The James Beard Foundation last week announced the ten recipients of its 2017 JBF National Scholars Program. In its second year, the program awards scholarships of up to $20,000 to those who demonstrate the potential for leadership roles in culinary arts, food studies, agriculture, hospitality management, and related fields.

The JBF National Scholars Program is a part of the larger James Beard Foundation Scholarship Program, which is awarding close to $680,000 in financial aid in 2017. For the National Scholars Program, which grants ten annual scholarships up to $20,000 each, one awardee is selected from each of the ten geographic regions defined by the James Beard Foundation Awards.

“Our National Scholars Program is committed to granting financial support to curious, creative, and culinary-oriented minds across the country,” says Kris Moon, vice president of the James Beard Foundation. “The areas of study in the culinary arts now include disciplines ranging from science and history to economics and anthropology, providing us with a richer and more in-depth understanding of food. This relatively new program, granting up to $20,000 in scholarships each, ensures that these diverse interests are awarded and encouraged.”

The ten recipients of this year’s JBF National Scholars Program are:

  1. Helen Dennis (Southeast; Columbia, SC): Dennis is working towards her bachelor’s degree in food journalism at Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina. Her volunteer work with groups such as End Child Hunger SC and the Southern Foodways Alliance reflect her dedication to understanding America’s food culture and addressing the issue of food insecurity.
  2. Alice Figueroa (South; New Orleans): Figueroa attained her master’s of public health degree from Tulane University in New Orleans, and is a registered dietitian. She is amplifying this knowledge with her study to become a chef at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts.
  3. Alyssa J. Hartman (Great Lakes; Van Wert, OH): Hartman is pursuing a master’s of food and agriculture law and policy at Vermont Law School to develop a better understanding of the history and current state of agriculture in our country, with the goal of building more equitable and accessible communities using food as the fodder.
  4. Giselle Lord (Northwest; Hood River, OR): Lord is an entrepreneurial success story—as an independent video producer and proprietor of her own online cookware business. She is pursuing graduate studies in gastronomy at Boston University, which she will continue remotely in Oregon.
  5. Tyler Mason (Southwest; Fort Collins, CO): Mason’s passion for sustainable food production prompted him to leave a secure job in horticulture to pursue a master’s of agriculture degree at Colorado State University. He has initiated the “Plant a Row for the Hungry Campaign.” Tyler is leading a participatory plant breeding program that includes the perspectives of growers, chefs and consumers.
  6. Eric Noonan (West; Las Vegas): Noonan has overcome many hardships in his journey to achieve his goal of attaining a Ph.D., and one day becoming a professor of hospitality management. As a United States Marine, he suffered severe, life-compromising injuries. As a widowed father, he managed to raise his children by himself. He is now a graduate student and part-time instructor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas’s William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration. He is dedicated to both his family and his chosen career.
  7. Olivia Pena (Mid-Atlantic; Verona, NJ): Pena is advancing her personal food advocacy work by pursuing a master’s degree in food systems at the University of Vermont, and plans to work on the upcoming Farm Bill in Senator Patrick Leahy’s office. She will travel to Kenya to implement service learning projects, working on agricultural development, community entrepreneurship, and public health.
  8. Luis Reyes (New York City; NYC): Luis Reyes was valedictorian of his 2017 graduating class in New York’s High School of Food and Finance. He is continually striving to perfect his craft as a chef. Reyes has worked at American Cut with chef Marc Forgione, and Café Boulud with JBF Award winner Daniel Boulud. This fall he enrolls at the Culinary Institute of America.
  9. Alisha Utter (Northeast; Grand Isle, VT): Utter earned her undergraduate degree in environmental systems and marine science, worked extensively in restaurants, and is now a Ph.D. student/researcher at the University of Vermont. She is “committed to triangulating resources and innovations between farmers, chefs, and researchers to collectively work towards a more resilient agrifood system.”
  10. Tracee Watkins (Mid-West; Manhattan, KS): Watkins is a third-year Ph.D. candidate in hospitality and dietetics administration at Kansas State University, with emphases on food safety, defense, and childhood nutrition programs. She aspires to teach a new generation of food professionals.