A native New Orleanian, Emery Whalen began her work in the culinary world as a hostess at Restaurant August in 2010 and worked her way up in the Besh Restaurant Group. Three years ago, Whalen teamed with chef Brian Landry to form QED Hospitality, a restaurant operations management group that runs all the food and beverage for the Pontchartrain Hotel — which includes Jack Rose restaurant, the Bayou Bar, Hot Tin rooftop bar and the Silver Whistle Café — as well as three Nashville properties: Marsh House restaurant, L.A. Jackson rooftop bar and restaurant and coffee shop Killebrew at the luxury boutique hotel Thompson Nashville.

Once named to Forbes Magazine’s “30 Under 30,” Whalen is a strong advocate for women in the hospitality industry. Whalen is an active member of Facebook’s #SheMeansBusiness, representing female-owned culinary businesses at industry meetings nationwide; and serves on the board of Women in Hospitality United, a movement born under #MeToo whose mission is to foster leadership through mentorship.

Working within an industry hit especially hard by COVID-19, Whalen worked quickly to save as many jobs as she could by partnering with a telehealth company.

“Our staff is now working from home,” she said. “We’ve got servers and bartenders that are now using their strong people skills to make sure people are comfortable with telehealth, they have the apps they need downloaded, their passwords reset, things like that.

“I’m so proud of all of them,” she said. “And I’m happy to say that out of our 220 employees, we’ve been able to keep more than half this way. Everyone who wanted to stay on was able to.”