Stories / Impact

Introducing the 2022-2023 Legacy Network Cohort

The program advances equitable leadership in the industry 

JBF Editors

August 09, 2022


Photo: Clay Williams

Today, we are excited to announce the 2022-2023 Legacy Network class of mentors and mentees. Founded in partnership with Woodford Reserve, the Legacy Network connects powerhouse industry veterans with the next generation to help build a more equitable future for hospitality and food media.

As a whole, the Legacy Network helps to address the historical gaps in mentorship and resources for Black American and Indigenous professionals. This experience will strengthen the cohort members' professional vision and empower them to blaze paths for others. Read about the 2022-2023 advisors and advisees below:


Selasie Dotse 
As chef de cuisine at Hi Felicia in Oakland, CA, Selasie Dotse draws from her own experiences in Ghana and the American South to enhance her guests’ appreciation for the cuisine of the African diaspora. Every meal—whether a pop-up with fellow chefs or at one of the many high-caliber restaurants where she has put down roots—tells a history and cultivates a community.  

Paula Gonzalez-Thomas 
A native of Cali, Colombia, Paula Gonzalez-Thomas has gathered experience and wisdom from every stage of the food system and every corner of the kitchen. Paula also teaches at the School of Hospitality at Metropolitan State University of Denver and is a board member of the Denver Sustainability Food Policy Council. As a mentor, she seeks to help the next generation of restaurant leaders put sustainability first.  

Carlo LaMagna 
Carlo Lamagna is a Philippine-born, Detroit-raised, CIA-trained chef. His restaurant, Magna Kusina, and pop-up series, Twisted Filipino, have garnered wide praise, including a 2022 James Beard Award nomination for Best Chef: Pacific and Northwest and inclusion in Food & Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs of 2021.  

LaToya Larkin 
LaToya Larkin is the founder of It’s Thyme 4 a Change, a nonprofit dedicated to providing at-risk youth with culinary, entrepreneurship, and life skills. LaToya has also run Not Enough Thyme Personal Chef Services since 2006, and in 2019 she started Black Girl Tamales, her signature gourmet tamale company.  

Adrian Lipscombe  
Adrian opened Uptowne Café in La Crosse, Wisconsin in 2016, where she highlighted the intersection of her Southern upbringing, Midwestern ingredients, and African American culinary history. In June of 2020, Adrian established the 40 Acres Project, which seeks to preserve the legacy of Black agriculture and foodways. Adrian is also a founding member of the Muloma Heritage Center, a nonprofit that explores African Atlantic influences in American culture.  

Tudor Montague  
In 2015, Tudor Montague founded Spirit Mountain Roasting Co. As an enrolled member of the Fort Yuma Quechan tribe of California, Tudor is passionate about crafting coffee that is Indigenous from seed to cup. Spirit Mountain Roasting Co. is a grant recipient of the James Beard Foundation Food and Beverage Invesment Fund for Black and Indigenous Americans.  

Shota Nakajima 
Shota Nakajima blends the art of Japanese cuisine and American influences at Taku in Seattle. Shota has been a James Beard Awards semifinalist in 2018, 2019, and 2020. He competed on Iron Chef Gauntlet, Beat Bobby Flay, and Top Chef, and he received an Eater ‘Young Guns’ award and Zagat’s ‘30 under 30’ chef designation, among other accolades. 

Judy Ni  
The daughter of immigrants with multiple postgraduate degrees, Judy Ni was expected to follow an academic path. However, she always dreamed of opening a restaurant rooted in her family’s Taiwanese recipes. In 2017, Judy and her husband Andy Tessier opened bāo•logy, a fast-casual Taiwanese restaurant in Philadelphia. Judy also co-founded the nonprofit Hospitality Together, which reimagines how students can pursue education and build a career in hospitality. 

Sadhana Raj  
A first-generation immigrant from India, Sadhana Raj opened up 24 Carrots, a vegan bakery, juice bar, and restaurant, in 2008. Through the Legacy Network, Sadhana hopes to pass along her expertise and collaborate within the industry.  

David Thomas 
David Thomas combines Latin American, Asian, French, and Caribbean influences to create his signature cuisine: modern soul food. With his wife Tonya, David opened Herb & Soul in 2012, and became executive chef of Ida B’s Table in 2016. In 2020, David and Tonya opened a Black-led catering and dining company, H3irloom Food Group. The same year, David earned the title of Chopped Grand Champion on Food Network’s show Chopped.

Tonya Thomas 
Tonya Thomas has opened award-winning restaurants alongside her husband David. In 2020, Tonya, David, and two friends established H3irloom Food Group, a 100% Black-owned company working to uplift the Black food narrative. Tonya is the principal of Nostalgia Baking Company and is involved with TasteWise Kids and the Muloma Heritage Center

Dr. Christine Wachira  
While working her way through college and earning her doctorate, Christine (Chris) fell in love with the science and community of winemaking. In 2017, Chris founded Wachria Wines in Alameda County, California, the first Kenyan-American winery in the U.S. Chris also founded The Wachira Group to bridge the gap for minorities, women, and local makers in the beer, wine, and spirits industry.  

Crystal Wahpepah 
An enrolled member of the Kickapoo nation of Oklahoma, Crystal Wahpepah is the owner of Wahpepah’s Kitchen in Oakland, CA. A successful caterer and a standard-bearer for Native foodways and food sovereignty, she invites diners to ponder the true source of dishes, which requires gratitude for the farmers, a reflection on the plants and animals, and an acknowledgment of the stolen land that feeds us. Crystal was a 2022 James Beard Award nominee for Emerging Chef. 


Lay Alston
After honing her craft at Food and Finance High School, Careers Through Culinary Arts (C-CAP), and the Culinary Institute of New York-Monroe College, Lay worked at Café Boulud, Morimoto, and Red Rooster Harlem, and also staged at Kitchen & Table in Stockholm, Sweden. The James Beard House Fellows alumna is now developing an upscale mobile food experience, Soul & Wheel.   

Charity Blanchett
After relocating from Alaska to New Orleans, Charity observed a lack of diversity in the culinary industry. So, she founded the Dipping Spoon Foundation, a nonprofit that provides scholarships to up-and-coming BIPOC and women chefs. Charity is also an alumna of JBF’s Owning It! program. 

Mimi Chen
After graduating from the International Culinary Center (ICC), Mimi worked under Daniel Boulud at Café Boulud and Restaurant DANIEL in New York. In 2019, she landed a spot on Team USA’s roster for the Bocuse d’Or competition in Lyon, France. Mimi is also a James Beard House Fellows alumna.  

Walter Green
Walter worked in local Chicago restaurants in his youth before his career veered toward the Army and, later, information technology. But his heart never stepped outside the kitchen, and in 2019, he opened Uncle Willie’s Wings in Newark, New Jersey. Uncle Willie’s Wings is also a recipient of the James Beard Investment Fund for Black and Indigenous Americans.

Melissa Guzman
Melissa stumbled into kitchens while pursuing a career as a comedy writer. Her food truck, The Caribe Vegan, seeks to change guests’ minds about what both vegan food and island cuisine can be. The Caribe Vegan was a grant recipient of the James Beard Foundation Food and Beverage Invesment Fund for Black and Indigenous Americans.

Kirby Jones
Kirby’s New Orleans roots run deep, as her family traces their Creole lineage back over 300 years. Kirby shares her heritage at her café, La Vie En Rose, where she serves warm hospitality alongside coffee and delectable pastries. La Vie En Rose was a grant recipient of the James Beard Foundation Food and Beverage Invesment Fund for Black and Indigenous Americans.  

Jessica Kehinde Ngo
With an MFA in creative nonfiction, Jessica focused on teaching for nearly a decade, highlighting how food appears in works of fiction, drama, and poetry. In recent years, she has devoted more of her energy to her own writing, which has appeared in Epicurious, Stained Page News, Taste, and The Counter.    

Adjoa Kittoe
Adjoa started her career in her tiny Brooklyn kitchen, meal prepping for a handful of clients. Now, she wants to turn her catering business, Seulful Pantry, into a sustainable nonprofit with a focus on Black foodways, agriculture, technology, and the culinary world. 

Derrick Lewis
Derrick made his way from Alabama to Florida, working at various kitchens across the country. Derrick recently launched Well Kept Services, LLC, a food service organization that provides Southern-style comfort food at various locations through Sweet Handz food truck and Well Kept Catering.

Prince Lobo
Prince took up the reins of his mother’s New Orleans Ethiopian restaurant, Addis Nola, at only 24 years old. As the owner, he instituted wine pairings, a reinvigorated dessert program, and a dynamic social media presence to help spread the story of his family’s cuisine.    

Nashali Rivera
Nashali began cooking at New York’s Food and Finance High School before deepening her knowledge at the Culinary Institute of New York. After a few years in kitchen brigades, she now serves as the executive chef of a Newark, New Jersey charter school district. Nashali is also a James Beard House Fellow alumna. 

Ani Steele
In her years working as a social worker, Ani Steele observed food’s ability to facilitate the sharing of people’s stories, experiences, and cultures. Now, as a food writer, she has continued to build communities and conversations around the dining table, with a particular interest in exploring cultural and institutional representations of the cuisines of the African diaspora.   

Learn more about the Legacy Network here