For decades there has been a distinctive voice in food communications. That will be changing next week, as my boss and mentor, Anita Fial, retires and begins the next chapter in her life. Her legacy will continue through all of the people she has inspired to work hard, follow through on your commitments and never stop learning.

Anita and Avanelle in the Test KitchenAnita’s career began in the test kitchens at Lewis & Neale, where she put her home economist degree to good use working for clients such as the American Spice Trade Association and American Mushroom Institute among other food industries. Her interest always went beyond the test kitchen, and so did her career. She eagerly became the “runner” making food press deliveries to editors throughout New York where she developed relationships and built trust. This led to travel around the country, meeting with newspaper editors and making television appearances for clients. She has always been a people person, and relished opportunities to get out of the kitchen. She worked for Avanelle Day at the time, but it was really Nancy Webb who helped mentor her, as Anita looked to what’s next. As she puts it, “I wanted to drive my own buggy” and that meant account work. She excelled at that, and worked her way up through the ranks to eventually become president and sole owner of Lewis & Neale, opting to keep the name she helped build into a leader in food marketing.

Anita‘s drive for perfection,, unrelenting dedication, passion and integrity have been admired and appreciated by colleagues, clients and journalists alike.. She will be thought of every time we fire up the test kitchen, learn about a new productProsecco Event- 2005 Cipriani, 23rd and 5th 016 or meet with a long-time client to discuss what’s next. Her passion for servicing the client first is evident when you look at those that we have had the pleasure to work with for over 10 years. Always operating with the utmost integrity, she is disturbed by the unethical behavior that can occur in our industry. Anita has always preached “you must believe in what you are promoting” to the point where she has walked away from clients who wanted her to sacrifice her integrity. It is no wonder she is beloved and respected in the industry.

A pioneer for the professional mother, Anita continues to be an inspiration and mentor for young mothers in our office who find a balance between work and family. Raising two children while rising to the top of the corporate world is not unusual today, though still not as common as Anita would like to see, but it was unheard of then. Of course Anita has never been one to shy away from something just because it is difficult. Her advice for young people in the industry: “Get out to conferences, conventions, meetings, anywhere that you get a chance to interact with others in the industry. What you learn and the relationships you build there cannot be done sitting behind a desk.”

Anita at 3 years oldIt was 1954 when Anita joined Lewis & Neale as a test kitchen assistant. She may tell you she was 3 at the time. In fact it was then Bernard L. Lewis, Inc., formerly Publicity Associates, founded by Amy Vanderbilt. In 1956, Marshall Neale became a partner and the name changed. Fifty-five years later, Lewis & Neale continues to focus on food communications, education and promotion as the food/nutrition practice of CRT/tanaka. When Lewis & Neale began, it was not typical for an agency to have home economists on staff and a test kitchen in the office. Today, we continue to distinguish ourselves with a newly built testing and demonstration kitchen and our staff RD and senior vice president, Ruth Lowenberg, who will take the reins of the Lewis & Neale food division.

It was nearly 12 years ago that I began my career in food marketing, hired by Anita who saw potential in a newly graduated politics major who used to cook for his dinners in college. Much like Anita’s career at Lewis & Neale, I began at the entry level. She has always honored her beginnings by mentoring numerous young people who worked for her as well as chefs, writers and personalities who she believed in long before the country knew them. Those of us who have had the privilege to know her can all honor her impactful and memorable career by always nurturing and encouraging those around us to bigger and better things. At CRT/tanaka, we call that WhatCanBe, and in that spirit, the agency is establishing a scholarship in Anita’s honor to support continuing education and professional development. It will be administered through the International Foodservice Editorial Council (IFEC), an organization Anita has been involved with her entire career. If you are interested in finding out more about it, or how to contribute, please email me at [email protected].

Best wishes Anita as you see the world and find time to do all those things you put off over the years to serve your clients and the industry. We look forward to your ongoing guidance and mentorship as you continue to provide good counsel. You didn’t think she’d completely retire, did you?

Please share your favorite Anita story in the comments.