About Us

Cooking Round the World Director, Mindy Myers

Mindy has been in the field of education for more than 20 years, teaching, writing curriculum design, and serving as a principal. She loves working with kids and they love working with her. She came up with the idea of an educational cooking camp when she observed how much children in the Temple Israel Religious School enjoyed cooking. When she offered up explanations about a food's origins and the customs behind preparing the food, she watched the children's engagement grow.

"Cooking and eating takes on a different meaning when you understand the back story," said Mindy. "Learning a little bit about a country, then preparing that country's food truly enriches the cooking lesson, and makes the eating experience that much more delicious!"

Lenday Villa

Lenday Villa, Assistant Director

After years of working as a Chef Educator, Lenday has accepted the position of Assistant Director. She brings her administrative and managerial skills that she learned from working as management for Starter Bakery. She has a passion for teaching and cooking and is eager to work with teachers in offering families top quality education and cooking excellence. She considers herself a true foodie and when she’s not working she loves to go out to new restaurants discovering and tasting new flavors from around the world.

Tom Napolitano

Tom Napolitano Human Resources Manager

Tom was born in Italy and raised in Virginia Beach where he led children's educational entertainment programs. In Florida, he was often gleefully referred to as "the pizza man!" by the community he served with his pizza franchise. Tom learned about sustainable living and developed a passion for Human Resources while earning an MBA in Los Angeles. He is thrilled to be increasing cultural awareness through the culinary arts.

Sonja Hammond-Bruno

Sonja Hammond-Bruno, Associate Business Manager

Sonja’s skills and talents are many and diverse. The majority of her finance and human resource experiences has been in the medical field where she worked for Center for Breast Health, Health Care Compliance Association and Evangelical Community Hospital as a manager, customer service representative and analytical problem solver. With a BS in Business Administration, she also worked in Human Resources as a Compensation Specialist. In a past life (wink) Sonja attended culinary school and worked as a chef for many years. Off hours Sonja spends her time hiking, baking and spending time with a large family. She considers herself a people person and is excited to work with the staff and chef educators at Cooking Round the World!

Kat Pinello

Kat Pinello, , Regional Manager, East Bay

A Philadelphia native, Kat grew up surrounded by different cultures and cuisines, including her family's Sicilian seven fish dinner at Christmas time. Coming from a family of cooks, and a twin brother who is a professional chef, it's no wonder she has always found passion and solace in cooking and baking. Eventually, she moved out to the Bay Area to bake at Acme Bread, ending up in Oakland. For the past 8 years, she has been a professional nanny, reconnecting with her love of children and childcare. Kat has a biology background and is currently pursuing her BA/BS in Education and Nursing in the evenings. Kat's love and excitement for exploration and experimentation with food and cuisine is optimistic and endless. She is shameless about getting goofy and involved with every student, while her energetic and jolly personality is sure to engage every meal and challenge.

Meredith Herman

Meredith Herman, Regional Manager, North County

Meredith's journey with expanding her palette began in her mid-twenties. I was 22 years old the first time I tried an avocado! I truly believe it's never too late to try new things and I have seen how food has a way of opening doors and expanding other aspects of enjoying life. I love trying new foods and flavor combinations that I never thought would work together. I first started traveling abroad to Europe and then to South East Asia where I visited some amazing countries and made wonderful friendships. Most recently, I have been exploring the United States and learning about the unique lands and cultures that surround me.

Adam Parliman

Adam Parliman, San Francisco Regional Manager

Adam was born in New Jersey and went to college in Pennsylvania, dual majoring in Sociology and Anthropology. He has always been fascinated by people and believes that the best way to connect with them is through education. Cooking Round the World gives him the opportunity to combine his two passions in life: education and food! In his free time he enjoys exploring California with his wife and friends. He is always on the lookout for the next big adventure and where to find the best food.

Alex de Man

Alex de Man, Regional Manager, South Bay; Chef Educator

The kitchen has always been a social place for Alex-- the hub for friendly engagement, sharing simple snacks or elaborate meals, coming together to smell, taste, create, share, and enjoy. She grew up watching and helping her parents prepare home-cooked meals from various cultures, regions, and recipes, and once she was old enough, spent time working for her grandmother's catering company. During her college years, she was known for hosting family dinners and pot-lucks and always ensuring her friends and colleagues were well-fed and nourished. Working closely with the farm-to-table chefs at Long Meadow Ranch expanded her creativity, experimentation, and food-science know-how in her home kitchen and reinforced the values of sustainability and stewardship. Alex looks forward to fulfilling a childhood dream of being a teacher-- sharing her love for food, nutrition, and community empowerment with the makers and doers of tomorrow.

Sal Lua

Sal Lua, San Diego Regional Manager

Sal adores different types of exotic foods. He loves being able to look at a dish and go, “Wow! That is awesome. Hope it tastes as good as it looks!” Sal has been in and around kitchens and food prep his whole life. The first dish he ever cooked was scrambled eggs with chopped hot dogs, which he still likes! On the side, Sal is a coach and works mostly with boys, athletically training them but also educating them about respect and working together as a team, life lessons. Sal is the father of two boys who are being trained as young chefs!

Sawittri Charun

Sawittri Charun, Chef Educator/Program Assistant

Sawittri grew up in Malaysia, where friendships and family ties are strengthened by a common love for good food. Amongst her family and friends, it is very common for plans to be made about where and what to eat for lunch while breakfast is being enjoyed! In fact, the first thing Malaysians say when they meet is not "How are you?" but "Have you eaten?". The answer is irrelevant - you go have a meal anyway! As a spouse to an internationally mobile employee, Sawittri has lived in Canada, Southern California and now the East Bay. She has also travelled to different parts of Europe, South America and Asia and has been fortunate to sample many beautiful local dishes. Sawitttri holds a degree in Education and a Masters in English as a Second Language (ESL) and has served as an ESL teacher, a teacher coach and most recently an ESL tutor.

Caroline Simmons

Caroline Simmons, Chef Educator

Caroline has enjoyed cooking diverse foods for many years and has worked with elementary school-aged for 4 years. She is thrilled to merge her two passions or teaching and cooking. She believes that cooking foods from different parts of the world is an invaluable experience for children and adults alike, Leaning about different cultures, making connections, and participating in a hands on activity like cooking fosters openness and acceptance.

Valeska Shultz

Valeska Shultz, Chef Educator

Valeska is passionate about teaching children. She grew up in Spain, in a farming community where her family ate what was harvested. Going to the store to buy vegetables was unheard of. She loves to use cooking as a way to introduce children to cuisines and flavors from around the world.

Edomyas Solomon

Edomyas Solomon, Chef Educator

Edomyas was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and has lived in a variety of places since moving to the U.S. for college, including Massachusetts, New York, Washington DC, San Diego, and New Mexico. His travels have taken him to many places in Europe as well as Peru and Costa Rica where he worked on an organic farm learning about sustainable ways of growing food and medicinal herbs. He has enjoyed working with children as a youth theater director, a soccer coach, and a summer camp director. His love for food and appreciation of its power to bring communities together began in his childhood during his frequent visits to his grandmother's house, which also operated as a neighborhood restaurant. It was a place where people from all walks of life came together to enjoy locally grown and lovingly prepared traditional Ethiopian food and drinks, as well as to commune together while sharing stories and laughter.

Paige Teamey

Paige Teamey, Chef Educator

Food is one of the most natural ways to build community. Food is a conversation, a form of resistance in some spaces, an expression of ourselves, and a medicine for our mind and body. Food helps open dialogue, exploration into new spaces, and the virtual feeling of traveling to somewhere with our tastes and sated feelings. Paige has explored a range of these ideas within formal and informal learning spaces. She has taught food science courses in New York City for years with families in multiple communities, and continues to learn how hands-on design and learning can be navigated with simple and approachable materials such as food. She loves to bike, learn from bees, and explore new trails throughout

Heidi Giancola

Heidi Giancola, Chef Educator

Heidi was born and raised in Lunenburg, Massachusetts. She has a love for teaching young learners. Her experiences with teaching included being a gymnastics coach for 3-14 year olds; as an after school science teacher for 5-12 year olds; and teaching English as a second language to 10-19 year olds. She got her bachelor’s degree in Anthropology with an interest in urban agriculture at San Diego State University. Heidi’s love for food and cooking grew when she traveled around Europe. Food is an integral part of studying and understanding different cultures unique attributes. While baking is her specialty, Heidi loves experimenting with new foods and trying new recipes. She is very excited to teach for Cooking Around the World and have the chance to educate others through cooking!

Alfredo Gama

Alfredo Gama, Chef Educator

Alfredo Gama is a native from Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico. He immigrated to America from Mexico at the age of seven. After high school he worked for the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools program and has taught children in elementary school through high school. He loves cooking traditional Nahuati food, though his favorite food to eat is Thai food.

Lisha Allen

Lisha Allen, Chef Educator

Lisha is a Bay area Native; born and raised in San Francisco. She loves to lean and experience new things. Her life is very exciting because she lives one day at a time. She absolutely enjoys people, especially kids. She lives her life like its golden.

Jennifer Tong

Jennifer Tong, Chef Educator

Hello! My name is Jennifer Tong and I am a recent graduate from UC Davis with a degree in Nutrition in Public Health. I have spent my whole life loving cooking and baking and feel grateful to have an opportunity to teach children these same skills. I also enjoy working with children and seeing their curiosity for new things and hope to further that curiosity as we cook and learn about various cultures. In the future, I aspire to get an MPH and continue to help in the education of others on health and overall well-being.

Courtney  Mathews

Courtney Mathews, Chef Educator

Courtney has always had a love for food, children and travel. Growing up outside Washington D.C. and later living in Southern California, Florida, Virginia and now Northern California, she has met many interesting people and tasted many delicious dishes along the way. Teaching in Montessori schools in addition to being a personal chef, food has always been the common bond in discovering and enjoying different cultures. She’s always planning and looking forward to her next adventure, inside and outside of the kitchen!

Devra Sholinbeck

Devra Sholinbeck, Chef Educator

Devra is a food-loving and fun-oriented person, born and raised in the Bay area. When she is not studying at Mills College, she loves to travel the world and learn about new places. Devra identifies as a huge nerd who likes to talk about the science of cooking and fun quirky topics. Having worked many summer camps, she is super excited to be combining her love of children and food with Cooking Round the World.

Matthias Leue

Matthias Leue, Assistant Chef Educator

Matthias Leue is a fine art landscape photographer and travel story writer. He grew up moving several times back and forth between the United States and his native Germany. Born in Köln, Germany, he also lived in Philadelphia, Frankfurt, Germany, on the Monterey Peninsula, and various places in the San Francisco Bay Area. He enjoys cooking for family and friends and has taught both his sons how to cook when they were young - one of whom is now a professional chef, the other is a culinary innovator. He always gets giddy when his youngest son comes to visit and sharpens his kitchen knives, and when his oldest son comes to make the best omelettes ever. He has a cat who comprehends three languages - the third language however being limited to the word pescado, which seems to suffice for Mr. trilingual.

Olivia Krause

Olivia Krause, Assistant Chef Educator

Olivia was born in Massachusetts where she grew up close to family and friends who introduced her to many types of foods and traditions. Her mother often cooked fresh foods for her and her siblings. Living by the ocean and farms, there was inspiration to make dishes using seafood and fresh vegetables. Olivia is also an artist, so she loves colorful foods with thoughtful and playful plating. Traveling a lot growing up opened Olivia’s palette and world to new cultures and cuisines. She has been to India, Costa Rica, Mexico, Spain, the Caribbean, and other places that add to her life experiences.

Mary Usaha

Mary Usaha, Chef Educator, Southern California

Mary was born and raised in the Midwest where she had her share of meat and potatoes. Her mother was her inspiration behind making every meal count nutritionally, but just as important, making sure it tasted good. After meeting and marrying her husband who was born half way around the globe in the multi-cultural island of Penang, she began enjoying, exploring and cooking foods from around the world. She has been an educator for over 15 years most recently working with English Language Learners. She especially enjoys sharing her love of cooking and experiencing new cultures. She and her husband have 3 grown children and have been married over 30 years.

Jess O'Reilly

Jess O'Reilly, Chef Educator, Southern California

Jess was born in a small country town in Australia. From a young age, she has loved food. For Jess, cooking is about family and community. She is a developmental psychologist and completed her Ph.D. in 2014. Her research explored social understandings in children cross-culturally. During her years of study, Jess traveled the world and worked with children and families in many countries. She lived in the Netherlands, traveled throughout Europe and spent time in Iran and China and now she is living in San Diego. Travel has allowed Jess to experience different cultures and try new food and local delicacies. Jess believes food has the power to bring people together to celebrate culture and diversity and is thrilled to be a part of Cooking Round the World!

Emelyne Sablan

Emelyne Sablan, Chef Educator, Southern California

Emelyne has a passion for children, travel, and healthy foods. She has three grandchildren that she loves spending time with, including volunteering in their classrooms and attending their field trips. She has also done volunteer work at a local homeless shelter and Sunday school. Her travels have taken her to Costa Rica, Thailand, Mexico, Guam, Canada and many parts of the United States. Her travels have allowed her to volunteer in helping the Hills Tribe people in Chiang Rai, Thailand, and orphanage's in Mexico. Emelyne has been married to her husband for over 33 years, and they raised three children. She has been a successful business owner and recently retired. She is now excited to work with children in her passion of cultural experiences and to be involved with Cooking Round the World.

Trieva Rue

Trieva Rue, Chef Educator, San Diego

My name is Trieva Rue and I am from the beautiful mountain town of Ruidoso, NM. I was born and raised in the Land of Enchantment. I have dachshund named Kanga. I love to camp, fish, (in fact, I keep a tent and fishing pole in my car at all times) and I absolutely love photography. I also love to cook and it has always been a way for my family and friends to come together. I have been cooking for my family since I was 12 years old and have continued to cook for my family and friends all through my adult life. I taught special education for seven wonderful years. Teaching is my passion and I cannot imagine my life without it!

Soon-Gill Schnellinger

Soon-Gill Schnellinger, Chef Educator, Southern California

Soon-Gill has a multi-cultural perspective, growing up in Sweden, as a German citizen, she was raised bilingual. She moved to the United States when she was a teenager, and looks at life through with a lens of fun and excitement. Her hobbies include cooking, hiking, biking and learning.

Jorge Zamudio

Jorge Zamudio, Chef Educator, Southern California

Jorge is originally from Mexico. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Culinary Arts and has a passion for not only cooking and baking, but teaching and sharing his culture as well! For the past 7 years, he has led the culinary division of Children's summer camps in New York and Colorado. He is bilingual and able to help children learn about cooking and culture in both English and Spanish. Jorge enjoys traveling, learning and sharing cultures, and spending quality time with his puppy!

Elizabeth Eshom

Elizabeth Eshom: Assistant Chef Educator, Southern California

Elizabeth is a California native who graduated from Cal Poly with a Bachelors degree in Liberal Studies. Top on her list of favorites in life are Children, food and Travel! She continued her education to obtain a Teaching Degree to fulfill her desire to educate and inspire children. After enjoying classrooms full of children, she raised three daughters of her own. Cooking hundreds of meals, she became quite creative in the kitchen. Cooking and dining out became a big part of her life. Next, Elizabeth discovered travel! She was fortunate to experience many places around the world. She was able to embrace the amazing diversity of foods and cultures of France, Germany, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Jamaica, Italy, Mexico and Kenya. She is passionate to share a part of her life experience with Cooking Around The World!

Serena Gibb

Serena Gibb, Assistant Chef Educator, Southern California

Serena was born in San Francisco and grew up in the kitchen with a Pastry Chef for a mother and a Fireman-Chef father. She spent her twenties working in the hospitality industry and traveling and exploring other cultures where she had the opportunity to sample many cuisines. She also enjoyed taking evening culinary courses at local community colleges for personal enrichment. Serena is now a mother and lives in San Diego where she enjoys volunteering at the school where her two children attend and has a passion for cooking and baking healthy food with her kids.