Stories / Impact

These 15 Chefs are Ready to Step Out and Speak Up

Maggie Borden

August 29, 2019


Boot Camp chefs
Photo: Ken Goodman Photography

On September 8, fifteen chefs from across the country will come together at Shelburne Farms in Shelburne, Vermont for the nineteenth JBF Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change. As with our previous Boot Camp classes, our latest group hails from restaurants and food businesses from sea to shining sea, all eager to learn effective advocacy skills and explore the power of their voices as vehicles for change in their communities. Learn more about our newest group of chef-advocates below.


Charleen Badman
FnB, Scottsdale, AZ

Charleen Badman, chef/co-owner of FnB restaurant in Scottsdale, is one of Arizona’s most celebrated chefs. A six-time James Beard award semifinalist, Badman won Best Chef: Southwest in 2019. Known as the “veggie whisperer,” she has a knack for coaxing the best flavor out of locally grown vegetables. Badman is also the founder of Blue Watermelon, a Slow Food Phoenix coalition of local chefs and activists focused on improving school lunches.

Clayton Chapman
The Grey Plume, Omaha, NE

Clayton Chapman began his culinary career in the dish pit as a young teenager, followed by stints under chefs Rick Tramonto and Laurent Gras at Tru. Chapman, a Nebraska native, opened the Grey Plume in 2010. The Green Restaurant Association has rated the Grey Plume as the most sustainable restaurant in the country. Chapman’s vision for a responsible yet daring foodprint has grown into Provisions by the Grey Plume, an artisan grocery. Chapman is a five-time James Beard award semifinalist.

Greg Collier
Uptown Yolk, Charlotte, NC

Gregory Collier’s first memories are of cooking beside his grandmother. In 2012, Collier and his wife Subrina opened The Yolk in Rock Hill, South Carolina. In 2016, they helped found the Soul Food Sessions, a dining series designed to support people of color in the restaurant industry. In 2019 they moved the Yolk to Charlotte, shortly before Collier was named a semifinalist for the James Beard Best Chef: Southeast Award, the city’s first black chef to earn a nod.

Lauren Desteno
Altamarea Group, NYC

Lauren DeSteno grew up in an Italian and Spanish family, where she learned the importance of food both as a celebration of heritage and a base for social interactions. DeSteno worked as both savory and pastry sous chef at Eleven Madison Park, and joined Marea shortly after its opening in 2009. DeSteno rose through the ranks to her current role as the corporate executive chef of the Altamarea Group, where she covers fine dining properties, special projects, events, and international expansion.  

Jeffrey Fournier
Thompson House Eatery, Jackson, NH

Jeff Fournier’s culinary career spans 30 years, covering stints under Hans Rockenwagner and Lydia Shire, as well as his own lauded restaurants 51 Lincoln and Waban Kitchen in Newton, Massachusetts. After cooking in fast-paced, aggressive environments for years, Fournier moved with his family to Jackson, New Hampshire in 2015, in order to attain a better quality of life while continuing to strive for culinary excellence. He and his family have found the perfect venture in Thompson House Eatery.

Michelle Gayer
Salty Tart and Taher, Minneapolis

Michelle Gayer is a multiple James Beard Award nominee, receiving nods for both Outstanding Pastry Chef and Best Chef: Midwest. She gained fame as the executive pastry chef for Charlie Trotter’s and Trotter’s To Go in Chicago. In 2004, she moved to the Twin Cities to become the executive pastry chef for the Franklin Street Bakery, and in 2008, Gayer fulfilled her dream by opening her own bakery, Salty Tart.

Carolyn Johnson
80 Thoreau, Concord, MA; and Mooncusser Fish House, Boston

Carolyn Johnson is the chef/co-owner of 80 Thoreau and Mooncusser Fish House. Johnson is passionate about seasonal cooking and thrives on working closely with the people who grow and produce the food she serves. This entails fostering relationships with small organic vegetable farmers, mushroom foragers, and the shellfish growers. She has also been involved with No Kid Hungry, the James Beard Foundation, Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, and the Greater Boston Food Bank.

Kiki Louya
Folk Detroit, Detroit

A born Detroiter, Kiki Louya has always been interested in how food shapes community. As a managing partner of Nest Egg Detroit LLC—a restaurant group that oversees operations at Folk, The Farmer’s Hand, and soon-to-be Mink—she is an advocate for triple-bottom-line business practices. Louya is a graduate of the University of Michigan and Le Cordon Bleu, and trained in some of the world’s most famed kitchens, including her personal favorite, avec under Paul Kahan.

Robynne Maii
Fete, Honolulu

Robynne Maii was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. She holds degrees from Middlebury College, University of Hawaii, and New York University. Maii’s career has included roles at Gourmet magazine, the Art Institute of New York City, the City University of New York, and 16 Handles. In 2016, she opened Fête with her husband, and in 2018 partnered with Hawaiian Airlines to run Lunch | Box by Fête. This fall, Maii will open Heyday in Waikiki’s newly refurbished White Sands Hotel.

Misti Norris
Petra and the Beast, Dallas

Misti Norris is the executive chef/owner of Petra and the Beast, a small, thoughtful restaurant focused on farms, foraging, fermentation, and fire. Since opening a little over a year ago, the restaurant has already gained much recognition, including being named one of Esquire’s Best Restaurants in America 2018. Norris was a 2016 James Beard Award Rising Star semifinalist and most recently was named as part of Food & Wine's Best New Chef class.

Orchid Paulmeier
One Hot Mama's, Hilton Head, SC

Orchid Paulmeier is the chef/owner of One Hot Mama’s on Hilton Head Island. Paulmeier’s parents immigrated from the Philippines in the 70’s and raised her with a passion for entrepreneurship and a love of Filipino cooking. After moving to Hilton Head Island, Paulmeier opened One Hot Mama’s in 2003, creating all of the recipes and signature barbecue herself. Paulmeier and her comfort food have been featured on Next Food Network Star, Bite Club, and Great American Food Truck Race.

Ming Pu
The 502 Bar & Bistro, Louisville, KY

Taiwan native Ming Pu credits his mother for instilling in him a passion for cooking. At age seven, Pu moved with his family to Canada for two years before making Louisville his home in 1999. Along the way, the chef gained a diverse food vocabulary that is evident today at 502 Bar & Bistro. In March of 2018, Pu was listed as part of FSR Magazine 40 Under 40: Restaurant Stars on the Rise.

DeJuan Roy
Alhambra Theater and Dining, Jacksonville, FL

DeJuan Roy is an award-winning executive chef with over two decades as a leader in creative cooking and culinary concepts. Roy is currently the executive chef of the Alhambra, the longest-running dinner theatre in the United States. He previously served as an executive chef with the Kessler hotel group leading the culinary teams at the Celebration and Casa Monica Hotels. He has created dining experiences for private clubs, five-star and five-diamond restaurants, hotels and a historic dinner theatre.  

Chris Scott
Birdman Juke Joint, Bridgeport, CT

Chris Scott began his culinary career in Philadelphia. After honing his skills in Philly for 15 years, he moved to New York City. In 2010, Scott opened Brooklyn Commune with his wife Eugenie, followed by Butterfunk Kitchen in 2016. He also competed on Season 15 of Bravo's Top Chef, making it to the final four contestants. Scott continues to share the history and development of African-American culture through an upcoming cookbook and his most recent restaurant, Birdman Juke Joint.

Joe Tripp
Harbinger, Des Moines, IA

Joe Tripp, a Des Moines native and graduate of the University of Iowa, first pursued his passions in the kitchen at the famed Colorado restaurant Fruition. It was there that he learned the importance of details and respect for the ingredients on the plate. Upon returning home, he teamed up with restaurateur Jason Simon to run the kitchen at Alba, earning two James Beard nominations for Best Chef Midwest before opening Harbinger in 2017.

Learn more about the JBF Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change and other Impact programs.


Maggie Borden is content manager at the James Beard Foundation. Find her on Instagram and Twitter.