Special/Signature Issues » 2017 Top 40 Under 40

2017 Top 40 Under 40: Austin Kitchen, 27

Director of Leadership and Engagement, Chamber RVA

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In a recent Instagram post, Austin Kitchen wrote, “Warning: No food was harmed in the making of this photo.” The picture shows a serene Kitchen, mug in hand, staring out into a sunny Museum District. It’s a huge departure from her wall-to-wall close-ups of healthy and gorgeous dishes. It’s also a moment for Kitchen to let her 14,000 followers know that “reflection can be your biggest advocate and will push you in the right direction, even if you start somewhere small.”

Kitchen will proudly say she started small. After a scare with cancer in 2015, she looked for ways to feel better about herself, one day at a time. Her newfound nutritional habits attracted many questions. As a result, she created a wellness platform called RVA Fit Foodie.

Harnessing that transformative energy, she launched the Hype Neighborhood Series with Chamber RVA. Each event in the series highlights a local neighborhood. Kitchen also has used chamber programming to shed light on the mayoral race, encourage young professionals and inform about the coming bus rapid transit.

So how does Kitchen keep it together, when reflection isn’t possible? Her mentors challenge her, she says. But help also comes from her mantra: “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

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