By Eva Meszaros

Sarah Freedman-Izquierdo, an internationally recognized chef, specialty food buyer, and marketing and sales consultant, died July 9 in New York City, after a months-long battle with cancer. She was 57 and lived in Miami Beach, Fla. The cause of death was colon cancer, her husband says.

An active member of the specialty food industry, Freedman-Izquierdo had a culinary background that led her from restaurant kitchens and catering to the retail space. She graduated from the Restaurant School in Philadelphia, and was a pioneer of the 1970s and 1980s food renaissance in Philadelphia. For eight years, she worked as a buyer at Epicure Market, a gourmet food store with three locations in Florida, and went on to serve as marketing and creative director for The Marky's Group, a specialty food retailer, importer, and distributor. Freedman-Izquierdo ultimately launched her own consulting business, Finesse Unlimited.

Freedman-Izquierdo regularly contributed her insights to trade and consumer media, including Specialty Food Magazine, a quarterly trade publication produced by the Specialty Food Association. While working at Epicure Market, she contributed to the association's sofi Awards (formerly NASFT Product Awards) as a judge.

Ilyse Rathet and Ron Post of Ritrovo Italian Regional Foods recall her positive words and encouragement from that time. "She was one of the first people in the specialty food world who seemed to get what we were trying to communicate with our products," writes Rathet. "That enthusiasm of hers motivated us to push forward."

"She really was a champion of the small vendors," says Danny Denzer of Epicure Market. "She would hand-sell a lot of items."

During her time at Epicure Market as purchaser for grocery, cheese, and coffee, Freedman-Izquierdo helped the retailer reshape and refocus its inventory overall, Denzer says. "[She] really helped us improve the quality of what's on our shelves," from encouraging use of better ingredients in prepared foods to removing certain non-food stock to allow more room for specialty foods.

Moshe Cohen, sales director at Tea Forte, knew Freedman-Izquierdo as a customer and then as a colleague at The Marky's Group. He considered her a close friend throughout the 15 years they knew each other. "Sarah was a teacher naturally. When she was a customer of mine, I learned much more from her than from any book I could ever read," Cohen says. "The industry definitely has seen one of its beacons pass away."

Freedman-Izquierdo's culinary skills never waned, as evidenced by her grand champion win in 2010 at The Manischewitz Co.'s annual Man-O-Manischewitz Cook-Off, a national kosher cooking competition. She created a Mandarin dumpling soup, which, according to newsweekly The Jewish Week, chef Jacques Pepin, the competition's lead judge, called the “clear winner in all categories of taste, ease of prep, appearance, originality, and creativity.”

Her husband of 34 years, Jaime Izquierdo, notes his wife's many accomplishments and personal endeavors. "Sarah was a charismatic woman with a passion for food, culture, travel, and a deep devotion to her family. She built personal and business relations that lasted and bettered the lives of people around her. Sarah was the first to hire gay employees in her managerial positions in Miami Beach, championed the cause of women in her field, and mentored countless younger men and women in her profession," he wrote in an email.

Freedman-Izquierdo is survived by her husband, Jaime Izquierdo; two daughters, Ana Rachel Izquierdo and Rebeca Amaranta Izquierdo; a son-in-law, Paimaan Lodhi, and grandson, Chauncey Khan Lodhi; and her father Monroe Freedman.