2017 Festival Participants

Adam 12 is the Production Director and Afternoon Host at RadioBDC, Boston’s streaming alternative radio. His twenty years of broadcasting experience have included stints at three of Boston’s legendary stations: WBCN, WFNX, and WBZ-AM. In addition to radio, Adam has taught production and broadcasting as an Adjunct Professor at Northeastern University and a Guest Lecturer at Curry College. A native New Englander, Adam prefers to spend as much time as possible outdoors when he’s not in the studio.

Working on commercial vessels in Alaska and Cape alongside hardworking fishermen Cod after he finished college, Jared Auerbach saw how the advent of industrial technology and strict governmental regulation of open oceans impacted traditional fishing communities and family fishing businesses. He witnessed their struggle for survival but also saw the quality, abundance and vast variety of species available in New England’s pristine cold waters. He notes, “Even early in my fishing career, I saw a misalignment of supply and demand in the seafood industry.” In 2006, he founded Red’s Best envisioning a brand that would represent each and every fisherman, create more efficiency in government reporting, and make it easier for consumers to have direct access to the freshest seafood while sustaining the livelihoods of American fishermen.

Sara Baer-Sinnott is President of Oldways, a nonprofit food and nutrition organization, with a mission to improve public health through education about cultural food traditions, ingredients and lifestyles. Sara joined the Oldways staff in 1992 to work on overseas symposia including the first International Conference on the Diets of the Mediterranean, where the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid was introduced.  Sara assumed the presidency of Oldways in 2010, as president, she develops company strategy, oversees all Oldways projects and programs and works closely with members of the Oldways staff.

Laura Benavidez is the Executive Director of Food and Nutrition Services for Boston Public Schools. She is responsible for the $33 million organization inclusive of all operations and logistics, facilitating the work through two executive staff members and 5 senior staff members who oversee more than 520 support and cafeteria staff combined. Laura is committed to child nutrition and the continuation of a meal program in Boston that can one day be the number one program in the United States. She has a Bachelor’s of Science in Food Science and Technology with a minor in Nutrition and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration with a focus on organizational behavior.

A native of Danvers, Mass., Matt Celeste grew up eating his Sicilian grandmother’s pasta, sauce, and meatballs. But it wasn’t until he took a cooking job in college that he discovered his place was in the kitchen. Matt turned squarely towards the act of cooking full-time, working at Boston institutions such as Mistral and Au’jourdhui at the Four Seasons hotel. He first worked alongside Executive Chef Jeremy Sewall at Eastern Standard. The work, professional atmosphere, and team environment prepared him to step up to the plate when Chef Sewall asked him to be part of the opening team of Island Creek Oyster Bar next door. At the second outpost of ICOB, Matt captains the culinary team as Chef de Cuisine, working alongside friend and mentor, Jeremy Sewall and Executive Chef Nicola Hobson.

Christiana Hodges wears many hats at the farm, including direct store delivery sales, marketing, management of IPM and Eco-Apple programs, and development of cider and other apple products.  Chris’ special interests lie in developing advanced IPM techniques and educating the public about the business of growing apples.  Chris grew up on Martha’s Vineyard and met Barney in college, moving to the farm in 1995.

Doug Feeney is a lifelong commercial fisherman from Chatham, MA. He has captained and crewed on many different boats and fished for a variety of species including dogfish, skate, monkfish, groundfish, scallops and much more. He recently bought his first boat and is highly committed to creating fishing conditions that maximize the social, economic, and ecological values of his business and the broader fishing community.


Michael Floreak is a food writer who lives and often eats in Cambridge. His interviews with authors, chefs, writers, food policy experts, and characters from across the food world appear regularly in the Boston Globe and To Market Magazine. Michael holds a Master of Arts in Professional Writing from Carnegie Mellon University and recently completed a Master of Liberal Arts in Gastronomy from Boston University. In addition to writing about food, Michael works as a brand strategies and writer.

Susan Futrell has worked with food businesses, nonprofit organizations and farms in marketing and distribution for over 35 years, including over two decades in the natural and organic foods industry. She is currently Director of Marketing for the nonprofit Red Tomato, which works with a network of fruit and vegetable farmers in the northeastern US. There Futrell helped develop and directs the Eco Apple® program, a collaboration among fruit growers, researchers and scientists with a goal of sustaining local fruit production in the US. She writes and speaks frequently on the challenges of bringing local foods to a broader segment of US eaters, sustaining family farms, and the history, science and joys of apples.

Lee Graham joined the National Celiac Association in 1997, became its president in 2006, and its Executive Director in 2014. She was diagnosed with celiac disease as a baby (which she was told she “grew out of”) and re-diagnosed in 1995. She experienced over 40 years of illness, fatigue, and struggles until finally, with a proper diagnosis, the gluten-free diet became a way of life. As a trained Experiential Facilitator, for many years she ran Values & Leadership Trainings and Group Dynamics Courses for non-profits around the country, was the lead trainer for Communication & Conflict Management courses for inmates at Framingham and Walpole State Prisons. Her experience lies with administration, company governance, consensus building, and conflict resolution.

Jay Hajj is the chef-owner of beloved Boston landmark Mike’s City Diner, where his classic American fare is savored by neighbors, celebrities, and political power brokers such as President Bill Clinton. Jay is a frequent guest on the Food Network, where he whips up favorite dishes with Guy Fieri on “Guy’s Big Bite,” “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” and “Guy’s Grocery Games.” The Food Network named Mike’s Famous Pilgrim sandwich one of the Five Best Thanksgiving meals in America. His recently released cookbook, “Beirut to Boston: Comfort Inspired By A Rags-to-Restaurants Story,” chronicles his dramatic culinary journey that began as a boy caught amid the violence and death of the Lebanese Civil War.

Kevin Harron is a 40 year restaurant industry veteran in development, operations, retailing and customer relationship management. He began his career as a manager for Victoria’s Station in 1979 where he acquired hands-on training in every aspect of casual dining restaurants, going on to work for Bennigan’s Grill & Tavern, Legal Sea Foods, Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill and Kelly’s Roast Beef. In 2004, Harron’s acute awareness of restaurant trends, and the recognition of the changing demographic in consumer preferences and lifestyle, led him and his partners to develop Burtons Grill & Bar, an upscale-casual restaurant concept featuring contemporary American cuisine. Currently, Burtons Grill & Bar has grown to 13 full-service restaurant locations. Harron is also an partner for Evviva Cucina restaurant, a modern Italian kitchen and bar with an emphasis on scratch cooking and seasonal ingredients, with two locations in Massachusetts and a third planned by the end of 2017.

Todd Heberlein, the Executive Chef at Volante Farms, began his career in Southern California.  His early experiences visiting farmer’s markets and working directly with farms left a lasting impression. Todd spent the next decade cooking up and down the coast, from small restaurants to the Emmy Awards, always eager to cook seasonally and local. After meeting his future wife(and the current Pastry Chef at Volante Farms), they headed back east, landing in Newton, and ready for a new adventure. After 16 years cooking on farms Todd recognizes that the direct connection to what’s grown and a deep appreciation for freshly grown ingredients is the only path. He considers being a part of The Volante Farm’s Cookbook, and sharing some of his favorite recipes to be the crowning jewel of his career.

Irene Li co-owns and operates the Boston-based food truck, restaurant and shipping container enterprise collectively known as the Mei Mei Group. Founded with her two older siblings, their award-winning food businesses merge modern techniques and genre-bending creativity with sustainable practices and tech-savvy communications. Their work has been featured by Food & Wine, Eater Boston & National, The New York Times, Restaurant Hospitality, People, Bon Appetit, The Boston Globe, and more. Irene’s background living on an organic farm, working the restaurant line, and organizing for social justice inform her leadership of the food and sourcing elements of the company and her belief that food can and should be delicious, fun, and just. A recent graduate ofCornell University with a BA in Food Systems and Cultural Studies, Irene received her third consecutive James Beard Rising Star nomination and an Eater National Young Gun award.

Sonia Lo is Chief Executive Officer of CropOne Holdings, Inc., one of the top three DDA (Digital Distributed Agriculture) growers in the US, currently overseeing FreshBox Farms in Millis, the first of several CropOne operations planned in locations across the US. Sonia is a founder and managing partner of Chalsys LLP, an advisory and direct investment company focusing on business building, restructuring and asset management. An angel investor in 15 companies, she speaks seven languages and has lived and worked in 16 countries, holds a third-degree blackbelt in Tae-Kwon Do, and was a professional private chef in London for two years.

Chef Nate Lopez grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area to pursue a career in culinary arts, earning his degree from the California Culinary Academy. With 10 years of experience as a chef in hotels and restaurants, he returned to school to study nutrition and food inequality, receiving a BS in Dietetics from San Francisco State University. As a chef at Revolution Foods, Nate helps create tasty healthy meals, organizes culinary classes for young chefs, and inspires others to rethink school meals. As a recipient of free/ reduced lunch as a child, Nate is passionate about getting better food into school cafeterias and makes it his life’s mission to teach and inspire change in the way young people eat.

David Martin is the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Health Council, founded over 96 years ago to promote healthy lifestyles, wellness, preventative care and to address the social determinants of health and to foster a culture of health for people and the of the communities they live in. Previously he was Vice President at the Lown Institute, a health policy think tank whose mission is to build a medical culture that fosters a more humane, effective, and affordable system of health care. David served as the Senior Director of US Health Care Economics, Policy and Reimbursement at Covidien (now Medtronic), a $12 billion global healthcare products company. Prior to joining Covidien, he was the director of health care policy and strategy in the Massachusetts Office of Health and Human Services, served as legislative and policy counsel for Partners HealthCare in Boston and was the chief of staff and legal counsel for the state legislature’s health care finance committee. He has additionally practiced law in the areas of criminal defense and insurance defense.

Tara McCarthy received her undergraduate degree in Nutrition from James Madison University and masters of Science degree in Nutrition from Boston University. Tara has been a Registered Dietitian since 1999 and at Boston Children’s Hospital in pediatrics for over 15 years. She specializes in children who have to eliminate foods from their diet for different reasons including FPIES, EOE, Food allergies and Intolerances, celiac disease and CSID.


Kathy McManus is Director of the Department of Nutrition and Director of the Dietetic Internship at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School in Boston. In addition she serves as the Director for Nutrition Services at Dana Farber Cancer Institute, the Director of Nutrition and Behavior Modification Programs for the Program for Weight Management at the Brigham and served as a Co-Investigator on an NIH funded obesity study, POUNDS (Preventing Overweight Using Novel Dietary Strategies) Lost. Kathy is a faculty member of the Healthy Kitchen’s Healthy Lives program conducted by Harvard Medical School and the Culinary Institute of America.  This program is designed to teach physicians the most current science of nutrition combined with a culinary experience. To date it has been attended by more than 3000 physicians throughout the United States.

From a young age, Marie-Claude Mendy knew she was destined to work with food. She first became aware of her passion for food and cooking when she was only 5 years old. She grew up preparing dishes from scratch, solely with fresh and local ingredients. Marie-Claude’s well-developed palate can be attributed to the wide array of cuisines her mother exposed her to as she was growing up. Born in the West African country of Senegal, raised in Paris, and educated in London, after she obtained her college degree she moved to Washington D.C., where she ran a small catering company. After living there for several years, Marie-Claude was ready for a change and has made Boston her home. Her original intention was to open a French patisserie, but owing to the lack of African restaurants in Boston at that time, she decided to challenge herself and open a Senegalese restaurant. Today, she is the proud owner of Teranga in Boston’s South End.

As executive pastry chef at  Oak + Rowan, Brian Mercury’s vision largely focuses on “seasonal ingredients, locality, and redefining the modern New England table.” His notable contributions to the menu include a selection of house made ice creams and sorbets in unconventional flavors, as well as an in-house bread and butter program. Brian joined Oak + Rowan directly following a successful tenure as executive pastry chef at a the Harvest in Cambridge, where he garnered recognition including Food & Wine “People’s Choice Best New Pastry Chef, East Region 2013,” Boston Magazine “Boston’s Best Pastry Chef 2014,” and Improper Bostonian “Boston’s Best Desserts 2013.”

Violette Bakers is a dedicated gluten free, mostly organic, full service bakery in Cambridge. Everything is made from scratch and the menu changes weekly with seasonal offerings. Fresh fruits, edible flowers and seasonal vegetables are used in almost everything they make and they use no chemical dyes and hand-mill much of their own flour. Owner, Leesteffy, has celiac and her goal was to create a product so high quality and indistinguishable from a gluten based equivalent, that no one needs to know it is gluten free.

  1. Michael Pagliarini, chef/owner of Giulia and Benedetto, is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, with more than 16 years of experience in the top kitchens of Boston and Chicago. He and his wife, Pamela Ralston, open Giulia to great acclaim in December 2012. Since then the restaurant has received numerous award and accolades including Best Italian Restaurant, Boston Magazine 2013; Zagat Top 50 restaurant in Boston; and “Best Pasta” 2015 Improper Bostonian.  In November 2016, they opened Benedetto, the duo’s exciting journey into the diverse and irresistible regions of Italy.

Michael’s first cooking job in Boston was at the legendary Hamersley’s Bistro, then as a line cook and sous chef at Radius. In Chicago, Pagliarini worked under the world renowned Chef Grant Achatz. With family ties to Umbria, a Fulbright Teaching Fellowship to France, and extensive wine scholarship, Pagliarini brings his leadership, refined culinary skills and passion for Italian cuisine to Boston.

Chef Vic Passacantilli started in the business when he was 8 years old working in his grandfather’s restaurant , The Blue Front, in the North End. He learned and worked under the tutelage of his grandmother for many years. It was during this time that Chef Vic knew that “this” was the profession he wanted to pursue and continued to work “in the business” through high school and college. He combined his passion for cooking with retail in 1995 when Star Market began introducing prepared foods to its assortment. He quickly progressed from a prep cook to Manager of the LaCarte department in 1996 and working in this area for the last 21 years he has been instrumental in recipe development, store training and new program roll outs. In May of 2016 Vic was promoted to Executive Chef for the 19 Star Market locations throughout Greater Massachusetts.

Michael Piazza is a freelance photographer based in Boston, originally from California. Michael studied Art History and Film, before settling into still photography and moving to New York City. Somewhere along the line he merged his love of cooking and food with his love of making pictures. He is currently Chief Photographer and Creative Director of Edible Boston Magazine. He also contributes to Food&Wine, Down East, Yankee Magazine, and Martha Stewart Living. His recent work on cookbooks include Two If By Sea with Barton Seaver and Maple Syrup Cookbook and Food Swap with Storey Publishing.

Ayanna Pressley’s career has been marked by history-making campaigns and a relentless determination to advance a policy agenda focused on girls and women, breaking cycles of poverty and all forms of violence, and reducing trauma in our communities. She was first elected to the Boston City Council on November 3, 2009, becoming the first woman of color ever to do so. In 2011, she became the first woman in 30 years and the first person of color ever to top the ticket. On the trail and in office, Pressley doesn’t shy away from sharing her story as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and sexual assault as a college student. Pressley founded and Chairs the City Council’s Committee on Healthy, Women, Families, and Communities and has built broad and diverse coalitions to advance lasting, meaningful reforms to complex social issues like teen pregnancy and trauma. Pressley is a Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund’s Champion of Choice (2016), EMILY’s List Rising Star (2015), Victim Rights Law Center’s Leadership honoree (2014), and an Aspen-Rodel Fellow in Public Leadership (2012).

Kristin Groos Richmond founded Revolution Foods in 2006 with Kirsten Tobey to transform the way we feed our students.  She continues to lead the company which has grown to serve over 2.5 million freshly prepared meals weekly to students in over 30 cities across the country and distributes a line of retail food products to over 3000 grocery stores nationwide. Prior to Revolution Foods, Kristin’s career spanned corporate finance to education reform. She co-founded the Kenya Community Center for Learning and serving as Vice President at RISE. She was on the White House Council for Community Solutions and is an Aspen Institute Entrepreneurial Leaders in Public Education Fellow, an Education Pioneers Fellow and an Ashoka Fellow. Among many accolades and awards, Revolution Foods was named by Fast Company as one of the world’s 50 most innovative companies in 2015 and was listed as one of Fortune Magazine’s “Seven World-Changing Companies to Watch” in August 2016.

Caroline Sluyter is the Whole Grain Stamp Program Manager for the Oldways Whole Grains Council, a nonprofit food and nutrition organization with a mission to improve public health through education about cultural food traditions, ingredients, and lifestyles. In this role, she works closely with the Whole Grains Council’s 400+ member companies & organizations, and manages a database of over 11,000 products approved to use the Whole Grain Stamp in 58 countries around the globe. Caroline holds an MA in agriculture, food, and environment from the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, and a BA from Smith College. Prior to Oldways, Caroline spent eight years running a bakery and specialty foods department for Whole Foods Market and indulging her passion for tasting and talking about deliciously nutritious food with customers and fellow team members.

Maria Speck is an award-winning author of two cookbooks (both by Ten Speed Press). Simply Ancient Grains won an M.F. K. Fisher award, first prize in the book category and was selected as a top cookbook by the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, and Sweet Paul, as well as on NPR’s Here & Now. Maria’s first cookbook, Ancient Grains for Modern Meals, received multiple awards, among them the coveted Julia Child cookbook award by the IACP. The New York Times named it a notable cookbook, and Cooking Light included it as one of 100 best cookbooks of the past 25 years. Raised in Greece and Germany, Maria has a lifelong passion for whole grains. She is a veteran journalist and food writer, and has contributed to the upcoming Modernist Bread as well as to numerous publications in both the US and Germany, including Gourmet, Eating Well, Saveur, and Gastronomica.

Kelly Toups  is the Director of Nutrition at Oldways, a nonprofit food and nutrition organization with a mission to improve public health through education about cultural food traditions, ingredients, and lifestyles. Kelly joined Oldways in 2014 to promote whole grains and healthy cultural food traditions. Her role includes helping plan the biannual Whole Grains Council conference, as well as coordinating events for Whole Grains Month (September) and Whole Grain Sampling Day (last Wednesday in March), and managing other nutrition-related programming. Kelly graduated from the University of Texas with a BS in nutrition, and completed her dietetic internship through the University of Texas coordinated program. After becoming a registered dietitian, Kelly completed a master’s degree in Gastronomy from Boston University, with a concentration in food policy. 

Amy Traverso has been senior food editor at Yankee Magazine since 2011. There, she develops, edits, and writes food and travel features for both the magazine and Newengland.com. Previously, she was food editor at Boston magazine and associate food editor at Sunset magazine.  She is the author of The Apple Lover’s Cookbook, which was a finalist for the Julia Child Award for best book by a first-time author and won an IACP Cookbook Award in the “American” category. She is co-host of Weekends With Yankee, a new travel and lifestyle series from WGBH, distributed nationally through American Public Media. She has also appeared on The Martha Stewart Show, Throwdown with Bobby Flay, and Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.



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