SPRING 2014 COHORT
Mary Chapman: Mary grew up on the coast of Maine surrounded by Whoopie Pies, Italian sandwiches, and lots of lobster. Always an enthusiastic eater, she discovered a passion for wine while waitressing her way through her B.A. in History at Drew University. Upon graduation, she leapt at the opportunity of a marketing internship with a small organic winery and vineyard in Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley. She quickly realized that just selling wine wouldn’t be enough, she needed to make it. In a whirlwind 2 years, Mary worked as a harvest intern for 3 of California’s most prestigious wine producers.
When a more stable lifestyle beckoned, she took a sales position working for a high end cheese distributor and got to spend 8 hours a day chatting cheese with America’s foremost chefs and cheese professionals. In the fall of 2012, Mary returned to the East Coast to be closer to family and while searching for a way to continue her food career, discovered the Gastronomy program. She is looking forward to building an academic backbone for her experience to stand on and one day achieve her goal of running her own small food business.
John Fladd: My name is John Fladd. I am 49 years old. I am a father, husband, teacher and writer.My original degree was in Medieval History, so in consequence, my life has been otherwise almost completely disconnected from Medieval History in every way. I have a background in restaurant work, writing (I was the New Hampshire Press Association’s Columnist of the Year, two years running) and teaching. I have been beaten up by an angry, machete-wielding mob of Kikuyu in Kenya and am the inventor of the world’s best breakfast sandwich. My recent mid-life crisis purchase was a liquid nitrogen dewar for making experimental ice creams.
Byron Kidd: Byron was born in the Hartford, Connecticut area a while ago. He graduated from the University of Connecticut with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology in 2006, because it allowed him to think about the world, how it worked, and all from a broader view. Although he had no idea where this would take him next, it wasn’t about where he ended, but the experiences and people he took along the way. There was always one constant in life: food definitely made the experience better.
He spent a couple of years making a living behind a bar, sending him into social work soon thereafter. He currently works for the town of South Windsor, Connecticut in Adult and Elderly Services. The department runs a food bank, cares for the welfare of the town’s seniors, and implements government assistance programs for those in need.
Byron enjoys every aspect of food, anything distilled, and the belief that everyone deserves a decent meal on their plate at the end of the day. He is ready to combine all of the experiences he’s gained along the way, with a passion for the culinary world, in Boston University’s Gastronomy program.
Hannah Reff: Hannah grew up in the sunny suburbs of Los Angeles, where her father is a professional foodie, her mother is a vegan, and Hannah has always been a “good eater”, according to grandma. Sometime around high school, Hannah realized that her family was in the minority by composting and buying local, and maybe that is what set her down the path of gastronomical scholarship. She rode her bike everywhere and rolled burritos while attending UC Davis for undergrad, a school known for its agricultural and “green” programs.
Transplanted to Boston for day job reasons, Hannah now keeps bees, brews beer, and coos over other people’s dogs. She’s learning to grow houseplants and where to get the best seafood, and she’s looking forward to learning even more about agriculture and foodscapes in the Gastronomy program.
Jane Sayers: Born in New Zealand, Jane was raised on a diet of lamb and dairy products, but time spent living in Asia, Europe and now the US has widened her food experience. These days she commutes from Providence where she lives with her husband Pradeep and four year old daughter Himani.
Becoming a vegetarian (her husband is a Hindu whose family has been vegetarian for generations) and having a child have moved food from an enthusiasm to an obsession, and she is increasingly interested in why we eat what we eat, and how to eat wisely and well.
Moving to the US in 2012 without a work visa has given her the perfect opportunity to abandon a career in professional services marketing and instead focus on cooking, eating, thinking about food, reading about food and writing about food.
Lucy R. Valena: Lucy became fascinated with food studies as a teenager in New Hampshire. She is pretty sure she had the same copy of “Edible Nuts of the World” checked out from the library for the better part of three years, and she still boasts about the time she got her mom to drive her to the Schlesinger Library for a Culinary Historians of Boston meeting when she was sixteen.
She graduated from Hampshire College in 2007 with a degree in studio art. After a brief but very important summer in Seattle, she moved to Boston inspired to open a coffeehouse like the ones she had seen out West. In 2010 she founded Voltage Coffee & Art, a coffeehouse and gallery in Kendall Square, which she still owns and runs with her amazing and talented staff.
When she’s not brewing coffee or doing paperwork, Valena enjoys cooking delicious meals, sewing, shaking cocktails, and poring over botanical illustrations. She is thrilled to become a part of the Gastronomy program and hopes to gain a deeper and more holistic understanding of the food system at large.
Mallory Cushman: Born and raised in Connecticut, Mallory came to Boston University to get her BA in Art History and Anthropology. After graduating, she spent several years traveling, travel writing and cooking on sailboats until she finally realized that everything she was doing revolved around cooking, eating, discovering new foods and sharing her love of everything gastronomic.
After her delicious epiphany, she returned to Boston to take an internship at Chefs Collaborative and to work at Flour Bakery, where her love of food and the industry grew every day. Mallory currently works at Oldways Preservation Trust where she is the Program Manager of the Whole Grains Council. Her experience in the non profit side of the food industry will be a great backbone for her studies.
In addition to eating anything and everything, (you have to at least once, right?!) Mallory is an avid cook and baker and can’t wait to spend some time in kitchen with her fellow like-minded Gastronomy peers!
Meghan Elwell: Meghan’s gastronomical journey began as an undergraduate at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. This appreciation for food and the significance of sharing food was intensified during her time in Cape Town, South Africa, where she experienced the vibrant, fresh food culture that is prevalent there. After earning her BS in International Studies at WPI, Meghan serendipitously turned what started out as a temporary job in the restaurant industry into a career. Despite the demanding schedule, Meghan found her place in “the industry” and is dedicated to learning how to run a successful food business. She now specializes in beverages and looks forward to expanding her knowledge of food and wine in a way that is both practically useful and intellectually satisfying, as this should make her well prepared for her own entrepreneurial endeavors in the future.
Molly Farrar: Molly is a native of Virginia, also known as the place with some of best ham in the world (in her humble opinion.) She has always been interested in cooking and baking, with some of her earliest memories consisting of standing on a stool in the kitchen and “helping” her grandmother by licking the spoon. Travels during college piqued her interest in other cultures’ cuisine and history. Since graduating in 2011, she has worked in various restaurants, which has taught her about food preparation, menu planning, and people’s weird eating habits.
In her free time, Molly likes to run, and though she definitely won’t be qualifying for the Boston Marathon anytime soon, she is always happy to have running partners. Other interests include craft beer, premium cable TV shows, and petting every dog she meets.
Molly hopes her studies in Gastronomy will help her combine her BA in English with her personal and professional experiences with food in a meaningful way, and hopefully lead to a lifelong career in the industry. She is excited about being in a new city and experiencing everything Boston and the program have to offer!
Ariel Knoebel: Ariel has always been a lover of food, following the call of her raging sweet tooth and cultural curiosity on many culinary adventures. This passion crystallized during her undergraduate studies, when she realized that food is more than just what lands on the dinner plate, but an important part of the story for every individual, family, and culture. Through this exploration, she has decided to blend her lifetime passion for food with her professional goals as a writer to document these stories.
She is excited to return to Boston, where she completed her undergraduate degree at Emerson College in 2011. In the meantime, she has traveled, volunteered, and spent some quality time with the family dogs at home in Southern California. Outside of her studies, she is a dedicated yogi, intermittent crafter, lifelong traveler, and a lover of cozy sweaters and good tea.
Katie Kritzalis: Katie spent her childhood living in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and traveling the world with her family. While her passion for travel and foreign cultures was ignited in her youth, it wasn’t until high school that she began to appreciate exotic foods and eat her vegetables.
After studying Art History at Hamilton College, Katie spent five years managing public events for New York City’s Bryant Park. During this time she developed an awareness of the industrial food system and a desire to improve it, so she left Manhattan to learn how to grow food on a 5-acre organic vegetable farm in Westchester County, NY.
She has spent the last two years living and working on a small, diversified farm in Fairfield County, CT, where her experience has included growing specialty produce, raising heirloom-breed livestock, direct marketing to chefs, CSA management, and coordinating farm-based dinners and workshops.
She will miss fixing meals with freshly harvested vegetables and sharing her food scraps with the pigs, but is excited to begin the Gastronomy Program at BU, explore Boston’s food scene, and get involved with organizations that support local food and agriculture in and around the city.
Sarah McKeen: Sarah has been a food lover ever since she was tall enough to reach the handle of the refrigerator. Her preoccupation with food transformed into a devotion when she decided to pursue a Bachelor’s in Food Science at Cornell University. Between labs and lectures, she spent her extracurricular time cooking, eating, exploring, writing, and learning about food. Most weekends were spent in flux between the library, the Ithaca Farmer’s Market, local wineries, and friends’ kitchens. Sarah’s explorations have continued since graduating in 2013. Whether it be a cafe on the Italian coast, a boardwalk in New Jersey, or a food truck in Brooklyn, she is always on the lookout for obscure, delicious food and the stories behind it.
Sarah has worked in research and development, food safety, and sensory. In joining the Gastronomy program at BU she looks forward to having a great time in gaining a deeper understanding of the culinary and cultural side of food.
In addition to food, she enjoys running, traveling, and exploring her hometown of Boston.
Briana Witt: Briana grew up eating at an unconventional kitchen table. As the daughter of a camp and retreat director, she ate most of her meals in a dining hall among warm but rotating strangers. It was there, in the Colorado woodlands, that Briana was introduced to cooking. Despite learning her way around the camp kitchen as a young girl, Briana didn’t develop a passion for food until she was an undergraduate English major at Portland State University.
Portland, Oregon is known for its food trucks and farm fresh produce so it didn’t take long for Briana’s free time to fill up with food-related hobbies. By graduation, her interest in food gained her a two-year position as a paralegal for a firm specializing in water law. Although Briana enjoyed working with farmers, she craved a career that would combine her love of food with her background in literature.
After reading Consider the Oyster by M.F.K. Fisher, Briana found a home in food writing. She took the risk, quit her legal career and moved to Boston to study gastronomy. She is looking forward to establishing herself as a writer and exploring the diversity of human experience through the lens of food.
Beth Wittenstein: Beth Wittenstein was born and raised with a love of travel, and has found food to be a huge motivating factor in deciding where to visit next (love of Italian cuisine inspired a whole semester abroad in Florence!). After graduating from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and English, Beth began expanding her culinary interests by teaching herself to bake, and has been blogging about the experience at Young Idealistic Baker ever since.
When she began scouring food blogs for inspiration and recipes to follow or adapt, she quickly discovered that she wasn’t only interested in learning how to make a perfect soufflé; she also wanted to know where the idea and technique originated, how many variations pastry chefs have created over time and how to create a unique variation, original enough to be interesting yet still true to its origins. Beth is looking forward to this unique opportunity to gain a holistic view of the impact of food on society and build toward a food-oriented career.
When she isn’t destroying her kitchen in pursuit of mastering the art of meringues or infusing caramel with whiskey, she loves spending time outdoors, attending yoga classes and taste-testing every Thai restaurant in the Greater Boston area.