World Summit, touted as the second largest gathering of countries (after the Olympics), where the young talent from 196 nations gathers to find ways to resolve the most important issues we face today. This year, the Texas native hopes to connect more local young professionals to the conference. For more information, visit pittsburghpa.gov and oneyoungworld.com.
+ Favorite Pittsburgh Restaurant: “Culture! It’s located Downtown, and I love the vibe. From the live jazz to the Manhattans, it’s my type of place!”
Following his return to the city he grew up in, Michael David Battle, “a radical resistance artist, thinker, father, and lover,” has been fighting to shape Pittsburgh into a city that focuses on building capacity for all to thrive. “Pittsburgh is unique because we’re small enough that young professionals know each other, or know somebody who knows somebody, and we have the capacity to band together to make significant changes to our culture,” he says. Through founding the Garden of Peace Project three and a half years ago, Battle created an organization doing just that, carrying out its mission to empower LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning, intersex, invisible minority, asexual, and HIV+) individuals who face adversity in education, employment, health care, housing, and are even subjected to violence. “Young professionals are resisting with every breath,” Battle says. “There are young people in Pittsburgh hosting healing ceremonies for queer and trans people of color, daring to speak that #BlackLivesMatter, and showing the impact of stripping others of their humanity through art.” Over the course of 2016, Battle will continue his crusade on an individual level with a number of artistic endeavors already in the works, such as a full-length calendar celebrating and honoring black and brown leadership, survival, and black American culture, in addition to two written projects: Dear Michael, a series of open letters exploring shame, pain, and joy, and Open Letters, a collection of writings and performances exploring healing from internal systems of oppression, and a collaboration, with Julia Johnson, for the Young, Gifted, & Black Leadership Summit. For more information, visit michaeldavidbattle.com and gardenofpeaceproject.org.
+ Favorite Pittsburgh Restaurant: “Bangkok Balcony in Squirrel Hill.”
Though Nina Midgley spent time living in the Midwest, studying at Saint Mary’s College and then working at Ogilvy & Mather in Chicago, she always knew she would return home to Pittsburgh. She says, “Our city has so much to offer. There are still things that I haven’t experienced after 27 years! The people, history, and the love and pride that Pittsburgh exudes make this a special place.” Whipping up delicious treats like peanut butter-filled pretzels and gourmet caramel-covered apples as the owner of My Favorite Sweet Shoppe in Bridgeville, Midgley is enthusiastic about networking with fellow female entrepreneurs and feels grateful for her neighbors — MoZaic Boutique, Elliven Spa, and The Smoke Shop — all female small business owners that continue to influence and guide her. Currently, she’s in the process of developing a new line of sweets for individuals that are gluten free, dairy free, or that follow ketogenic or paleo diets, to debut this spring. She also serves as an ambassador to Pirates fans as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates Bucco Brigade and sat on the planning committee for the Autism Speaks Chef’s Gala last November. The event raised more than $80,000 for autism research! My Favorite Sweet Shoppe will also sponsor the Autism Speaks Walk, June 12, at Schenley Park.“It’s not our grandparents’ ‘Pittsburgh’ anymore,” she says. “Seeing how other young professionals in our city are contributing to our city’s rebirth is amazing to witness.” For more information, visit myfavoritesweetshoppe.com and autismspeaks.org.
+ Favorite Pittsburgh Restaurant: “I love comfort food and my new obsession is The Yard. A menu full of grilled cheese and bottomless mimosas on the weekends? Sign me up!”
Pittsburgh is a place “where you can truly be whatever you want,” says Sean Beauford. The Mansfield, Ohio, native first recognized the opportunity available in our city while visiting his mother here a few years ago. Since then, he has gone on to become an independent art curator, putting together exciting, fresh art shows at local gallery spaces like The MINE Factory, 707 Penn Gallery, and most recently, the August Wilson Center. His current exhibition, The Other Side of Pop, marked the reopening of the August Wilson Center’s gallery space and debuted to an overwhelmingly positive response, generating buzz all throughout the city. This collection of works from 11 different artists, on display through March 25, explores a perspective on pop culture not frequently shown by the media. He says, “A big part of my curatorial work in Pittsburgh is out of necessity for more diversity,” a principle that he applies elsewhere in his life, too. Later this year, he and Tara Coleman plan to debut a collaborative project addressing gentrification and displacement in East Liberty. Beauford is also the Patron Services Manager at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater, which just launched a “Pay What Makes You Happy” initiative for all of its shows, making diverse, world-class entertainment available for a price of the viewers’ own choosing. For more information, visit seanbeauford.com and kelly-strayhorn.org.
+ Favorite Pittsburgh Restaurant: “Carmi’s [Family Restaurant] in Manchester. They have amazing food, and the best chicken and waffles in the city.”