Staff

 

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SARAH NELSON
Executive Director

Sarah has worked on food-related projects in the Bay Area since 2008. She launched Cooking Matters in the Bay Area in 2010. In her previous work with Bay Area farmers' markets, she created the Bay Area’s first Market Match program, which gives farmers’ market customers who use food stamps extra funds to spend at the market, and a Veggie Rx program that helped diabetes patients increase their produce consumption while measuring positive health outcomes. In her youth, she taught yoga and guided bicycle tours in France. In 2011, she founded the nonprofit Three Squares, which merged with 18 Reasons in 2013. She is passionate about cooking, rock climbing, riding her bike, and, yes, her job. She lives in San Francisco. Contact her at sarah@18reasons.org

 

THERESA SALCEDO
Program Director

A native of Virginia, Theresa's curiosity in food was nurtured by her family, which includes talented cooks, farmers, gardeners, and fishermen. When she moved to the Bay Area in 2013, Theresa became a passionate volunteer with both our 18th Street Classroom events and Cooking Matters program. She joined the team full time in 2015 and is eager to have everyone walk through the doors of of the 18th Street Classroom and feel connected to their neighbors, friends, and food. 

When not in the kitchen or at the farmers' market, you can find Theresa reading at Ocean Beach or getting lost in museums. Contact her at theresa@18reasons.org

 

MIKE WELLER
Chef & Culinary Instructor

Born in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco, Mike grew up in suburbs of San Jose, where he discovered cooking as his first profession and lifetime passion. After wandering through typical teenage jobs at pizza joints and ice cream parlors, Mike’s first “restaurant” job was with Sambo’s Coffee Shops, slinging hash and cooking eggs for the bar rush and Sunday breakfast crowds.  He moved on to help open several restaurants, attend the California Culinary Academy, and study under European chefs with Michelin backgrounds. Later, Mike served as an executive chef for catering companies, wineries and country clubs.  When his son was born, Mike transitioned his career into teaching, returning to the CCA where he eventually became the Executive Chef and Director of Academics.  Having taught for Le Cordon Bleu North America in both online and brick and mortar schools, Mike is thrilled to return to teaching in a neighborhood-based community.  When he is not teaching he tends to his backyard garden, helps his wife to can and preserve food, and loves to cook for his friends and family.

 

ALLISON ECKERT
Program Manager

Allison believes that sharing a home cooked meal grounds us in time, place, and each other. Some of her favorite people to share a table with these days are the participants in the Cooking Matters program that she helps coordinate. While at Brown University, where she earned a B.A. in Hispanic Studies, Allison became interested in food justice and access in immigrant communities. After graduating, she worked on a few small, organic farms growing everything from melons to shiitake mushrooms. Unable to resist the Bay, she packed up her belongings and moved across the country. She comes to 18 Reasons with a passion for teaching, nutrition, food, and building a community of eaters. In her free time, Allison likes to experiment with new recipes, write short fiction, and explore Bay Area hiking. Contact her at allison@18reasons.org.

 

 

BRIANA TEJUCO
Program Manager

Briana brings great passion for food and community.  She loves being able to teach others of all backgrounds how to prepare healthy, delicious meals.  Her appreciation for food and experience in culinary arts comes from growing up in her grandmother’s kitchen and graduating from the California Culinary Academy’s Le Cordon Bleu program.  She also recently completed the Nutrition Assistant Certificate program at City College of San Francisco. Briana’s favorite people to cook for are right at home, her three growing sons and her loving husband.  When she’s not cooking, you’ll find Briana exploring new restaurants, enjoying family and friends, or sipping on tea while scrolling through Pinterest.  Contact her at briana@18reasons.org.

 

 

 

CLAUDIA GUERRERO
Program Manager

Claudia is a strong believer in the ideology that the kitchen is the heart of the home. Her love of food and culture is fostered by her Hispanic background and inspired by the example her late abuelita set of making home cooked meals a priority. She completed her B.S in Health Education with a Certificate in Holistic Health Studies at San Francisco State where she spent most of her time researching issues surrounding food justice. During her time at SF State, she completed an internship with Community Food and Justice Coalition where she conducted research on food policy and was part of the planning committee for the All-In initiative working to end poverty in Alameda County. When she is not enjoying the company of her wonderful colleagues or class participants, you can find her trying out new recipes at home, practicing yoga, hiking, or on a fun road trip! Contact her at claudia@18reasons.org.

 

SARAH ATKINSON
Program Assistant

Sarah is a Bay native and a graduate of UC Berkeley with a Bachelors in Environmental Science. Sarah comes to us with a background in food service sustainability, food/garden education, food access, and most recently worked at Imperfect Produce as a community outreach/sales intern. Sarah loves the outdoors and can often be found hiking, camping, gardening, or collecting native plants to make herbal remedies or crafts. She loves to cook and eat, especially if she’s feeding her friends, although baking is not her specialty (unless she’s making cinnamon sugar challah). Sarah seeks to be a lifelong learner and is excited to learn and grow at 18 Reasons. 

 

 

SIERRA DOEHR
Program Assistant

Sierra is a recent San Francisco State University graduate with a B.S. in Health Education. She got her A.A. in Holistic Health from Ventura College where she found alternative medicines to heal herself and others. She is now a certified energy healer and guided meditation leader. She went on to work with Ventura City Corps, a nonprofit that focuses on getting at-risk youth engaged in community service projects. There she particularly enjoyed working with youth in the Victory Garden, which supplied food to local homeless shelters. She found herself at 18 Reasons because she strongly believes in the mission to empower the community through food. When not at 18 Reasons, Sierra loves cooking, antiquing, and road-tripping in her muscle car!

 

 

KIM FITZGERALD
Program Assistant

Kim is a firm believer that food is medicine. Through overcoming her own childhood nutrient deficiencies, she developed a passion for healthy eating that she loves to share with others. After graduating from UMASS Amherst with a B.S. in Environmental Science, she spent five years working abroad in Asia, Central America, and the Caribbean teaching English, scuba diving, and yoga. During this time she realized that although she loves teaching and working with others, that her true passion is teaching nutrition and helping people to lead healthier lives. She moved home to serve a year as an AmeriCorps member in Boston working with Cooking Matters. After completing her first year, she loved the work so much, she decided to do a second year with the 18 Reasons team. When not making soups, salads, and smoothies, she can be found doing yoga, on the beach, or hiking.

 

ELISE HAYASHI
Program Assistant

Born and raised in Colorado, Elise grew up in a family where knowing how to use a paring knife was more important than riding a bicycle. This sparked her passion for food and cooking at an early age, and she enthusiastically relocated to the Bay Area to pursue a Bachelor’s in Nutrition Science at UC Berkeley. As a supplement to her studies, Elise helped implement childhood obesity and exercise research with the Nutrition Policy Institute, and also worked as a pastry assistant to fill her free time with galettes and mousses. Post graduation, she spent time abroad working on an organic farm where she gained an appreciation for the labor and commitment that goes into producing food everyday. Now, she is excited about being a part of 18 Reasons to merge her gastronomic backgrounds and to share her love of food with the Bay Area community. During the rare moments when she is not eating, Elise can be found trying out new sports, playing and listening to live music, or wandering the aisles of grocery stores and farmers markets.

VANESSA LIEU
Program Assistant

While growing up in Los Angeles and going to school at Georgetown University, Vanessa has mixed frozen yogurt, made tortillas, served vegetable tacos, worked as a restaurant manager, cooked professionally, started a tiny dinner party group, and spent countless hours wandering the farmers' market and in her own kitchen. She completed her Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics with a concentration in English Teaching and Learning and coordinated programs teaching immigrant children in Washington, DC the English language. After dabbling in the world of food and working in DC's immigrant communities, she has finally taken the leap to combine the two at 18 Reasons and is excited for the opportunities to connect communities through food. Outside of a professional setting, Vanessa spends as much time as possible literally outside - playing soccer, exploring a new city, hiking, camping, running, and reading. 

 

CLARA OBSTFELD
Program Assistant

Clara is a native of Berkeley and a product of Bay Area food culture. They developed a passion for cuisine at a young age by helping feed their two hungry brothers. While completing their B.A. in Sociology and Anthropology at Swarthmore College, they developed an intense interest in food access and sustainability. They spent the last year working at Off the Grid markets and other Bay Area based food companies. Their interest in food stems from its unique power to bring people together and build community. When they're not eating or thinking about their next meal, they enjoy rock climbing, gardening, and spending time with their cat.