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We are thrilled to share this years “Understanding” Line Up – meet our exceptional speakers here!


Bryony Mathew is a British diplomat and neuroscientist.  She joined Her Majesty’s Diplomatic Service in 2005, and has served in London, Bangalore, Beijing and Phnom Penh working on issues from energy security, consular and defence to EU-Africa policy and Britain’s Overseas Territories.  She has travelled all over the world, from Zambia, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo to Greenland, North Korea and the Philippines.  Her most recent posting was as Deputy Ambassador to Cambodia.

Bryony is a strong advocate for gender equality and is the author of children’s book “Blue Broccoli and Nanobots: Awesome Careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths” which shows children that all careers are open to girls as well as boys.

Bryony has a PhD in Neuroscience and a Master’s Degree in Biological Anthropology, qualifications that are surprisingly useful for the negotiating and influencing needed in the world of diplomacy.


Award-winning documentary producer and presenter, with seven years international experience. In November 2018, the BBC featured Brigitte as part of their 100 Women Series. She has produced video content for NGOS, media organisations and multinationals across West Africa. Her first feature-length documentary as lead producer and presenter ‘My Stolen Childhood,’ received the Association International Broadcasting (AIB) Award for Best Documentary: Human Interest Category. Brigitte has featured on several international media networks including CNN, CBS, BBC, Huffington Post and Marie Claire Magazine. Brigitte has a deep passion for producing meaningful and impactful documentaries and television – with the view to inspiring others.

Brigitte’s professional experience ranges from producer, presenter to activist. While many have told her story, Brigitte believes the individual must be in control of his or her own narrative and experience.

Currently putting her inspiring message into action, Brigitte works as an Associate Producer with Refined Creative, a production company, with the purpose of creating and raising awareness of international development and innovation through storytelling. She is able to build her mixed media storytelling skills and fulfill her dream of empowering others to share their unique narrative through a clearly developed, and impactful way.


Born and bred in New York City, Lars went to high school in Brooklyn before attending university for a degree in literature. He found himself working as a set designer for commercials and music videos until he became entirely disenchanted with that business and focused on making his compulsion with cuisine a profession, working in New York restaurants, including Aquavit and WD-50. Europe was the next destination and he landed in the development kitchen at The Fat Duck, before moving to Denmark to work at Restaurant Noma. Lars is now co-founder of the free-form spirits distillery and fermentation workshop, Empirical Spirits.


Hannah started in hospitality back in 2002 at the award-winning members club Milk & Honey, London.  She switched from bars to books and brands and worked alongside Simon Difford from 2007, who encouraged her to start the festival some years later. Siobhan started her career in PR in 2009 working for major drinks brands, where she discovered her love of the drinks industry. When she joined Hannah at, they worked together to grow London Cocktail Week to its renowned status it holds today as the biggest cocktail event of its kind in the world.


Based in Copenhagen, Lisa Abend is a correspondent for TIME magazine, and contributes regularly to the New York Times, VICE, Afar, and many other newspapers and magazines. She writes frequently about chefs and restaurants, and is the author of the book The Sorcerer’s Apprentices: A Season in the Kitchen of Ferran Adrià’s elBulli. Her article for FOOL magazine, “Welcome to the Food Circus,” won the 2019 World Restaurant Award for Best Longform Journalism.


Isabella Dalla Ragione is an agronomist, author and researcher working to safeguard and conserve biodiversity, focusing on the local fruit varieties. In 1985, she and her father Livio founded Archeologica Arborea in Umbria, Città di Castello, an orchard dedicated to research and conservation of antique varieties of the area. Isabella has since 2014 been the President of the Foundation Archeologia Arborea, a non-profit organization created to continue the work of Archeologia Arborea. Together with the esteemed committee, University of Perugia, Biodiversity International and Food and Agriculture Organization, the Foundation continue to maintain the extraordinary heritage of genetic resources and knowledge of old fruit varieties of the collection.


Shopaholic, beauty salon owner turned minimalist-in-training ocean rower.  London-based Laura Try, 36 works as a freelance social media consultant.  She breaks up the time she spends attached to her laptop and mobile phone by taking herself on adventures at the weekend, trying her hand at different activities.  Once a year, she’ll enter in a bog entrance event to ‘reset’ her body and mind from the modern world.  In 2018, she and her team rowed 3000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean in 43 days.


Jeffrey Morgenthaler is an award-winning bartender (Tales of the Cocktail’s American Bartender of the Year, 2016), working since 1996 in everything from neighbourhood taverns and college nightclubs to fine restaurants and upscale lounges. He currently manages the six-time James Beard Award-nominated bar program at Clyde Common, and the celebrated Pepe Le Moko; both are located in Portland, Oregon.

Jeffrey has been writing about bartending and mixology for several years at his website, He is a regular columnist at, and contributes regularly to a myriad of other publications, including Imbibe and Punch. He is the best-selling author of the world’s first book devoted entirely to cocktail technique, “The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique”

His recipes and wisdom have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Wine Enthusiast and Wired magazines. Forbes called him one of the “Cocktail Movers and Shakers” of 2007, Playboy named him one of the top ten mixologists in the United States in 2009, Food and Wine Magazine named him one of the ten most influential bartenders of the past decade in 2014, and Supercall named him one of the seventeen most influential bartenders of the past hundred years.


Narit Gessler is responsible for overseeing all development functions at Free the Slaves, an anti-slavery and anti-human trafficking nonprofit headquartered in Washington D.C. Over the past decade, Narit has dedicated her time to advancing the human condition through rights based nonprofit organizations. She started her career working within the disability community before shifting her attention to socio-economic services. Prior to joining Free the Slaves, Narit focused her energy on global NGO capacity building, which took her from a food security program in rural South Africa to an anti-human trafficking organization in northern Thailand. Narit holds dual Master’s degrees in International Policy and Business Administration from Monterey Institute of International Studies. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, trying new foods and traversing the world. Narit also serves on the Board of Directors for the Pink Pack Project, a girls’ education and empowerment project recently established in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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