Meet the Women Behind "Cooking for a Cause"

Janet Irizarry New Head Shot 2019 Brown.
Diana Polack.jpg

  Janet Irizarry  

Janet Irizarry is a restaurant consultant with 30+ years in the restaurant and hospitality industry. She started working in restaurants when she was 15 and has owned and operated three full-service restaurants as well as worked for the world’s largest contract food service company.


She is an entrepreneur, who likes to create and help others as a restaurant consultant, Janet has helped clients with all aspects of the restaurant business. For entrepreneurs interested in opening a new restaurant, she helps them avoid the costly mistakes many times made in the restaurant startup phase and make sure they are set up for long term success. For more established restaurants, Janet expertise is helping owners find solutions to the issues that have blocked their business growth.


Janet is an Adjunct Professor, in the School of Business Management, at the Culinary Institute of America where she introduces students to the Hospitality industry. Sharing her expertise in the industry, she teaches students about different career opportunities in the Hospitality Industry, leadership skills, what true hospitality is and how to use it to exceed customer expectations.


In 2017 Janet co-founded with the purpose of connecting the Hudson Valley community to local restaurant owners and food entrepreneurs. For Janet, Hudson Valley EATS became a way of keeping her pulse on the restaurant business as well as bringing exposure to the food businesses in the area that make up the incredible food scene of the Hudson Valley.


The bigger picture for Janet is to use Hudson Valley EATS as a platform to “give back” and contribute something meaningful for society.  Guided by her mother’s motto, "If you are going to be part of the community, you need to find something you can do that will make a difference.”  For Janet, that difference is helping to fight food insecurity and get food to people who would otherwise go hungry.


As of 2020 Janet has made it her mission to connect everyone in the Hudson Valley with food, not just those who can afford it.  She has created an online community that brings together restaurant owners, foodies and the nonprofits in the Hudson Valley that offer food assistance, food rescue and food education programs.


Janet is committed to “Making Sure EVERYBODY in the Hudson Valley EATS.”, not just those who can afford it.

Nell Conway 

Diana Polack 

Nell graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in Arts Management. While in school, Nell secured the position of Member Events Coordinator for the Richmond Country Club, at the age of 19.


From there she excelled in the restaurant and hospitality industry ending in 2018 with her role as General Manager of a high-end restaurant that hosted numerous business and personal events. It was then that she had the opportunity to join the team at Romela Productions as Director of Experiences. Her enthusiasm and creativity shape her ability to work with people and produce remarkable events.

Nell’s passion for technology and virtual experiences helped support the transition to virtual through the pandemic. She helps build engaging digital experiences through websites, landing pages, webinars, and other online communications that help clients achieve visibility for their ideas and the virtual event impact they desire.


Nell is thrilled to work with Hudson Valley Eats on Cooking for a Cause, and support their important mission.

As a mentor, facilitator, connector and advocate, Diana Polack has spent her career gathering communities to get creative to do good in the world. Her mission is to give children and adults the chance to use their creativity to spread joy in the world, while building their own confidence as they make a difference in the lives of others less fortunate.

As founder and owner of ArtWare for Good Diana has been working with schools, and non profit organizations creating art based fundraisers and donor recognition programs as well as working with the for profit sector facilitating team building events that are both charitable and creative.

Her work has benefited over 500 non profits through the years helping the to raise tens of thousands dollars every year, and has been fortunate to work with corporations such as Novartis, Johnson and Johnson, Criteo, ADP, Sanofi, KPMG, Konica Minolta and Celgene just to name a few.

Taking stock of her expertise in connecting, facilitating, and serving, Diana has recently launched Mission Driven Masterminds for Non Profit leaders. Her goal is to provide a safe and nurturing environment for leaders to come together to get clear on their goals, share resources and strategies and stay focused on their mission to help those they aim to serve.

Diana's passion for community, art, philanthropy and travel has been throughout her work for the last 30 years and looks forward to continuing to support communities and causes whether they are local in the Hudson Valley of New York, or somewhere else in the world.