Kitchen United Appoints Michael Montagano Chief Executive Officer, Promotes Joy Lai to Chief Operating Officer

Kitchen United a ghost kitchen industry leader, announced today the appointment of Michael Montagano as Chief Executive Officer and newest member of the Company’s Board of Directors following two years serving as Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer. Additionally, Joy Lai has been promoted to Chief Operating Officer from her previous position as Chief Marketing Officer.

“Over the past three years, we have built a solid foundation on which to grow. I am proud of what we accomplished in my years at Kitchen United, and can say without a doubt the Kitchen United team is the best that I’ve had the privilege to serve alongside. I know they will continue to achieve great success in the years ahead,” said former CEO Jim Collins who departed the company to focus on personal endeavors.

“Michael is well positioned to continue to build upon Kitchen United’s industry leadership and help restaurant partners achieve optimal success,” said David Krane, CEO and Managing Partner at GV. “He has been instrumental in growing the business and charting the course for the future, making him the ideal leader to advance the company into its next chapter of growth. Together with Joy, who has a deep understanding of consumer adoption and scaling businesses, we are confident the Kitchen United leadership team will achieve long-term success.”

Mr. Montagano joined Kitchen United as CFO in 2018, as an experienced executive with a proven track record of building and scaling venture-backed companies. He led capital formation initiatives for the company securing institutional financing partners including GV, Fidelity Investments, and G Squared, as well as strategic partners, RXR Realty, DivcoWest and Rich’s Food Products. Prior to Kitchen United, Mr. Montagano helped shepherd PowerFlex Systems from seed-stage to acquisition by a Fortune Global 100, Electricite de France (ENXTPA:EDF). He currently sits on the Board of Directors for Dog Haus World-Wide, one of the country’s fastest-growing national restaurant chains.

Mr. Montagano grew up in a restaurant family anchored by an Italian restaurant and neighborhood butchery founded by his grandparents. He received his MBA from University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and his JD from Indiana University’s McKinney School of Law.

“I look forward to working closely with our exceptional senior leadership team and our entire board of directors,” Mr. Montagano said. “We believe strongly in the Company’s growth potential as we sharpen our focus on serving our clients and creating value for our stakeholders.”

In her new role as Chief Operating Officer, Ms. Lai oversees sales, marketing and operations at Kitchen United. She joined Kitchen United in 2019 bringing nearly two decades of experience driving growth for Enterprises and SMBs, including launching/scaling products, partnerships, and optimizing omni-channel strategies. She previously held strategic leadership roles at Internet Brands, The Wonderful Company and Bain & Company. Ms. Lai received a BS from the University of California, Berkeley, and a MS from Stanford University.

“Our team has built a burgeoning business by marrying deep experience in the industry with a passion for growing off-premise business

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Finding Joy And Peace In The Kitchen With Emily Hutchinson

“Cookies are my life.”

That quote could be attributed to any one of us, but this week, those words were uttered by none other than the cookie queen herself, Emily Hutchinson. 

On today’s episode of the L.A. Weekly Podcast, host and Publisher Brian Calle, along with Food Editor Michele Steuven, chats with Emily about all things baking. 

Emily has built a brand around her expertise in creating and decorating cookies, as both a bestselling author of Creative Cookie Decorating and a regular on Hallmark’s Home and Family, including a seat as a judge on Hallmark Drama’s Christmas Cookie Matchup. Her YouTube channel has over 3 million views, and her Instagram – cleverly titled “@the_hutch_oven” – has a loyal following of 113K. 

Most of us, even cake-hating Brian, like cookies. But how does someone turn a beloved dessert into a career?

“It started when I was little – way back when I was five – my grandma taught me how to bake in the kitchen,” reminisces Emily. “It was just so special and so fun and I caught on so fast. Being in the kitchen was like my place, we baked for everything – all sorts of desserts, breads, pies, she was the most incredible baker ever. She actually passed away when I was about 12 and so baking was really hard for me after she passed away and I put it on the back burner.”

Emily grew into adulthood, fell in love, and married her husband Mike. Soon after they welcome their daughter Reese and son Nick, who were elated to become big siblings to little Jennifer Louise, lovingly nicknamed Jenny Lou. Tragically, Jenny Lou passed away from SIDS before three months of age.

“It was beyond imaginable,” shares Emily, in a heartfelt interview with our hosts. “Every parent’s worst nightmare, beyond imaginable. It was devastatingly painful. I was really broken for a really really long time. Some friends noticed how bad my husband and I were struggling and invited my husband and I to church. And our lives started to change.”

In an effort to find peace and healing, Emily found herself back in the warm embrace of the kitchen once again. 

“I started to bake again, I felt so much joy,” she remembers. “I started making buttercream frosted cookie tutorials and people received them like a beautiful gift and started to learn from my videos, and that was so special to me.”

As Emily continued to post, her views shot up and her popularity grew. With a natural knack for teaching, she compiled all her lessons into a book that would become an instant hit: Creative Cookie Decorating.

If her grandma hadn’t had that love and patience with her while teaching, she wouldn’t be the baker she is today. She passes that down to her kids, her followers, and anyone who needs to find the joy and peace she once lost herself. 

Her biggest advice for trying things out in the kitchen?

“Always do it

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From the Kitchen: Punching it up, with or without some ‘joy juice’ | From The Kitchen

In 2018, a trio of experts gathered in my kitchen to determine which of three children’s fruit punches rated the top three stars.

Sisters Tori and Jaida and their cousin, Annabella, were the three grade school-age judges.

They put their heads together and taste buds on alert and today’s fruity punch was declared the winner. The judging was very mild mannered. They saw eye-to-eye with no arguments, skirmishes, or arm-wrestling.

I thought someone might be getting thirsty after the pasta-chili recipe from last week. It’s been a while since I’ve given any particular drink, so now is as good a time as any.

There may be youthful birthday parties in the future and you might want to go a few steps further with a festive beverage other than the already prepared pouches and boxes. Although there isn’t anything wrong with them. I never downplay their taste and convenience.

After the younger set is satisfied, I haven’t forgotten adults. For any grown-up occasion you could mix up the fruity punch, adding your favorite joy juice.

Or give yourself a relaxing time with good company and today’s refreshing beverage that still has a hint of summer from the lemonade, yet provides a taste of coming holidays by way of the cranberry juice.

Look for the sparkling lemonade where the soft drinks are sold. It’s usually in a two-liter with the Pepsi, Coke, etc., and generally a store brand. Omitting the vodka in that punch makes it acceptable also as a children’s punch.

I tossed in one more possible go-to for an adult party. Some years back, the wine punch was unfailingly mixed and served by a member of the Sons of Italy at every festive occasion of the lodge.

The author of the simple recipe called it her “substitute for champagne.” It was always well-received. The lower-than-champagne cost of ingredients made it most inviting.

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Saturday Kitchen joy as Paul Ainsworth struggles to say ‘chorizo’

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Saturday Kitchen’s Matt Tebbutt was amazed that Paul Ainsworth couldn’t say the word ‘chorizo.’

The TV chef was making ‘a dish born out of lockdown’, which included fresh fish and the Spanish pork sausages – but Paul refused to say the word out loud.

‘I want to get the fish cooked, I got one here for you Charlotte without the… spicy pork sausages,’ he began, giving Charlotte a plate without the sausage.

Matt jokingly asked: ‘How do you pronounce it?’

‘Um, could you help me please, Matt?’ Paul responded, needing pronunciation help. ‘It’s genuinely a word I find difficult. I’m not scared to admit that on live TV.’

Matt couldn’t help himself and repeated how Paul usually says it, yelling out: ‘Chor-eet-sio.’

We don’t mind his pronunciation (Picture: BBC)

Paul admitted he would give the word a go when he got into the swing of things and got a little braver, and he was true to his word.

‘You want to kind of caramelise this sausage for a good few minutes so it’s nice and crispy,’ he later explained.

‘And then you’re releasing all the oils from the chorizo.’

In case you are all wondering, it’s pronounced cho-ree-tho.

Fans took to Twitter to help Paul with it, with many teaching him how it should be said.

‘Matt, chorizo is not pronounced with an “s” sound. It’s a “th” sound!’ one posted.

Another kept the tweet simple and commented: ‘Chur-Ree Tho. #SaturdayKitchen.’

More: Saturday Kitchen

This wasn’t the first time there was an issue with how to pronounce certain foods, as Matt caused a stir last month when he pronounced ‘scone’ like ‘cone.’

Considering it’s been a never-ending debate on whether it should be said like ‘cone’ or ‘gone’, we’ll let it slide.

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Prairie garden brings joy, stress relief to Omaha police officer | Home & Garden

When Kim Pecha can’t immediately find her husband, she knows exactly where to look.

Michael Pecha will be outside in his prairie garden, bent over to study a caterpillar or butterfly.

“Behind 3- or 4-foot tall flowers, she will see my head pop up,” Pecha said.

Pecha has plenty of tall plants to hide behind. After lots of thought, this spring he expanded his two garden beds to cover 3,000 square feet of his front yard.

Little did the veteran Omaha police officer know it would be a saving grace in a tumultuous summer.

“It has brought me joy and stress relief and has had a bigger impact than I ever expected,” he said.

Pecha has planted about 90 species of native grasses and flowers on his Elkhorn property. He meticulously records everything he grows on a spreadsheet, including where it’s planted, if it’s native and where it originated.



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Omaha police officer Michael Pecha uses a spreadsheet to keep track of everything he’s planted.




Purple coneflower, butterfly milkweed, anise hyssop, snow-on-the-mountain, blazing star, cardinal flower, Illinois bundleflower and sideoats grama are his favorites.

“I’ve gone a little overboard with 3,000 square feet of my lawn converted to prairie,” he said, “but anyone can set aside a little section of their landscaping and plant native plants and play a role in protecting and benefiting the planet.”

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