JBF Education

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Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change



“Now, with the leadership of the James Beard Foundation, chefs have even more of an opportunity to become educated and empowered to help advocate for the change we have spent our careers striving for. I have yet another reason to be a chef: because I want to create a food system in which it is a right, not a privilege, for everyone on the planet to enjoy healthy, sustainable food.”

–Maria Hines, JBF Award–winning chef of Golden Beetle and Tilth in Seattle


Chefs at the James Beard Foundation's Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change


Background and How to Apply


The Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change provides a unique opportunity for civically and politically minded chefs to become more effective leaders for food-system change. During thematic retreats around the country, participants receive advocacy and media training while learning about important issues, challenges, and opportunities facing the food world. The goal is to build a growing network of like-minded chefs, provide support for personal interests and passions, and give tools and guidance that will help them act as influential advocates.


The James Beard Foundation accepts applications for Chefs Boot Camp on a rolling basis.




Each gathering of Chefs Boot Camp encompasses:


  • A geographically, culturally, and demographically diverse group of 15 chefs
  • A unique destination to facilitate group cohesion
  • Policy and media training by industry and political experts on specific food-system topics
  • Hands-on activities that engage chefs with local natural resources, such as harvesting and visits to local farms, slaughterhouses, fisheries, and other producers
  • A collaborative dinner prepared by the participating chefs
  • Educational sessions about pressing food-system topics, such as the Farm Bill or sustainable fisheries
  • Exposure to campaigns of partner organizations, such as the Pew Charitable Trusts’ campaign against antibiotic overuse in livestock
  • Strategic brainstorming about effective action points and next steps



Past Programs

Chefs at the James Beard Foundation's Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change
March 2015: Avery Island, Louisiana


Our most recent Boot Camp took place on Avery Island, home of the world-famous Tabasco® sauce, March 15-17, 2015. Participating chefs learned the policy and advocacy skills they will need to be effective champions for their chosen food system causes. The group toured Avery Island and learned about its history and the process of making Tabasco®. This Chefs Boot Camp was conducted in partnership with the Chef Action Network (CAN), with support from the Osprey Foundation, the Irene W. and C.B Pennington Foundation, and JBF board member Eric Kessler.


Participants included:

  • Victor Albisu, Washington, D.C.
  • David Carson, Atlanta, GA
  • Michael Leviton, Boston, MA
  • JBF Award Winner Emily Luchetti, San Francisco, CA
  • Jud McLester, Chicago, IL, Tabasco's Executive Chef
  • Kevin Mitchell, Charleston, SC
  • Seamus Mullen, New York, NY
  • Jamie Simpson, Milan, OH
  • Bill Telepan, New York, NY
  • Christian Thornton, Martha's Vineyard, MA
  • Lee Anne Wong, Honolulu, HI
  • JBF Award Winner Sherry Yard, Los Angeles, CA




Chefs at the James Beard Foundation's Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change


September 2014: Bentonville, Arkansas

Our fifth Chefs Boot Camp took place at 21c Museum Hotel in Bentonville, Arkansas, September 7–9, 2014. Participating chefs learned policy and advocacy skills through the lens of access and affordability of food. The group made a visit to Ewe Bet Farms, a lamb farm in Cave Springs, Arkansas, and took a tour of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. This Chefs Boot Camp was conducted in partnership with the Chef Action Network (CAN), with support from the Osprey Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and JBF board member Eric Kessler.


Participants included:

  • JBF Award winner Hugh Acheson, Atlanta
  • JBF Award winner Ashley Christensen, Raleigh, NC
  • Erika Davis, Atlanta, GA & Nassau, Bahamas
  • Case Dighero, Bentonville, AR
  • Scott Drewno, Washington, D.C.
  • Dan Kluger, NYC
  • Anthony Lamas, Louisville, KY
  • Jordan Lloyd, Easton, MD
  • Bill Lyle, Bentonville, AR
  • Matt McClure, Bentonville, AR
  • Thomas McNaughton, San Francisco
  • Rob Nelson, Bentonville, AR
  • JBF Award winner Ana Sortun, Boston
  • Digby Stridiron, Christiansted, U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Eric Wadlund, Palm Springs, CA


Chefs at the James Beard Foundation's Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change


April 2014: Pescadero, California


Our fourth Chefs Boot Camp took place at Costanoa Lodge in Pescadero, California, April 27–30, 2014. Participating chefs learned policy and advocacy skills, with a focus on sustainable seafood. The group also traveled to Half Moon Bay for a fishing excursion and additional training. This Chefs Boot Camp was conducted in partnership with the Chef Action Network (CAN), and with support from the Osprey Foundation and the Waitt Foundation.


Participants included:


  • Cathal Armstrong, Restaurant Eve, Alexandria, VA
  • Kathleen Blake, The Rusty Spoon, Orlando, FL
  • Kirsten Dixon, Winterlake Lodge, Anchorage, AK
  • Duskie Estes, Zazu Kitchen + Farm, Sebastapol, CA
  • Ed Kenney, Town Restaurant, Honolulu
  • Michael Leviton, Lumière Restaurant, Boston
  • Morgan L’Esperance, Cascade Bar & Grill at Costanoa Lodge, Pescadero, CA
  • Jamie Malone, Sea Change, Minneapolis
  • Spike Mendelsohn, Béarnaise, Washington, D.C
  • Patrick Mulvaney, Mulvaney's B&L, Sacramento, CA
  • Sisha Ortúzar, Riverpark, NYC
  • Nico Romo, Fish Restaurant, Charleston, SC
  • Jonathon Sawyer, The Greenhouse Tavern, Cleveland
  • Barton Seaver, Author of For Cod and Country, Freeport, ME
  • Ari Taymor, Alma Restaurant, Los Angeles



Chefs at the James Beard Foundation's Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change


September 2013: Cold Spring, New York


The third Chefs Boot Camp took place September 15–17 at Glynwood in New York's Hudson Valley. Participating chefs developed their policy and advocacy skills while learning about Oxfam America’s GROW campaign, which brings people together to create solutions for food, fairness, and the future of our planet.


Participants at this Chefs Boot Camp session included:


  • Michael Cimarusti, Providence and Connie and Ted’s, Los Angeles (James Beard Award Nominee)
  • Craig Deihl, Cypress, Charleston, SC (James Beard Award Nominee)
  • Agnes Devereux, The Village TeaRoom Restaurant & Bakeshop, New Paltz, NY
  • William Dissen, The Marketplace Restaurant, Asheville, NC
  • Ben Hall, Russell Street Deli, Detroit
  • Evan Hanczor, Parish Hall and Egg, Brooklyn, NY
  • Mathew Jennings, Farmstead, Inc., Providence, RI (James Beard Award Nominee)
  • Emily Luchetti, Farallon and Waterbar, San Francisco (James Beard Award Winner)
  • Dena Marino, MC Kitchen, Miami
  • Mary Sue Milliken, Border Grill, Los Angeles
  • Andrea Reusing, Lantern, Chapel Hill, NC (James Beard Award Winner)
  • Nick Wallace, Historic King Edward Hotel, Jackson, MS
  • Jeff Zurofsky, ‘wichcraft and Riverpark, NYC



Chefs at the James Beard Foundation's Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change


May 2013: Louisville, Kentucky


The second Chefs Boot Camp took place at Louisville's 21c Museum Hotel from May 12 to May 14, and focused on regional food systems. Activities included a tour of nearby Woodland Farm, known for its sustainable farming practices, heritage livestock breeds, and biofuel program; and a meeting with Louisville mayor Greg Fischer, whose policy agenda includes strengthening the role of local food in the city.


"The James Beard Foundation is continually working to take the conversation about our food system to the next level," says JBF president Susan Ungaro. "Our Chefs Boot Camp fills a critical need for hands-on policy and advocacy skills training that allows participating chefs to bring messages for constructive change out into the culinary world.”


Participating chefs at the May 2013 Boot Camp in Louisville included:


  • Timon Balloo, SUGARCANE raw bar grill, Miami
  • Kathy Cary, Lilly’s, Louisville, Kentucky
  • Dominique Crenn, Atelier Crenn, San Francisco
  • Jose Gutierrez, River Oaks, Memphis
  • Chris Hastings, Hot and Hot Fish Club, Birmingham, Alabama (JBF Award winner)
  • Maria Hines, Maria Hines Restaurants, Seattle (JBF Award winner and pilot Chefs Boot Camp participant)
  • Sara Jenkins, Porsena, NYC
  • Phil Jones, Colors Restaurant, Detroit
  • Cormac Mahoney, Madison Park Conservatory, Seattle
  • Kyle Mendenhall, The Kitchen Community, Boulder, Colorado
  • Tory Miller, L’Etoile, Madison, Wisconsin (JBF Award winner)
  • Naomi Pomeroy, Beast, Portland, Oregon
  • Hari Pulapaka, Cress Restaurant, DeLand, Florida
  • Bruce Sherman, North Pond Restaurant, Chicago
  • Levon Wallace, Proof on Main, Louisville, Kentucky



Chefs at the James Beard Foundation's Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change


July 2012: Walland, Tennessee


The first Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change was held in the summer of 2012 at Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee. Support was provided by the Pew Charitable Trusts.


Participating chefs at the July 2012 Chefs Boot Camp included:

  • Hugh Acheson, Five & Ten, Athens
  • Michael Anthony, Gramercy Tavern, NYC
  • Jeremy Barlow, Tayst, Nashville, TN​
  • Jeremy Bearman, Rouge Tomate, NYC
  • Sean Brock, McCrady’s, Charleston, SC​​​​
  • Josh Feathers and Joseph Lenn, Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN
  • Colby Garrelts, Bluestem, Kansas City, MO​​
  • Rock Harper, DC Central Kitchen, Washington, D.C.
  • Maria Hines, Tilth Restaurant and Golden Beatle Restaurant & Bar, Seattle
  • Mike Isabella, Graffiato, Washington, D.C.​
  • Ed Kenney, Town, Honolulu
  • Andrea Reusing, Lantern Restaurant, Chapel Hill, NC​​
  • Sam Talbot, AOL’s GMC “Trade Secrets,” NYC
  • Cathy Whims, Nostrana, Portland, OR​​​​
  • Alex Young, Zingerman’s Roadhouse, Ann Arbor, MI


Additional Information


This program is conducted under the direction of Michel Nischan, chef and co-founder of Wholesome Wave, and James Beard Foundation trustee Eric Kessler, founder of Arabella Advisors.


For information about supporting Chefs Boot Camp, please contact Kris Moon, JBF's senior director of strategy and development, at or at 212.627.5252.