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!"

Victoria Bloedau, Assistant Director

A California native, Victoria has avidly explored the cultivation and preparation of artful, nourishing food since childhood. While studying Agroecology at UC Santa Cruz, she engaged her student community with seasonal eating as an Events Coordinator for the university-affiliated Program in Community and Agroecology. She led informative gardening seminars, culinary workshops, and weekly meals featuring home-grown fare that reflected the diversity of the community. While budgeting activities, she managed the procurement and use of communal goods, created quarterly production schedules, and organized many successful fundraising events. To ensure the continuation of the program, she composed several rewarding grant applications. Her dedication to sustainable food led her to promote local, whole-animal eating with Marin Sun Farms where she managed the farmer's market division. She successfully built a strong sales team, composed engaging educational and promotional materials, supported online commerce and presence, and maintained harmonious professional relationships. The diversity of the produce she beheld at market has inspired her to continue celebrating the cuisines of myriad cultures.

Madeleine Smith

Madeleine Smith: Human Resources Manager

Madeleine was born and raised in the Bay Area and has always loved learning, working with children, culture and food. For the past three years she has worked in human relations at Whole Foods Market. This work exposed her to opportunities for teaching and travel, and allowed her to become involved in company programs abroad where young women in desert areas of India received educational programming. Madeleine's passion for education is also reflected in her future school plans for getting her master's degree in educational systems.

Kate Beckman

Kate Beckman, Program Assistant

Born and raised in Oakland, Kate has been exposed to so many different cultures which lead her to pursue a degree in History. She loves to watch children learn and grow. Her first job was an internship at the Lawrence Hall of Science at the age of 14 where she could help young children learn the joys of sience. She is fascinated with all the cultures the world has to offer, especially all the different kinds of food. Her love of different cultures took her to Korea where she taught English to grades 3 - 12.

Ariel Drake

Ariel Drake, Assistant Bookkeeper

Ariel is a mom with a variety of talents and interests. She has always been fascinated by different cultures and their different cuisines. As a young girl, she was introduced to many different types of food, tasting and cooking Ethiopian, Hungarian, Japanese, Israeli, and Italian dishes.

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.

Natalie Prakobkit

Natalie Prakobkit, Chef Educator

Natalie grew up in the Bay Area and graduated from SJSU with a Bachelor's Degree in Business. She teaches cooking with the children at the Jewish Community Center in Oakland. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her husband and her two dogs, Butter and Biscuit. Other than her passion for cooking and baking, Natalie spends her free time exploring different foods, traveling, kick boxing, and working on her cookbook.

Meredith Herman

Meredith Herman, Regional Manager, San Diego 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.

Talia Myers

Talia Myers, Camp Manager, Oakland

Talia has been part of the Cooking Round the World program since its inception. As the daughter of the director, she influenced the shaping and formation of the program. She is "a natural" with children as a teacher and a mentor and is studying education at Cal Poly to official become a credentialed teacher. Along with her mom, she has visited 43 countries around the world, taking cooking classes wherever she goes, visiting food markets, and gaining firsthand knowledge about cultural likenesses and differences. She is delighted to share what she knows and inspire enthusiasm with the Cooking Round the World campers!

Samantha Limcaco

Samantha Limcaco, Camp Manager, Albany

Samantha describes herself as a food geek. She loves to learn about every aspect of food – from its origins and traditions to its farming and production, and most importantly, its consumption! Her professional food adventure began modestly in a dive bar, frying chicken and BBQ-ing ribs. After earning a culinary degree, her inquisitive nature took her to a corporate test kitchen where she created her categories of salad dressing, among other pursuits. Most recently, her work at a high-end restaurant allowed her to use local ingredients to create a variety of dishes that were responsibly sourced, beautifully rendered and delicious. Samantha has followed her insatiable curiosity into every corner of the food industry and now she is ready to share that knowledge with her students.

Sawittri Charun

Sawittri Charun, Camp Manager, El Cerito

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.

Sara Ketcham

Sara Ketcham, Birthday Party Lead

Sara Ketcham is a Bay Area native, and she is committed to a life of community building and education. She currently teaches World History and English at Oakland Technical High School. For her undergrad, she majored in Global Studies at UCLA, a degree that looks at international development and globalization. Sara believes there is great value in learning about the cultures and experiences of people around the world! Her love for cooking and learning recipes from other cultures began during a semester in Italy, where every meal is a delicious work of art. She has continued to learn recipes from French, Swiss, and Indian housemates and is excited to join the staff of Cooking Round the World!

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.

David Alcala

David Alcala, Class Assistant

David’s passion for cooking and food stems from his childhood experiences in the kitchen and around the dinner table. Meals became not only a source of nourishment but shared expressions of creativity and knowledge. This sparked a sense of wonderment that made him love learning in and outside the classroom. He hopes to share with children that cooking can be a positive outlet for personal growth that is made to be shared with others.

Jamie May

Jamie May, Chef Educator

Jamie May is a fourth-year graduate student studying clinical psychology. Within this program, he has received training in psychodynamic therapy, social justice, and community mental health. He previously worked as a chef, a musician, and a camp counselor. He has also had several opportunities to teach as a tutor and teacher's assistant. He is particularly enthusiastic about the opportunity to help students learn about various cultures and cooking techniques, drawing upon his own personal experiences and the weekly lessons provided by Cooking Round the World.

Jowelle Campbelle

Jowelle Campbelle, Chef Educator

Jowelle is an upbeat, passionate and easy going chef who can make herself feel at home in any kitchen. As a recent graduate from the Art institute of San Francisco majoring in baking and pastries she has learned how to integrate her passions into a career. She hopes to set the pathway for other young kids to foster their own unique gifts beginning with taking simple ingredients and creating masterpieces. Jowelle's passion for integrating culinary practice into the lives of young children is driven from her own personal struggles with a learning disability that challenged her in every classroom except for the kitchen. Her experience with baking as a child gave her all the right ingredients to create mouthfuls of memories for friends, loved ones and now children.

Vidya Mehra

Vidya Mehra, Chef Educator

Vidya is an extremely versitile chef with positive energy and a great working knowledge of cuisines from around the globe. She studied at Le Cordon Bleu, worked in fine dining for many years, and taught cooking classes for both adults and children alike. Most of all, she loves cooking, teaching, and sharing her knowledge and passion with her students in a fun, yet informative way.

Jonna Fowler

Jonna Fowler, Chef Educator

Jonna is a Martinez ca native born into a family of butchers and caterers. She is a former equestrienne and athlete but even after all the glitz and glam of horse showing, tournaments and exhibitions, her heart remained true to the family's roots! She has a great passion for food, children and instruction!

Leila Soveron Ovando

Leila Soveron Ovando, Chef Educator

Graduating from California Culinary Academy in 2001 Chef Leila went on to be a private chef specializing in custom menus for Doctor recommended diets co-creating with a licensed nutritionist. Chef Leila developed the gourmet panini menu at The Epicurean Trader, a market with a mission to bring great handcrafted artisan products at small batch local level.

Clarity Countryman

Clarity Countryman, Camp Assistant

Born and raised in the East Bay, Clarity Countryman was encouraged to explore worldly cultures from a young age. Her mother's enthusiasm for world music had a profound influence on her childhood, as she grew to love the rhythmical sounds of West Africa. She spent a majority of her upbringing in the kitchen with her father, which is where her passion for cuisine was sparked. Since earning her degree in Marketing, Clarity has managed a coffee shop, cared for neighborhood children and served in a fine dining establishment in San Diego before returning to the Bay Area. She did this move by way of a culinary adventure through Italy, Greece and Spain in the summer of 2014. Some of the best memories from this trip were sharing a dinner with Senegalese cave-dwellers in the hills of Granada, Spain and visiting the birthplace of balsamic vinegar- Modena, Italy. In her spare time, Clarity enjoys sharing new recipes with her 3 younger siblings and camping with close friends and family.

Colin Haydu

Colin Haydu, Assistant

Colin's first memory of cooking was from when he was 4 years old, "helping" his father make chocolate chip cookies by stealing chocolate chips every time his dad turned around. For the past 9 years, he's been cooking professionally in a variety of settings, from sandwich shops, to fine-dining restaurants, to modernist kitchens. He loves making food that's an expression of creativity and technique, but also warmth and hospitality. He's had many opportunities to experience first-hand how food and cooking can bring together people who don't initially seem to have much in common in really wonderful ways. He'll also still probably steal your chocolate chips if you're not looking.

Serena Bhalla

Serena Bhalla, Counselor

Serena has been a camper at Cooking Round the World 3 times and has fallen in love with the program. She was inspired by all the recipes she learned while at camp. Each day she would learn something new and she would always have so much fun making it on her own at home. Serena has always loved cooking dishes with her dad because it gave her a sense of independence. She loves baking in general, but when her cousins come over, that’s all she wants to do with them. Going to new places and traveling the world is something Serena loves because she gets to see the different cultures and cuisines that people other than herself have. To her, cooking is a way to put random ingredients together and turn them into your own unique creation.

Fredrikka Lake

Fredrikka Lake, Camp Counselor, Oakland

Fredrikka loves food and loves to try different foods because when she does she begins to wonder about the history of the dish. For every new dish, she tries to learn about its culture. This is important because with that knowledge she is able to teach others things about cultures.

Nicky Harrison

Nicky Harrison, Counselor, Alameda

Food has been a part of Nicky's life for as long as she could remember. She's seen how food can effect people both physically and emotionally and how it ties into our history as humans. She believes if there's one sure-fire way to connect with people from all walks of life: it's through food! She really wants to pass the knowledge she's gathered in her time to others so they can also experience the magic of food.

Regan Fenrick

Regan Fenrick, CIT, Oakland

Regan was a camper at Cooking Round the World summer camp since she was 10 years old! She will be starting high school in Oakland this fall, and decided to come back to Cooking Round the World this summer as a Counselor in Training. Regan loves soccer, working with kids, and of course, cooking! She loves to bake at home, and will often make meals for her family. Some of her favorite recipes from the program are Hungarian dumplings and Forgotcz Fank -- Hungarian twisted doughnuts. She hopes to gain further experience in the kitchen, and to open doors to new cultures and experiences!

Sofia Duff

Sofia Duff, CIT Oakland

At a very young age, Sofia set a goal for herself to be able to do everything in the kitchen by herself. She started cooking with her mom, dad and sister, and eventually began making desserts for family birthdays and friends. At 10 years old, she attended Cooking Round the World summer camp. Now at 14 she decided to return, now as a Counselor in Training. She is open minded, creative, energetic, and much more! Cooking is is one of her greatest passions, and she is excited to share her passion with others!

Chiara Garcia

Chiara Garcia, CIT

Food is important to keep us alive, but cooking and trying new foods is a fun way to make it so much more than that. Chiara loves to cook because it feels very rewarding to turn simple ingredients into something special and delicious. She also loves cooking and eating foods from new places. Food is one great way to learn about another culture and lifestyle, and trying new things opens everyone’s minds to new ideas.

Lauren Spencer

Lauren Spencer, CIT

Lauren was born in Berkeley and has lived both in the Bay Area and San Francisco. She's loved cooking and helping out in the kitchen since she was very young and is always looking to cook new and culturally diverse dishes. Being multi-ethnic, she has had the opportunity to cook and experience dishes ranging from soul food to Spanish and Croatian fares. Lauren plans on deferring her first year of college to study abroad where she plans on capitalizing on her interest in culturally diverse cooking and food fusion. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her two-year old nephew, shopping and hanging with friends.

Taylor Shishima

Taylor Shishima, CIT

Taylor has always loved cooking and trying out new recipes at home. Although her kitchen is very tiny, it still is her favorite place in the house because she can be creative and try new things. She enjoys being with kids because they tend to be really funny and have a really big imagination. When it comes to traveling, she has been to Los Angeles, New York, and Mexico. Even though she goes there often, it's still really enjoyable because she gets to try all the different foods! Last summer Taylor was a CRTW camper and she is delighted to return this year as a CIT.

Krystal Fisher

Krystal Fisher, Chef Educator, Southern California

Krystal loves food. It's as simple as that. She loves food just as much as she loves people. She began her culinary journey during high school when her mom encouraged her take a culinary class that initially she had no interest in taking. After the first few weeks in the class she absolutely fell in love with the art of cooking and everything associated with it. Thereafter she completed two years in culinary academy and progressed to become a pastry chef and line cook in various locales around North County. She has a passion for food like no other, and is SO excited to share the culinary journey that she was able to experience with kids, in hopes that they are able to find the same joy in the kitchen as she has.

Jess O'Reilly

Jess O'Reilly, Camp Manager, 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!

Tanya Coe

Tanya Coe, Camp Assistant, Southern California

Tanya is passionate about delicious food, creativity, teaching, and building life skills. She teaches 5th grade at Heritage Flex Academy, and recently completed her Masters and Teaching Credential from Alliant International University. She brings her experience in hospitality, teaching at a variety of summer camps, and lots of excitement to the team! While she grew up in San Diego, she has called San Francisco her home for the past 5 years, and loved exploring the tastes and adventures of the city-especially, at the Ferry Building. Being back in San Diego, she has been growing her passion for gardening, especially watching her herbs and strawberries grow, and dreaming up new recipes for seasonal produce. She is excited to whip up lots of tasty treats with Cooking Round the World!

Jessica Daniels

Jessica Daniels, Camp Manager, Southern California

Working with food is Jessica’s passion. At a young age she knew she wanted to be a chef, but didn't know how it would impact her life in such a wonderful way. After working for major hotels and corporate kitchens, she uprooted her life and moved to the mid-west to work with children and teach them about using fresh ingredients. She planted herb gardens, vegetable beds, and after a few months she started putting the ingredients into lunches and even taking some of the harvests home! She believes teaching through interaction and hope that those interactions lead to powerful experiences. She is "spiced up" to be apart of the Cooking Round the World team!

Jenny Bastien

Jenny Bastien, Camp Assistant, Southern California

Jenny is originally from the Washington D.C.'s suburbs but moved to San Diego for the sun and warm weather. She grew up with a passion for food thanks to her Haitian roots. She attended an international French school in D.C. During undergrad, she moved to Rome, Italy, and her passion for cooking and food only grew. She now travels to experience new cuisines and to experience new cultures. She is currently completing her Masters Degree in Nutrition Education at American University. In her spare time, she teaches nutrition education workshops, volunteers at local food distributions, hikes and relaxes by the beach.