Puerto Rico 2010: Our Chef-Volunteer Team

CulinaryCorps could not have grown into the organization it is today without the incredible teams of culinary professionals that have poured their hearts, souls and http://www.raybanoutletes.com/ talents into our trips.  Since 2006, our culanthropy sojourns have recruited from a diverse and gifted group of applicants from all over the nation.

Our recruiting efforts for our upcoming trip to Puerto Rico have proven to be no exception.

In fact, it was the most competitive trip to date with nearly 100 applicants applying for only eight available slots.  The pool of potential volunteers was incredibly strong, and some very tough decisions were made.  In the end, we chose a team that incorporated a diverse set of culinary skills as well backgrounds including those who had ties to Puerto Rico or spoke Spanish fluently.

In the lead-up to our departure in one week, we thought we would share brief biographies of those chosen to be part of the Puerto Rico outreach trip.

Meet this amazing crew after the jump.

The Leadership Team

Christine Carroll founded CulinaryCorps Inc. in 2006 with the aim of creating a world-class service organization for culinary professionals.  Christine conceived of the idea following a Share Our Strength conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.  In New Orleans, she experienced first-hand one of America’s few indigenous cuisines and worked alongside those fighting to preserve it during the post-Katrina rebuilding.  Shortly after returning home to New York City, Christine launched the CulinaryCorps nonprofit http://www.gafasraybanoutletes.com/ organization to enable culinary students and professionals to volunteer their skills for the benefit of communities in need.  Prior to her work with CulinaryCorps Inc., Christine served as an Americorps VISTA volunteer in Alaska, a researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health, a cook in Europe, and a baker in New England.  She has a Grand Diploma in Culinary Arts from the French Culinary Institute in New York City and a degree in neuroscience from the College of William and Mary.

Viviana Acosta Padial participated in her first CulinaryCorps trip in June 2007.  Since then, she has returned as a trusted co-leader on three subsequent trips to New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  A graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan, Viviana worked as a food journalist in the United States before moving back to her hometown of San Juan to work full-time as a private yacht chef in Puerto Rico.  She helped to write, recipe-test and food-style Chef Wilo Benet’s latest cookbook, The Flavors of Puerto Rico.  Viviana currently serves as the lead project coordinator for the upcoming 2010 CulinaryCorps trip to Puerto Rico.

Thomas Medrow grew up in Media, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia that has the distinction of being America’s first Fair Trade Town.  After graduating from Shippensburg University, Thomas worked at JPMorgan Chase as a Business Analyst for 5 years.  Discovering that food was his true calling, Thomas enrolled in culinary school.  He earned a Classic Culinary Arts degree from The French Culinary Institute in New York City and returned to Philadelphia to cook full time.  Thomas is currently employed as a tournant at Eric Ripert’s Philadelphia outpost 10 Arts at the Ritz-Carlton, and is an avid Phillies fan.  A founding board member of CulinaryCorps Inc., Thomas will be participating in his third trip as a team co-leader.

The Chef Volunteers (alphabetical by last name)

Brenda E. Avilés has been working in the food business for over fifteen years.  A native of Puerto Rico, she is a graduate of Purdue University and Johnson & Wales University, and holds an MBA from Universidad Metropolitana.  After working in restaurants and hotels in Indiana, Florida, England, Virginia, and Washington D.C., she returned to her homeland Puerto Rico in 2000 where she was also the chef/owner of Mosaico Restaurant and Innovative Food Services.  She is currently sharing her culinary skills with students enrolled in the culinary program in the Inter-American University in Puerto Rico. She hopes to inspire a generation of new chefs through her passion for food and her humanitarian spirit!  In addition to her love for global cuisine she is also an avid chocoholic.

Jessica Botta teaches Italian cuisine as a Chef-Instructor in the Italian Culinary Academy, a division of Manhattan’s prestigious French Culinary Institute.  Passionate about Italian food in general and pasta in particular, she has spent most of her culinary Ray Ban outlet career working with the world’s great Italian chefs, including Fabio Trabocchi and Roberto Donna.  Jessica had the honor of cooking for (and meeting) Julia Child when Julia attended the dedication of her kitchen at the Smithsonian Institution.  Jessica currently lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Steve Caldwell brings a lifelong passion for food to his work.  Steve has spent the majority of his 14-year career working at restaurants across the Triangle of North Carolina, including The Fearrington House and Carolina Crossroads at the Carolina Inn, and was the chef de cuisine at Bloomsbury Bistro, a nationally recognized upscale American restaurant in Raleigh’s Five Points neighborhood.  Steven moved to the Greensboro area almost two years ago, is a graduate of Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, and an avid Tarheels fan.  He, his wife Heather, two sons Garrett and Wyatt and dog Maggie live in Browns Summit.

Simone Cormier is from Cajun roots, born and raised in South Louisiana.  She lived in Europe for four years after high school, studying Greek, French, Spanish, and German.  Simone has worked as a chef for 12 years, mostly in restaurants in New Orleans and Lafayette, Louisiana, and Santa Fe.  In Santa Fe, she began as a fishmonger at Whole Foods Market.  She is now the Regional Executive Research and Development Chef for the Rocky Mountain region of Whole Foods Market, and lives in Colorado.

Shortly after graduating from Northeastern University in Boston, Aran Goldstein enrolled at the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vermont.  He has worked at Todd English’s Olive’s Restaurant in Charlestown, Massachusetts, and the Liberty Hotel in Boston.  He currently works as a resident counselor at the Vinfen house in Massachusetts, preparing daily meals for residents living with mental disabilities and dealing with substance abuse problems.  Aran loves eating, cooking and traveling, especially when doing all three with good people.

April Neujean was a member of the first CulinaryCorps trip to New Orleans in 2007.  It was there that she discovered her life’s ambition: teaching students to fall in love with food, primarily food that that they themselves have grown at the Edible Schoolyard NOLA.  Since that trip, she has transplanted herself to New Orleans and is now the Chef Teacher for Edible Schoolyard as well as the Food and Nutrition Services Coordinator for Firstline Schools, Inc.  April is a graduate of the Chef Training program at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in NYC.  After graduation she worked at Dish Catering Company assisting in interactive cooking classes as well as freelancing around the city as a demo chef for the local Green Markets and for private clients.  Before visiting New Orleans for the first time, April was a vegetarian for 14 years . . . but the siren song of a proper roast beef po’ boy was too hard to resist!  She now happily considers herself a flexitarian.

A passionate traveler, Arden Rivera provides personal-chef and catering services to clients in New York City, Long Island, New Jersey, and Connecticut.  Arden graduated from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York in 2006, and continued on to Perry Street Restaurant, a Jean Georges establishment.  He is looking forward to expanding his culinary horizons in 2010 and capturing his journey through photography.  Arden, a Puerto Rican American, currently resides in New Jersey.

Sasha Rodriguez Miranda hails from the culturally diverse borough of Queens, New York, and she has been cooking professionally for over twelve years.  She received her formal training at the Culinary Institute of America and has worked in the kitchens and dining rooms of restaurants including The Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa, Gigi Trattoria, Verbena, Raoul’s, Cafe Gray, and most recently Alto Restaurant in Midtown Manhattan.  Today she cooks a unique mix of Latin American and Italian cuisine at her own restaurant, Miranda, in Williamsburg Brooklyn, while her husband runs the dining room.  Whenever she gets the chance, Sasha unwinds by swimming and practicing yoga.

Whitney Werner graduated from The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, in 1984 as well as completing an apprenticeship at the world famous “Tavern on the Green” in New York City’s Central Park.  Upon graduation, Chef Werner went on to work at a number of prestigious hotels in Asia, Hawaii, and California, such as The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel; Ambassador Hotel, Taipei; The Beverly Hills Hotel, Beverly Hills; and Le Bel Age Hotel, Hollywood.  The pinnacle of his career was opening his own restaurant, Whitney’s, in Santa Monica in 1990, which received the Silver Merit Award from the California Restaurant Writers Association.  In 1997, he moved the Whitney’s concept to The Beach Club, one of the oldest clubs in Southern California.  His current position is Executive Chef.  Whitney stays connected to the community through his post as President of the American Culinary Federation as well as founding the Junior Chefs Academy, where he teaches basic cooking techniques to children in grades 4-6.

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