We are CAN

Our Mission

The Chef Action Network (CAN) is a non-profit organization that gives back to the chefs who cook from their souls, donate their time and talent, and help us better understand the many complex issues related to food.

The Chef Action Network (CAN) 

From food sustainability to social justice, chefs are eager to exercise solid leadership within the many food-related conversations of today. Their influence on business, the economy, various forms of media, and their countless communities is enormous. Their inherent leadership style is striking in a world that cries out for greater leadership and authenticity.

It is the intention of CAN to effectively help these talented, passionate chefs tap into their inner advocate, and provide the tools, training, and support infrastructure to ensure their success. 

Our Vision and Process

CAN’s Vision

  • Develop a national network of influential chefs and restaurateurs committed to driving change
  • Credibly connect chefs to information and organizations focused on critical issues
  • Work with chefs to maximize the impacts of their newly found voices & advocacy efforts
  • Support chefs in creating and taking leadership role in the local and national initiatives they care about

First Steps

The James Beard Foundation, in partnership with CAN, conducts two learning opportunities each year called The Chefs Boot Camp for Policy & Change. At Boot Camp, the chefs build new networks, share their vision for food sustainability and leave eager for a next step. Chefs who have participated to date, many of whom include James Beard Award Winners and appear on numerous popular food television programs, set out inspired to get down to the business of making change. These participating chefs become core members of CAN.

Next Steps

Once chefs complete a session, they are provided with a suite of services unique to the Network. CAN becomes their personal and professional partner in advocacy, research, training, awareness, and direct action. Chefs are full of passion but short on time. The Chef Action Network provides preeminent chefs with the guidance, skills, and tools to effectively drive change. 

Leadership Board

Katherine Miller, Founding Executive Director 

Katherine founded Table 81, a full-service communications firm that works with clients in the nonprofit, philanthropy, and socially responsible business fields. Katherine designs global communication campaigns to raise awareness about important issues, inspire people to take meaningful action, and result in lasting changes in policy, politics, and business practices.  Katherine is also a founder of the Chef Action Network (CAN), a project of the James Beard Foundation and Osprey Foundation. Recognizing that food is a national passion, affects the quality of consumers’ everyday lives, and has potential impact on human, environmental, social, economic health. CAN is focused on harnessing the power of America’s preeminent chefs to help create awareness, inspire action, and aggregate credible resources to proactively address a broad range of policies relevant to issues areas important to the chef community. CAN provides tailored research, policy, and advocacy support to chefs that participate in the James Beard Foundation’s Chef Policy Boot Camp and Food Policy Salons.


Eric Kessler, Founder 

At Arabella Advisors, Eric has focused on helping clients achieve their philanthropic goals. Eric is focuses his energy on advising clients who are working to improve our food system through policies and business investments that promote nutritious, sustainable, and affordable food. Eric’s interest in the food sector extends well beyond his work at Arabella. He chairs the committee at the James Beard Foundation that oversees efforts to engage the culinary community in advocacy on food policy, and he created the foundation’s Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change. Eric also co-founded the Chef Action Network and has a personal private equity portfolio invested in businesses at the forefront of improving our food system.  Eric founded and serves as chairman of the New Venture Fund, an innovative, independent 501(c)(3) organization that incubates new nonprofits and houses donor collaboratives. Also in the philanthropy sector, he co-founded the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, which aims to boost the effectiveness of the billions of dollars spent on disaster-related charity. Eric is on the boards of Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers, the James Beard Foundation, and Chef Action Network. He is a member of Exponent Philanthropy (formerly the Association of Small Foundations), the Environmental Grantmakers Association, the Young Presidents’ Organization, Summit Series, and the Bretton Woods Committee. He also serves as a trustee of his own family’s foundation, which holds assets generated by the sale of a fifth-generation family-owned business.

Michel Nischan, Founder

Michel Nischan is a two-time James Beard Foundation award winning celebrity chef with over 30 years of leadership experience advocating for a more sustainable food system. He is Founder, President and CEO of Wholesome Wave, Co-Founder of the Chefs Action Network, as well as Founder and Partner with the late actor Paul Newman of the former Dressing Room Restaurant. He and his Wholesome Wave team were successful at influencing legislative language for the recently passed Federal Farm Bill. He's also the author of three cookbooks and a variety of articles focused on sustainable food systems and social equity through food. Michel serves on the board of the Rodale Institute and is a former trustee of the James Beard Foundation, the Amazon Conservation Team, and Harvard University’s Center for Health and the Global Environment.

Maria Hines, Advisory Board  

Maria Hines is one of CAN's founding advisory board members. Her three restaurants are certified organic; Tilth was the second restaurant in the country to receive certification. She was inducted into the U.S. Department of State's first American Chef Corps, which incorporates culinary engagement into diplomatic and cross-cultural exchanges between the U.S. and other nations around the world. She collaborated with Washington senator Maria Cantwell on the Pulse Health Initiative, an addendum in the Farm Bill to fight obesity. Maria is a Superchef Against Superbugs and is involved in movements to improve low-income individuals' access to food, require GMO labeling, and promote "rescued" farmland and sustainable food.

Kristopher Moon, Advisory Board  

Hari Pulapaka, Advisory Board   

Hari Pulapaka is the Executive Chef and Co-Owner of the highly acclaimed Cress Restaurant in DeLand, FL. He is also a Certified Executive Chef of the American Culinary Federation.  He is a full-time tenured Associative Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science at Stetson University. Hari received a classical culinary degree from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Orlando, FL and trained at Canoe in Toronto. Hari is a four-time semifinalist for the James Beard Award for Best Chef South and a two-time nominee for Food & Wine Magazine’s The People’s Best New Chef. Hari attended the first official James Beard Foundation's Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change in Louisville, KY, and now serves on the advisory board of the Chef Action Network (CAN). He is also a 2013 participant on the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force. Cress successfully hosted a “Lesser Florida Fish Dinner” and continues to champion sustainability issues in Central Florida including maintaining an active food waste program.


Andrea Reusing, Advisory Board

Andrea Reusing believes that in our food system more attention needs to be given to the rights and living conditions of our country's farmers and workers. She gave a TedxUNC talk, Resetting the Table, where she shared her knowledge of the plight of these workers, particularly youth.In her book Cooking in the Moment she shares approachable recipes for home cooks along with the importance of utilizing local, artisanal producers. She serves on the board of the Chefs Collaborative and Center of Environmental Farming Systems, which fosters just and equitable food and farming systems, and was appointed by North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue to the Sustainable Local Food Advisory Council. She has been on CAN's leadership board since the organization was founded.