2023 Leadership award winner for Emerging Leader

Dani Zuchovicki

The Hatchery
Emerging Leader

With what sounds like a lifetime of culinary and educational experience, Dani Zuchovicki helps hundreds of entrepreneurs pursue their food dreams. And this emerging leader is just 30 years old.

“Gale Gand once told me to say ‘yes’ to everything,” says Zuchovicki, membership and community manager at The Hatchery, Chicago. “You will learn and grow.”

Zuchovicki started her culinary career in an unconventional fashion, receiving a degree in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies at Franklin College in Switzerland. There, she took a course in gastronomy and fell in love with food. Upon returning to the U.S., she worked at Biaggi’s Restaurant in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as a host, server, runner, and eventually line cook. She liked the work and applied to the Culinary Institute of America, receiving an Associate Degree in Culinary Management in 2015.

After stodging in various Hudson Valley and New York City restaurants, Zuchovicki moved to Chicago for an externship at the Girl & the Goat, a high-volume, fine-dining restaurant. “I made friends and contacts there that will last a lifetime,” Zuchovicki says. “The experience taught me to always work with a sense of urgency and hustle, to power through anything.”

A Move to Not-for-Profits

Zuchovicki wanted to do more than cook. An opportunity presented itself at The Floured Apron, a job training program that empowers women from underserved communities with the training, knowledge, and support to forge new and more economically-secure career paths. For two and a half years, she helped women develop and market products with a focus on baked goods, which were “easier for new moms.”

During her time there, Zuchovicki attended educational and networking events at The Hatchery, a 67,000-square-foot incubator with 54 private kitchens and one shared commercial space in which seven people can produce. When The Floured Apron was shuttered, Zuchovicki jumped emerging leader (tie) at the opportunity to join The Hatchery as its program and curriculum coordinator.

Since joining, Zuchovicki has helped more than 300 entrepreneurs “navigate the wonderful and complicated business of food.”

“We are all about economic development and job creation. We focus on collaboration over competition. People can learn from our formal curriculum, but they learn as much from each other.”

Zuchovicki estimates that more than 500 have attended the events she has planned since 2019. One of the most popular classes is entitled “Starting a Food Business,” during which Natalie Shmulik of The Hatchery and Cheryl Balough of Balough Law Offices go through a food business checklist to show entrepreneurs how to structure their business correctly from the start, covering required licensing, certification, financing, and branding. Two to four classes are offered every month and have included “How Your Packaging Represents Your Brand” and “Rethink the Path Forward: When to Push and When to Pause.”

When asked about future plans, Zuchovicki says she will “trust the process. I am happy to continue to create an inclusive and thriving industry through The Hatchery.” With at least 35 more years ahead of her, this emerging leader will undoubtedly be a mover and shaker in the industry.