Our Team

Tovala began with a singular mission: to make it easier to eat better.

When our co-founder David was in grad school, he found it way too difficult to eat well. He didn’t have time to cook for himself, and there weren’t any quick or healthy options for him to choose from. That’s when he came up with the idea for Tovala.

Since we started out, we’ve talked to people across the country who are also looking for a way to successfully balance convenience, health, and taste. Our goal is to provide them that balance so they don’t ever have to compromise again.

We’re not here to replace home cooking. We’re here to rethink it.

Tovala team

David Rabie

David is our co-founder and CEO. He's a self-professed food nut with an MBA from Chicago Booth. Before starting Tovala, he worked for the co-founder and CEO of Veggie Grill and ran Groovy Spoon – a bi-coastal chain of frozen yogurt stores. He also spent time working at Google and Foundation Capital. His favorite ingredient is avocado.

Bryan Wilcox

Bryan is our co-founder and CTO. He was raised on a farm, and grew his own fruits and vegetables. Maybe that's why his favorite ingredient is Jonathan apples. Bryan worked on appliances at GE and Whirlpool before earning his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Illinois. After his PhD, Bryan launched his own product development firm – The Product Manufactory.

Peter Fiflis

Peter is our lead engineer. He just wrapped up his PhD in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Illinois. I know, right? Before joining the Tovala team, he started BreakfastBox, an automated breakfast appliance. So I guess you could say Peter loves food just as much as the rest of us. His favorite ingredient is Parmesan cheese.

Alex Solomon

Alex is our Marketing Director. Prior to joining Tovala, Alex honed his skills as a marketing honcho at Ogilvy & Mather and FCB. He started his career in the trenches as an options trader. He's a UPenn grad who loves food and cooks a mean steak. His favorite ingredient is bacon. On anything.

Adam Brakhane

Adam is our resident computer engineering expert. We snagged him from Wolfram Research a year after his graduation from the University of Illinois, where he studied computer engineering with a focus on embedded signal processing and control systems. His favorite ingredient is chocolate syrup. Yum.

Josh Billions

Josh is our software development genius. He studied Art and Technology Studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he created software applications and worked at Apple. He went on to found MB Labs, MobileTherm, and Catalyze Chicago before joining Tovala. His favorite ingredient is garlic. Some say it goes well with ice cream.

Cen Qian

Cen is our Senior Operations Manager. The descendant of a long line of chefs, farmers, and shellfish enthusiasts, Cen loves cooking and lives for good food. Before Tovala, she developed her business acumen at Goldman Sachs Asset Management and earned an MBA from Chicago Booth. Her favorite ingredient is shrimp.

Alexander Plotkin

Alexander is our Chief Culinary Officer. He's a flavor guru who has honed his craft around the world at fine dining legends like Noma & Alinea, as the Director of Culinary Innovation for Cantu Designs, and as as a Corporate Chef for Kerry Flavor and Ingredients. He joined us after starting his own food innovation company, Epic Eats Innovation. His favorite ingredient is lemon.

Taryn Aronson

Taryn is our Chief Operating Officer. She holds a BS from Wharton and an MBA from Kellogg. She’s an innovation master who started her career at The Blackstone Group, helped create Hulu at NBC Universal and worked on operational efficiency at Redbox. She’s married with 3 super cute kids and can’t wait to use the Tovala to balance her busy life. Her favorite ingredient is pineapple.

Brian Krall

Brian is our Director of Growth Engineering. Since graduating from the University of Iowa 9 years ago, he has launched websites and web apps for everything from communities to digital media, enterprise and startups. His favorite ingredient is feta cheese.

Hayoung Kwon

Hayoung is our Design Lead. She studied design at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She was Whittl's Design Lead and now has her eyes on all things visual at Tovala thanks to her experience in interaction design, graphic design, and even visual exhibitions. Her favorite ingredient is eggs.

Erik Chizeck

Erik is our Director of Culinary Operations. He’s a Jack-of-all-trades in the kitchen who graduated from Western Culinary Institute in Portland. He honed his skills further at Homaro Cantu’s Moto, Sepia, and Chicago’s Barrelhouse Flat. Erik has a profound respect for his ingredients, especially his favorite, chili peppers.

Bart Brylak

Bart is one of our Back-End Developers. He studied Mathematics and Computer Science at Northeastern Illinois University. He’s a food nut who enjoys everything from Michelin-rated restaurants to Italian Beefs on Maxwell St. He’s worked on a range of tech stacks, including a recent stint as a white-hat hacker in litigation software. His favorite ingredient is Chicago-style giardiniera.

Leslie Castromayor

Leslie is part of our Customer Support Team. She’s a graduate of the Illinois Institute of Art in Fashion and Marketing. When she’s not working with Tovala customers, she helps produce a podcast called Chefs Coast to Coast as well as an art and style blog. Her favorite ingredient is eggplant.

Katie Storteboom

Katie is our Customer Support Manager. She earned her Associate’s from Kalamazoo Valley Community College and is heading back to school to earn her degree in Business and Marketing. She comes to us from the hospitality field, so great customer service is a passion of hers. Her favorite ingredient is edamame.

Rachel Pentecost

Rachel is one of our Operations Managers. She graduated from Middlebury College with a degree in Environmental Studies and Anthropology. She’s a fan of being outdoors, growing things, and puzzling through interesting problems. She’s also always happy to hang out with a dog or horse. Her favorite ingredient is pie.

Maggie Pluskota

Maggie is our Copywriter & Editor. She graduated from the University of Illinois, where she studied English and Economics and worked as an editor at The Daily Illini. She’s a word nerd and loves copywriting, a skill she honed at the university’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions. Her favorite ingredient is green onion.

Deborah Song

Deborah is our Visual Designer. She studied Visual Communication Design at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is the founder of the school’s first ever UI/UX student organization. Before joining Tovala, she widened her design and marketing skills at Wix.com. Her favorite ingredient is coffee.

Jacqueline Vanderkolk

Jacqueline is our Office Manager. She earned her BA from Indiana University, where she studied International Studies, with a focus on Chinese. She also spends time doing guest engagement and education at the Adler Planetarium. Her favorite ingredients are carrots.

Matt Taube

Matt is our Director of Finance. Before Tovala, he carried out acquisitions at Accenture, where he also held various finance positions, and earned his MBA from Chicago Booth. Siracha is his favorite must add ingredient to just about every meal.

Keeley Kabala

Keeley is our Senior Vice President of Hardware & Operations. He earned his BS at the University of Illinois and MS from Purdue, both in mechanical engineering. He’s spent most of the last decade working on high volume appliance design and manufacturing at Whirlpool and Fellowes. He is passionate about innovation and has 8 granted patents. His favorite ingredient is sesame seeds.

Lauren Funk

Lauren is our VP of Marketing. She’s led teams across digital, brand, and product marketing at companies like Base CRM, Belly, and Toptal. She studied Finance at The University at Buffalo. She maintains a Chicago restaurant “hit list” spreadsheet organized by neighborhood, cuisine, and price. She grew up with a very Italian grandmother, which explains why her favorite ingredient is pasta.

Danielle Aubry

Danielle is one of our Web Developers. She studied Information Technology at Oakland University. A job with Northwestern University’s information technology team brought her to Chicago. Now she’s excited to be involved with building all things on the web for Tovala. Her favorite ingredient is cinnamon.

Shawn May

Shawn is one of our Mobile Developers. He earned his BFA in photography at the Art Institute of Atlanta. He worked for Apple for 6 years, moving from retail into mobile engineering. His software development skills are all self-taught, while he was in between shifts at the Apple store. His favorite ingredient is an ice cream sandwich.

Neel Bhat

Neel is one of our Back-End Developers. He earned his BS in Computer Engineering from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and spent the last 6 years at various Chicago-based startups. When he’s not coding, he’s cooking, eating, climbing, hiking, or hammocking. His favorite ingredient is homemade, long-fermented, sourdough bread (baked in the Tovala, of course!).

Brent Wagner

Brent is our UX Design Lead. He studied design at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He’s since honed his skills at ad agencies, a product development firm, a B2C IoT startup, a Fortune 500 company, and now… Tovala! When he’s not fighting the good fight he’s doing long rides on his bike or hanging out with his wife and cat. Mustard is his favorite ingredient.

Larry Gust

Larry is one of our Front-End Developers. After graduating from Colorado State University, he decided to start building web applications for entrepreneurs. This landed him in the startup world, making sure products look and feel the way they were designed to. In his free time he enjoys golfing, gaming, or a night out in Chicago. His favorite ingredient is cilantro.

Andy Devoto

Andy keeps folks in the loop with what we're cooking up. He's our Email and CRM Manager. He studied Marketing and Economics at Notre Dame. Prior to Tovala, he ran CRM at Vivid Seats. On weekends, if he's not sailing or rooting on the Fighting Irish, you'll find him in the backyard tending ribs on the smoker—his favorite ingredient is smoke.

Terry Atkins

Terry is our manufacturing manager. He holds a Bachelors and a Masters Degree from Northwestern University and has designed, built, and run multiple manufacturing facilities over his career. Terry grew up spending weekends on his grandparents' farm, and the passion for growing things has stayed with him. His favorite ingredient is home grown Sambal (grown and made by him, of course).

Emily Hoekstra

Emily is our Project Coordinator. She graduated from DePaul University with a BA in Political Science. Emily loves that food can bring people together and believes good food and sustainable communities go hand in hand. She spends a lot of time cooking at home, usually with her favorite ingredient, sweet potatoes!

Jake Schneider

Jake is one of our R&D Chefs. After studying Economics at Union College, he returned to Chicago to focus on food. He’s spent the last six years cooking at some of the city's top restaurants including L2O, RPM Italian, Wood, Perennial Virant, and Daisies. He’s a great eater. His favorite ingredient is chicken.

Ted Glasnow

Ted is our Director of Business Development. He spends his day, you know, developing business. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame, where he studied The Great Books and Political Science. Before Tovala, he spun up a sales team at Motorola Solutions and lead Pressbox’s national expansion. He’s also competed as a professional decathlete and worked at a few wineries, which is why wine is his favorite ingredient.

Aliyah MacCrindle

Aliyah is our Production Designer. She studies Advertising and Web Development at Columbia College Chicago, with the hopes of one day becoming an Art Director at an agency. She also likes to paint and hang out with her disgruntled cat. Her favorite ingredient is cayenne pepper.

Marian Zorilla

Marian is part of our Customer Support team. She recently earned her Associate’s degree in Business Administration and currently attends DePaul University in pursuit of her Bachelor’s degree. When she’s not being a CS all-star, you can find her singing, playing guitar, or spending time with her adorable pup, Heisenberg. Her favorite ingredient is mayo.

Lesley Butler

Lesley is our Chief Marketing Officer. A proud Canadian, she holds a BComm from Queen’s University and an MBA from Harvard. She’s spent 15 years in consumer marketing, innovation, and strategy roles at Pepsico, Bain, and Kraft. Most recently at Pepsico, she co-led marketing for the Quaker brand and oversaw innovation, launching over 30 products generating $200MM in revenue. Tovala has become a dinnertime savior in her busy life with two young boys. Her favorite ingredient is basil.

Our Interns

Tovala team

2019 Summer Interns

(Left to right) Hannah Wang, Claire Fitzpatrick, Lia Kim, Emily Knapp, Mars Gotauco, Kevin Li, Grayson Ho, Michael Vitek

Our Alumni

Stephanie Sorensen

Steph joined Tovala in November of 2016 as the head of experiential and social marketing. She quickly boosted Tovala’s social presence and led the effort to organize events and demonstrations of the oven and meals. With the launch of the company looming, Steph took over the much-needed (and empty) role of running customer service. To this day, the company prides itself on going over and above for its customers—and that started with Stephanie at the helm. Her favorite ingredient is still salmon.

Tyler Mey

Tyler joined Tovala in February of 2017 as the lead data engineer. He immediately went to work building a reliable ordering system to collect customer payments. After product launch in May of 2017, Tyler worked on a multitude of things: using predictive analytics to shrink the order delivery window, using data to help the culinary team improve meals, and setting up data infrastructure to help the whole company better understand its performance. His favorite ingredient is still a pancake (trust us, it’s an ingredient if you’re creative enough).

Rohun Patel

Rohun joined Tovala in May of 2017 as our Engineering Intern. He built an Excel inventory system that changed the game for our operations team, created three iterations of a much-beloved, oven-carting cart, and played a key role in the design and testing of our 2nd Generation Tovala Oven. His favorite ingredient is still ginger.

Elyse Obron

Elyse joined Tovala in April of 2018 as our sales manager. She ramped up our experiential marketing, worked on getting Tovala into offices, manned our phone lines, and helped run Tovala's pop-up shop in Chicago. Her favorite ingredient is still dark chocolate.

Julie Kim

Julie joined Tovala in September of 2018 as part of our Customer Support team. She helped potential customers through the buying process, answered current customer questions, and did it all with sincerity and a smile on her face. Her favorite ingredient is still honey.