Highlighting Culinary Communities

Chances are that every single one of us has opened Yelp in the last year. It’s where we turn to find ratings on restaurants and hot spots in a new city. Yelp releases Top 100 Lists, predicts trends in various markets, and conducts important nationwide searches – for example, the search for the Chief Pizza Officer. Each of these articles and news broadcasts has a face behind the Yelp screen dedicated to telling the story of that business. Brenae Leary (Delta Phi 2006/NYU), a Yelp Senior Communications Manager, is one of those faces.

A communications manager promotes a company’s mission and services and manages the inflow and outflow of information to the business. For a company like Yelp, communications are at the core of the business. Brenae explains, “I work on a team that focuses on telling stories about the great local businesses on Yelp on broadcast, print, and online outlets like Travel & Leisure, ABC’s Good Morning America, and Food & Wine.” 

Having grown up reading stories and perusing the pages of magazines, progressing into a communications career to help tell stories was simply nature taking its course. Brenae gets the chance to showcase great local, small businesses all across the country, whether they serve food, create handmade goods, or serve up the perfect haircut. 

She also gets to help with searches and contests to highlight individuals and businesses, like the previously mentioned Chief Pizza Officer search. A Yelp contest run in honor of National Pizza Day, the winner had six months to act as Yelp’s official pizza expert, spread pizza trends, and $25,000 to continue their pizza education across the U.S. 

“The entries were amazing! Who knew people were so passionate about finding a great slice,” she said.

In addition to penning the stories of businesses, Brenae has helped write the story of the Sorority. If her name sounds familiar, it may be because she served on the Sorority Advisory Committee focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion with regard to Sisters who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. “As a Black and Latina woman, I wanted to take an active role in the work that the Sorority might do as it looked to take a stand against racism and injustice,” she explained. 

The Committee developed overarching anti-racism policies, redefined the “legacy” meaning, and developed a resource library, among other accomplishments. The Committee also recommended the formation of a standing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee to continue the work started by the Sorority Advisory Committee. This proposed legislation will be brought before the Convention body for a vote this June.

In her spare time, when not volunteering for the Sorority, Brenae loves to travel. While she’s been all over the globe, her favorite spot is Greece. Between the beauty of the islands, the excellent food options, and the ancient history, Brenae says you can’t go wrong. “If you’re a history person, Athens is phenomenal. If you want more of a relaxed vibe, Santorini is beautiful. If you’re a foodie, you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu,” she said. 

Brenae also takes the time to try new spots she’s found through her work with Yelp while traveling. At the time of writing, her upcoming trip to Austin, Texas, will be highlighted with visits to some new local restaurants. Traveling has also brought her some of her favorite memories with her Alpha Sigma Tau Sisters. The life events, such as weddings and meeting new babies, are counted among her favorites, but she also fondly recalls the times between all of the big events – the Zoom calls and group chats between Sisters who are anchored for life. 

Though now a storyteller herself, Brenae still avidly consumes stories, particularly those of women charting new territory, breaking glass ceilings, and paving the way despite the obstacles put in their path. Some of the women she admires most include Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black female confirmed to the Supreme Court; Mickey Guyton, the first Black woman to be nominated in the Best Country Solo Performance category of the Grammys; and Gwen Ifill, the first Black woman to host a nationally televised US public affairs program. 

Brenae can add herself to this list of women charting new stories. Through her work with Yelp, she helps tell the stories of these individuals and businesses to not only increase their visibility within their respective communities but to help weave the tapestry of their history. Through the work of women like Brenae Leary, the best of a community can be seen, experienced, and appreciated.

By: Lindsay McDowall Davis (Gamma Mu 2010/WVU Tech)