Friday, October 14, 2022

Learn How Susan Ungaro Navigated Career and Family with Style, Humor & Networking


Learn how my special guest, Susan Ungaro, managed scandal, change, and her own family ~ while helming the Family Circle Magazine and later, the James Beard Foundation. 

Not surprisingly, I received so many delighted Comments and happy Feedback for this Ladies Who Lunch Conversations feature, calling attention to Susan’s “invigorating, inspiring, and empowering” persona. 

Susan is surely a dame who knows how to keep moving forward; hand on the tiller, while always keeping the other hand open to help others.

Susan is that rare human who manages to be like a best friend ~ very nurturing and understanding while also being a very commanding leader.

People just can’t help being drawn to her.  It’s that high likeability and accomplished manager that is a potent one-two punch.

How does she do this?

In our Ladies Who Lunch Conversation, (click to link to Conversation), Susan shares the "secret sauce" of her extraordinary ability to elevate networking to a fine, disciplined art, her connection to those Golden Arches (!) and her passion for nonprofit organizations, leadership, mentoring, and community outreach. 

From her bio: “Susan Ungaro’s 40-year career spans leadership positions in publishing and the nonprofit world. She is the recipient of many diverse editorial and non-profit leadership award;” she served as editor-in-chief of Family Circle magazine for twelve years of the nearly 30 she worked there, and after, as president of the James Beard Foundation. 

At the JBF, Susan “expanded its scholarship program, launched new books and television programs, women's leadership initiatives and elevated its annual JBF Awards that not only recognized exceptional achievement in the culinary arts and media but also a commitment to racial and gender equity.” 

Although, as I teased on the show, I may hold it against her that she moved the award show from Lincoln Center to the Land of Lincoln. We talk about this. (smile). Susan demonstrates her keen business instincts and acumen.

We also talked about one of my most favorite programs that Susan launched at JBF ~ “Beard on Books.” 

It was just so divine for me to walk over from our apartment a block away to the Beard House for the monthly (?) talks, bask in the author’s stories, nibble on some sponsors’ chocolates or cookies, sip coffee, purchase an autographed book, and learn. 

I used to bring the kids from the 92nd St Y culinary programs there for their summer exploration, too.  

In terms of a career trajectory, Susan talks matter of factly that it wasn’t all rose petals and rainbows. Life is well, life. Things change.

You can’t help but be impressed how she was able to go from a career in publishing when, regrettably, corporate circumstances dictated, to her heading up the JBF.  

That was a switch. And a half!

She acknowledges she was aware of those whispers there at the time she was named, asking the gratuitous question:“But does she know how to cook?”  

She kept her focus.

Her task initially was to right that ship that had been stained by scandal.  

Again, she was the captain with her hand firmly in control of navigating to safer shores.  No need to be in the galley, cooking! 

Susan shared her personal motivations to pivot when her career and family needed and she shows us how to continually change ~ doing it all with style, grace, integrity ~ and perhaps most admirably: with humor and charm. 

You'll love my Conversation with this engaging, charming, inspiring woman who, deservedly, has been on the receiving end of awards and citations for her epic contributions and success. 

To name a few here: while at Family Circle magazine, Susan was honored with the Hope Award from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, The President’s Award from NJ Press Women’s Association. Currently she serves NJ-based nonprofits, including Family Promise of Bergen County, which provides temporary housing and mentoring for working homeless families so they can become self-sufficient. 

Some of my Personal Anecdotes

Listen to me recall the first time I encountered Susan at my inaugural reporting/ covering the James Beard Foundation Awards.  I left the Press Room because it didn’t seem as connected to the event as I wanted. I left to go into the theater.

As I was dodging (flailing?!) about, dashing up steps in a kind of reverse Cinderella, panicky, looking for the right door to get to my seat, a kind of fairy godmother figure seemed to emerge and pointed me to the correct entrance.  

Guess who it was?

And then there was the time I was at a book event for Martha Stewart. 

I “pinkie promise” I was focused on the new cookbook ~ but I just couldn’t help but be seduced by Martha’s shoes!  

I was  admiring those beautiful, sexy, lacy creations, only to look up and see two of my favorite “She-roes.”  

I asked if I could take a photo of these terrific women together. 

It’s a keeper.

Our Ladies Who Lunch Conversation is brimming with stories. We take a ride with Susan on her journey that is both personal ~ how to manage being a mother and wife and daughter ~ and professional with all the demands that a career makes. 

I learned a lot and I’m sure you will too.  

This is a delightful chat about life.  

Thank you Susan. Again, we are most grateful for our continued enthusiasm, optimism, networking, and charm…

Listen and watch here: Ladies Who Lunch Conversation with Susan Ungaro

Bet you can’t guess what one of her most memorable meals at JBF is… (wink)


  1. All encourages me to learn more about her.

  2. Thank you so much! Agreed, Susan has so much to teach us about living a good life at home and at work. So inspiring... Thank you for your feedback.

  3. An example to follow.