JBF National Scholars Program

JBF's National Scholars Program, which launched in 2016, provides ten high-impact scholarships of $20,000 each to food-focused candidates of exceptional talent. Candidates for the ten (10) National Scholarships are selected according to academic merit, as well as personal and professional recommendations. To ensure regional diversity of this national program, one awardee will be selected from each of the ten geographic regions defined by the James Beard Foundation Awards*.

The program awards $20,000 scholarships to ten candidates from across the U.S., who demonstrate the potential for leadership roles in culinary arts, food studies, agriculture, hospitality management, and related fields.

“We are proud that our Foundation’s newest scholarship program is committed to awarding $20,000 in financial aid to ten extraordinary scholars each year. A desire to pursue a career in the culinary arts is no longer limited to cooking in the kitchen,” said Kris Moon, vice president of the James Beard Foundation. “Just as the types of careers available in the culinary arts have evolved, so too has the Foundation’s scholarship program. The National Scholars Program supports a diverse group of students exploring virtually every educational discipline, whether that be history, anthropology, economics, management, or the sciences—as viewed through the lens of food.”

The 2018 JBF National Scholars Program Recipients are:

1. Azziza Robinson (Great Lakes; Markham, IL): Robinson will be working toward a Master’s Degree in Food Studies at Chatham University in Pittsburgh. She will focus on connecting rural and urban agricultural communities in order to address food access and food sovereignty in those areas.
2. Michał Matejczuk (Mid-Atlantic; Washington, D.C.): Matejczuk is an MPS candidate in International Agriculture and Rural Development at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. In his studies, he is researching and developing new strategies that can maximize smallholder farmer food productions as a means to identify solutions for global food insecurity. Matejczuk’s involvement in the Peace Corps (Uganda ’16 - ’18) demonstrates his resilience and commitment to international development.
3. Ben Rengstorf (Midwest; Minneapolis): Rengstorf will be pursuing a Master of Science Degree in Sustainable Food Systems at Green Mountain College in Poultney, VT. Rengstorf plans to use the degree, along with his background in culinary arts and public education, to develop a culinary and food systems program for the students of Minneapolis Public Schools.
4. Emily Larose (Northeast; Cambridge, MA): LaRose is attending the Harvard School of Public Health with the goal of exploring solutions to eradicate hunger worldwide. LaRose is inspired by domestic and global food programs in her pursuit to deliver nutritious food to all.
5. Amy Blom (Northwest; Bellingham, WA): Blom will focus on expanding her work with experiential cooking education for children at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO. She will be a member of the School Based Childhood Obesity Prevention Lab at CSU, and explore the links between environmental health and human health.
6. Craig J. Rapp (South; Winter Springs, FL): Rapp will build upon his current Ph.D research at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, FL, which focuses on finding ways to improve restaurant employee wellbeing. With this research, Rapp combines his passion for the restaurant industry with his desire to help people and work with others.
7. Kendall Vanderslice (Southeast; Durham, NC): Vanderslice will be studying theology of cuisine and eating at Duke University in Durham, NC, in order to build on her work in food and religious journalism. Her first book We Will Feast: Rethinking Dinner, Worship, and the Community of God releases May 2019 with Eerdman's press.
8. Natalia Rodriguez Ramirez (Southwest; El Paso, TX): Rodriguez Ramirez will attend the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, NY, after she returns from studying Spanish cuisine in Seville. At the CIA, she will complete her Associate in Occupational Studies degree in baking and pastry, with the goal of eventually earning a Bachelor’s Degree and returning to Mexico to reinforce her connection to her roots through gastronomy.
9. Sarah Klopatek (West; Woodland, CA): Klopatek is currently in the 3rd year of her Ph.D. program in Animal Biology at the University of California, Davis, specializing in Beef Cattle Sustainability. Currently her research focuses on the environmental, social, and economic impacts of varying grass-fed and grain-fed beef production systems. After obtaining her Ph.D., Sarah intends to utilize her scientific foundation and knowledge of beef cattle production to aid in ameliorating the agricultural education barriers across consumers, producers, and policy makers to help ensure food security and sustainability across the country.  
10. Jaylen Downer (New York; New York City): Downer will build on his interest in food science at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. His experience with Cornell’s Extension Hydroponics Program has influenced his desire to explore new and innovative approaches to agriculture and food growth.

The 2017 JBF National Scholars Program recipients are:

1. Helen Dennis (Southeast; Columbia, SC): Dennis is working towards her bachelor’s degree in food journalism at Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina. Her volunteer work with groups such as End Child Hunger SC and the Southern Foodways Alliance reflect her dedication to understanding America’s food culture and addressing the issue of food insecurity.
2. Alice Figueroa (South; New Orleans): Figueroa attained her master’s of public health degree from Tulane University in New Orleans, and is a registered dietitian. She is amplifying this knowledge with her study to become a chef at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts.
3. Alyssa J. Hartman (Great Lakes; Van Wert, OH): Hartman is pursuing a master’s of food and agriculture law and policy at Vermont Law School to develop a better understanding of the history and current state of agriculture in our country, with the goal of building more equitable and accessible communities using food as the fodder.
4. Giselle Lord (Northwest; Hood River, OR): Lord is an entrepreneurial success story—as an independent video producer and proprietor of her own online cookware business. She is pursuing graduate studies in gastronomy at Boston University, which she will continue remotely in Oregon.
5. Tyler Mason (Southwest; Fort Collins, CO): Mason’s passion for sustainable food production prompted him to leave a secure job in horticulture to pursue a master’s of agriculture degree at Colorado State University. He has initiated the “Plant a Row for the Hungry Campaign.” Tyler is leading a participatory plant breeding program that includes the perspectives of growers, chefs and consumers.
6. Eric Noonan (West; Las Vegas): Noonan has overcome many hardships in his journey to achieve his goal of attaining a Ph.D., and one day becoming a professor of hospitality management. As a United States Marine, he suffered severe, life-compromising injuries. As a widowed father, he managed to raise his children by himself. He is now a graduate student and part-time instructor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas’s William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration. He is dedicated to both his family and his chosen career.
7. Olivia Pena (Mid-Atlantic; Verona, NJ): Pena is advancing her personal food advocacy work by pursuing a master’s degree in food systems at the University of Vermont, and plans to work on the upcoming Farm Bill in Senator Patrick Leahy’s office. She will travel to Kenya to implement service learning projects, working on agricultural development, community entrepreneurship, and public health.
8. Luis Reyes (New York City; NYC): Luis Reyes was valedictorian of his 2017 graduating class in New York’s High School of Food and Finance. He is continually striving to perfect his craft as a chef. Reyes has worked at American Cut with chef Marc Forgione, and Café Boulud with JBF Award winner Daniel Boulud. This fall he enrolls at the Culinary Institute of America.
9. Alisha Utter (Northeast; Grand Isle, VT): Utter earned her undergraduate degree in environmental systems and marine science, worked extensively in restaurants, and is now a Ph.D. student/researcher at the University of Vermont. She is “committed to triangulating resources and innovations between farmers, chefs, and researchers to collectively work towards a more resilient agrifood system.”
10. Tracee Watkins (Mid-West; Manhattan, KS): Watkins is a third-year Ph.D. candidate in hospitality and dietetics administration at Kansas State University, with emphases on food safety, defense, and childhood nutrition programs. She aspires to teach a new generation of food professionals.

The 2016 JBF National Scholars Program recipients:

1. Allison Contillo (Northeast; Providence, Rhode Island): Contillo is currently in her second year of Science and Nutrition Studies at Johnson & Wales University, where she is studying to become a registered dietician.
2. Earlene Cruz (Mid-Atlantic; Union City, New Jersey): Cruz is studying Food Systems in pursuit of a Master’s Degree at NYU Steinhardt School to achieve her goal of developing an online experience of “sharing a meal” by Skype.
3. Holland Dougherty (West; Davis, California): Dougherty is at University of California, Davis, where she is completing her PhD in agriculture, specializing in animal studies.
4. Katarina Dranchak (Great Lakes; Beavercreek, Ohio): Dranchak is a first-year undergraduate at Ohio State University, who aspires to be a dietitian.
5. Matthew Johnson (Midwest; Duluth, Minnesota): Johnson is completing his fourth year of culinary studies at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. His goal is to find a job within food media—ideally creating an original culinary web series.
6. Ysanne Latchman (Southeast; Fairburn, Georgia): Latchman anticipates graduating with her AOS in Culinary Arts from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. She hopes to one day have a private chef and catering company, and be a food and travel journalist.
7. Orlando Lima (Southwest; Austin, Texas): Lima is in his third year of studies at the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts. He aspires to bring Angolan/Spanish influenced cuisine to the forefront of dining through his own world-class restaurant.
8. Sarah Mckeen (New York City; Brooklyn, New York): McKeen has a Master’s degree from New York University’s Food Studies program and currently works for Heritage Radio. She wants to pursue a career in media that educates and inspires consumers to engage in a more equitable food system.
9. Jamey Sherman (Northwest; Nehalem, Oregon): Sherman currently attends Oregon Coast Culinary Institute with the goal of becoming a professional pastry chef.
10. Sierra Torres (South; New Orleans, Louisiana): Torres plans to attend the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, with the goal of attaining a Bachelor’s degree in agriculture.

* Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, New York City, Northeast, Northwest, South, Southeast, Southwest, and West

The JBF National Scholars Program is a part of the larger James Beard Foundation Scholarship Program, which has awarded nearly $8 million in financial aid since 1991.

Learn more about the JBF National Scholars Program and the James Beard Foundation Scholarship Program.