Meet The Team
Founder & CEO
Melanie has worked as a Culinary Educator for 25 years, teaching at The Institute of Culinary Education in NYC in the Professional Pastry and Baking program, as well as in recreational and kids classes. For the past five years, she has taught high school culinary and baking arts in the Career and Technical Education Department. She is licensed to teach in New York and Connecticut. Passionate, engaging, and committed to her student's growth, she thrives by connecting with others and teaching them techniques and how to develop confidence, creativity, and calm in the kitchen. For teens, Melanie's philosophy is educating students to think both critically and creatively while creating a sense of confidence in themselves. Melanie believes that through food, cooking, and eating - all forms of gathering - we can connect. Teaching affords her a unique opportunity to align with young people and listen to their stories, fears, and hopes.
From Melanie, “Cooking can break down all types of barriers and unite us all. I’ve repeatedly observed how learning to cook and bake enriches lives - connecting with oneself, friends, and family, creating community, and developing self-confidence. ”
Melanie’s enthusiasm for fresh and organic food developed as a child on her family farm in Loudoun County, Virginia, where she began cooking at age four with her grandparents. Her grandmother, Eloise, taught her to bake with intuition and discernment. Her grandfather, Charlie, would invite the community over for butchering in the winter, canning in the summer, and these roots of connections began to solidify. Her family instilled this appreciation of food, family, and friends. She began working at a bakery in high school but never considered this a career choice. Quickly realizing this was the ONLY career choice. She apprenticed in Washington, D.C., before moving to New York, where she opened The Four Seasons Hotel and worked at The Plaza Hotel, Torre di Pisa, and other celebrated New York City restaurants.
In 1996 she transitioned to teaching and found her true passion as a cooking and baking instructor for professional and recreational programs at the Institute of Culinary Education. Melanie also taught private cooking classes and additionally was a speaker on creativity and calm and how to bring it to the workplace. Her book, Making Artisan Cheesecake, was published in 2015 (Quarto Books), and she has been a contributor to numerous cookbooks.
Melanie is currently working on her next book, Rule Breaking Baking - Baking without Recipes. She continues to teach and host culinary retreats and camps.
Chief Community Officer
Allison Thomas Rodriguez
Allison is a businesswoman who builds relationships one conversation at a time. She's spent 25 years creating synergies and excelling at enterprise and corporate book and technology sales. In her publishing years, she worked with companies like Ten Speed Press, Chronicle Books, and Taschen, and her thirst for food-oriented work was satiated through the gorgeous books with which she engaged.
Allison was born in Washington DC and grew up in the countryside of Missouri and Virginia. In the countryside, she spent her time with her family growing food and bringing it to the table in creative ways. Her mother brought the flavors of the world to the table from her time living around the globe. A fun weekend dinner might have been spending hours on a special Szechuan meal that was researched and would use fermented products they made. On her family's small farm, they would nurture baby calves, grow pigs, have every kind of chicken, goat, and always horses. It was a childhood spent outdoors and immersed in the seasons of farm life; its joys and sorrows, picking rocks from the garden, propagating blackberries, and spending hours on horseback wandering through the vast fields and woods.
Now, as a mother of four, the work of food has become the gathering point of conversation and family work. From wildcrafting, fermenting, growing food, and hosting friends, the central desire is always to nurture and find laughter and joy. Her small farm in Virginia, Big Maple Hill, is a space created for the local community to join, retreat, relax and engage in the beautiful Virginia countryside. Families come from all over to stay in the farmhouse and treehouse and commune with the Southwestern Mountains.
After graduating with a bachelor's degree from the Culinary Institute of America, Rachel worked as a pastry chef at Bouchon Bakery in NYC and at Rococo Chocolates in London. Realizing her love of connecting and sharing her love of food, Rachel became a certified teacher. She took her creativity from the kitchen and brought it into the classroom, where she enjoys the craft of instruction. She demonstrates professional leadership while maintaining a fun and safe environment. Rachel has a natural ability to teach with compassion and patience. She believes cooking and baking are both amazing outlets for creativity and personal growth. Rachel teaches in-person classes in Connecticut.
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