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Ann Cooper, Chef & Food Reform Advocate : Renegade Lunch Lady

By June 15, 2010November 26th, 2016No Comments

What is your name, age, and location?

Ann Cooper, 56, Boulder, CO.

What is your profession?

I wear many hats: I am a professional chef, lunch lady, author, and advocate for better food for all kids.

What did you study in school and what degrees do you have?

I have an Associate Degree in Culinary Arts from The Culinary Institute of America.

What was your first job?

My first job was in Telluride Colorado, I was living there so that I could be a ski bum and when I needed money I lucked out and got a job as a breakfast cook. Since then, cooking has been a huge part of my life.

Who or what inspired you to break into your current line of work?

Like I said, I started cooking so I could keep skiing, but as a worked and learned I became more and more interested in our country’s food system. While researching for my book, A Bitter Harvest, I knew my focus needed to shift towards food systems solutions so that the health of our environment and our kids had a chance at improvement.

Name/describe what has been your most rewarding project so far?

Every time I go into a system that provides a majority of processed foods to children and I transition to scratch based, nourishing foods that is the most important and exciting thing I can do. I am currently thrilled to be working on building a website called so that the tools and skills my co-workers and I have been acquiring throughout our work can be in one place, for free, for others who want to improve their school food.

Name/describe one incident when being a woman has helped your career?

Early in my career, I joined the organization Women Chefs and Restaurateurs and that decision helped me in so many ways: I have cherished the friendships and experiences I gained because of my involvement with that group.

Name/describe one incident when being a woman has hindered your career?

When I graduated from The Culinary Institute of America, one of my first jobs was to be the Executive Chef for a large hotel and I happened to be the first woman to ever hold that position. There were certainly challenges associated with that situation but I’m very glad I did it and I wouldn’t be the person I am had I not stepped up to those challenges.

Who is your role model or mentor (alive or dead)?

Barbara Tropp, Nora Poullion, Odessa Piper, Karen Trilevsky and Alice Waters have all been role models and mentors.

If you could give one piece of advice to a woman starting out in your field, what would it be?

Do what you love, do it well, and don’t let anyone tell you that it can’t be done if it matters to you.



– Interview by Eve Richer


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