Monday, June 13, 2011

Chef Ann Cooper

Todays very Awesome Woman is Chef Ann Cooper, a.k.a. The Renegade Lunch Lady.

Cooper is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and was among the first 50 women to be certified as an Executive Chef by the educational arm of the American Culinary Federation. She had a strong career going as a noted chef, having held positions with Holland America Cruises, Radisson Hotels, the Telluride Bluegrass and Film Festivals and the Telluride Ski Resort where she catered parties of up to 20,000. She has been featured in numerous newspapers, magazines, radio show, and television shows, has given seminars at Smithsonian Institute ... the list of honors is long.

But rather than pursue this path to a pinnacle of riches, Cooper's focus shifted to the need to feed our children properly, and to care for our planet wisely. No longer could the environmental and health facts be ignored when it came to producing food in this country. Cooper’s career shifted from primarily cooking to a path of cooking, writing, and public speaking – all advocacy work for a healthier food system.

Cooper uses her skills and background to create a sustainable model for schools nationwide to transition any processed food based K-12 school meal program to a whole foods environment where food is procured regionally and prepared from scratch. In 2009, Ann founded Food Family Farming Foundation (F3) as a nonprofit focusing on solutions to the school food crisis. F3's pivotal project is The Lunch Box - a web portal that provides free and accessible tools, recipes and community connections to support school food reform.

In adidition to writing books about food, cooking, health and sustainable practices, Cooper has also penned "A Woman's Place Is in the Kitchen," in which she discusses both traditional and current vantage points of women involved in the food service industry. Some of the historical issues discussed include: the influences of sociological change emanating from the transfer of power from matriarchal to patriarchal emphasis and the effects of the implementation of the brigade system which was developed from all-male military institutions.

A database of 6500 women and the compilation of 500 surveys provide statistics for the contemporary discussion. Women culinary professionals of today express passion for food while having to balance choices between professional and family obligations; what are the ramifications of these choices and how do they effect the culinary industry and the decisions made by colleagues, mentors and staff?

This is the first book that has been written exclusively about women chefs and restaurateurs; A Woman's Place is in the Kitchen provides an informative, insightful and objective portrait of the role of women working in the multi-faceted culinary field.

A TED Talk by Ann Cooper is available here, given in 2007 when she was the Director of Nutrition for Berkeley Unified School District, heading up an operation that provided 7100 meals a day to schoolchildren, and successfully introduced healthy, safe food into the system.

Ann Cooper's web site is at

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