In celebration of Women’s History Month, Perlick is highlighting accomplished female leaders in the food and beverage industry who have had profound influence. Today, we are introducing Leigh Fox, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with SSA Foodservice Design + Consulting. Headquartered in Tampa, Florida, SSA is a global, award-winning food service design and consulting firm that covers a multitude of sectors.


Leigh has been on the SSA team for more than 10 years and has developed a 30-year friendship with SSA’s president, Ken Schwartz. Entering the industry as a registered dietitian, Leigh built a professional relationship with Ken as a healthcare consultant/RD, collaborating on many healthcare projects with SSA before joining the team full-time. Through their work, Leigh and Ken have built a lifelong friendship that has brought many opportunities to grow together professionally and personally. Let’s jump in to learn more about Leigh’s industry success in food service design and consulting!


Q: How did you enter the world of food service design and consulting?

A: I am a Registered Dietitian and entered the industry in healthcare nutrition and dietetics. From there, I worked in food service management in business and industry and took a job in sales for a manufacturing company. In this role, I had the opportunity to meet with design teams and realize the impact they had on the efficiency and success of hospitality sectors. This was exciting, and I joined SSA as a project manager.


Q: How long have you been with SSA?

A: Over 10 years.


Q: What do you enjoy most about working in the industry?

A: There has never been a more exciting and challenging time for our industry. I love engaging with clients and being part of a team that realizes this opportunity to advance new ways of doing business to the benefit of the hospitality industry.


Q: What do you bring to the table/your approach in your role that is different?

A: I would like to think I bring some experience from operations and the manufacturers’ side of the business to a creative design team. I am told I am resourceful and flexible. My approach is to be a solutions-oriented and budget-conscious advocate for our clients.


Q: Who are some women (past or present) who inspire you?

A: Honestly, I am inspired by women in my family. My grandmother, Flora Tucker, was one of seven children raised by their mother who made sure all were educated and hardworking. My grandmother was an amazing educator and role model who lived to be 102. Each day of her life, she encouraged and elevated others. Her impact was worldwide, hosting international students for years from Ole Miss, sending them back into the world with a bit of southern character, wisdom, and soul. My mom, Dr. Sidney Rowland, is a dynamic thinker, inspiring, wise, and resilient…there are not enough words. My twin sister, Lynn Fleming, shares my passion for life and is a change-maker in medical and rehabilitative healthcare. She advocates for all and doesn’t take no for an answer when it comes to patient care and improved quality of life.

In the industry, Ellyn Luros Elson is one of the most dynamic and positive women I have ever encountered. I am also inspired by Barbara Bush and Laura Bush. Each is unique in their approach as leaders and First Ladies, exhibiting such grace, strength, and dignity. All these women leaders are generational leaders encouraging the next generation in their families and the world to learn and lead. Leadership does not occur without education and empowerment.


Q: How did you develop your leadership skills, and what do you recommend for other women in this industry?

A: I entered the industry at a time when persistence was important. I sought and was intrigued by opportunities to ”think on my feet.” Whether from naivete or ability, I believed I could handle most any situation given the chance. I am a fairly outgoing and persistent person, which afforded me opportunities to advance. I encourage women to be involved in their community and their profession. Some of my greatest leadership lessons were learned in community activities working with children and women to open windows when doors were closed.


Q: How can women support other women in their organizations?

A: Advocate for each other and be a mentor. Life is crazy busy, and we must provide encouragement for each other. Be open-minded and energetic and seek opportunities to engage socially. Self-awareness is important but should not be limiting.


Q: What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?

A: Connect with men and women leaders across multiple business sectors. I have mentors in hospitality, healthcare, entrepreneurship, manufacturing, and investment banking. Listen and think, “How can this make me a more productive and passionate person in all aspects of life?” Remove being intimidated from your vocabulary.


Q: With a busy lifestyle, how do you take care of yourself and maintain good work-life balance?

A: I am a 20-year breast cancer survivor. That journey taught me the importance of faith, family, and friends. I love the outdoors, sunsets, and time with family and friends. A walk in the park and yoga are my go-to activities. I love to cook and entertain, and I find few things more enjoyable than sitting around a table enjoying a great meal together. I love sports and sporting events. Also, if you have never tailgated in The Grove at Ole Miss, you have no idea what you are missing!


Q: Lastly, what is your favorite beverage to enjoy?

A: That’s funny! I don’t like root beer! I usually like a crisp Chardonnay or a French 75 served meticulously from a Tobin Ellis Cocktail Station!