Christine Barone, a Plant High graduate, leads the Andrew Weil- and Oprah Winfrey-backed restaurant, opening Feb. 28.
Christine Barone’s parents often clip and send her local news stories about the new True Food Kitchen at Midtown Tampa, the $500 million mixed-use development just off Interstate 275 and N Dale Mabry Highway.

“Every single update on Midtown,” she said.

She’s happy to get them, because she’s also excited for the new restaurant, a health-focused fast-casual chain founded by wellness guru Andrew Weil and backed by Oprah Winfrey.

That said, Barone doesn’t need the clippings to stay up to date on True Food Kitchen.

She is, after all, the company’s CEO.

“I have been looking forward to this restaurant for such a long time,” said Barone, a Plant High School graduate whose parents have lived in Tampa since the ‘80s. “My whole team knows, ‘Oh, it’s Christine’s hometown!’ My parents go by and have looked at the restaurant like every single day since it’s been built.”

When True Food Kitchen opens Feb. 28, Barone, who now lives in Arizona, will be there with friends and family at her side. The chain’s 40th restaurant, and fifth in Florida, feels like “a family affair,” she said, “so it feels really special.”

Christine Barone is the CEO of True Food Kitchen, a health-focused restaurant chain backed by Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Andrew Weil that's opening a location at Midtown Tampa on Feb. 28, 2022. Barone grew up in Tampa and is a Plant High School graduate.
Christine Barone is the CEO of True Food Kitchen, a health-focused restaurant chain backed by Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Andrew Weil that’s opening a location at Midtown Tampa on Feb. 28, 2022. Barone grew up in Tampa and is a Plant High School graduate. [ True Food Kitchen ]

It isn’t exactly the path Barone, 48, saw for herself when she graduated from Plant a few years after her family moved to Tampa. Barone was a high school math whiz who earned applied mathematics and business degrees from Harvard, and worked as a financial analyst at Raymond James Financial and Bain & Company after graduation.

At Bain, she dealt with a lot of consumer-facing businesses, working with them to get past roadblocks to growth.

“I liked helping to figure out the future that you can’t define through finance and math, and thinking through, ‘How do you figure out what people want before they even know they want it? How do you map out the future?’” she said.

That led to a role at Starbucks, where she headed up the company’s food division. It’s also where she was when she first ate at True Food Kitchen, which launched in Phoenix in 2008.

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