Our Staff and Advisory Council
Founder and Executive Director
Toni Elka founded Future Chefs in 2008. With 20 years of experience in the youth development field, she is a serial innovator and committed social change agent. She received national recognition for her innovative leadership (Mass. Statewide Peer Leadership Institute) and founded the Circle of Girls program prior to Future Chefs. As the granddaughter of a union organizer and farmer and holding jobs as a cook and caterer, her passion for the culinary arts fueled her sense of excitement about directing a career program that addresses the needs of youth who might find fulfillment in this creative, hands-on field. In 2013 she received a Boston Neighborhood Fellows Award from the Philanthropic Institute and serves on the boards of Boston Day and Evening Academy and The Boston Private Industry Council. In May of 2015, Ms. Elka received an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Newbury College.
work-based learning leader
Sam grew up in Arlington, where he got his start in the restaurant business as a teenager at Brigham’s. After attending college in Vermont, he worked in popular restaurants in the Bay Area, several restaurants in the Midwest, Dorchester’s Ashmont Grill, Executive Chef of Foundry on Elm, Chef of Jamaica Plain’s Bella Luna, and ended his restaurant career back in Arlington, as Executive Chef of Flora restaurant.
In the 1990s, Sam was the Head Cook at the Farm & Wilderness summer camps, and then became the Culinary Innovator at UTEC in Lowell. Now at Future Chefs, his focus is on developing the next generation of young people who will carry the industry forward.
Youth Development and outcomes Manager
Mr. Hines graduated from Robert Morris University with a Bachelor of Communications. Prior to joining Future Chefs, Mr. Hines worked as an educator and group care supervisor specializing in youth development and special education at several organizations including High Rock School, Eliot Community Human Services, Aspire Expanded Learning Program and Autism Services Association. Mr. Hines also has professional experience with several NFL teams and played professional football with the German Football League.
Ms. Zelfon graduated from Boston University with a degree in Nutritional Sciences and received a certificate in Culinary Arts from Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. She has worked in several restaurants in Boston and began teaching adult classes in 2009 at Community Servings and with Cooking Matters. Ms. Zelfon is actively involved in the continued development of youth and adult culinary programs at Beaver Country Day Camp and Boston Center for Adult Education.
Curriculum and Student Services Manager
Ms. Hussain graduated from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA, with a B.A. in Global Justice. Since her graduation she has worked in nonprofit organizations whose missions focus on social, environmental, and political justice. Yasmin served a year of AmeriCorps in Boston at Cooking Matters, No Kid Hungry in 2014. Yasmin also works with youth and adults coaching them in her role as a Sports Performance trainer and lead at Xplosive Performance Academy in Boston.
Stephanie comes to Future Chefs with a long-standing passion for food and building communities. Since 2015 she has been the Board President of the Newton Community Farm, leading the organization and its fundraising process and strategy. She also served as Administrative Director of the Newton Family Singers, and was a founding board member. She is a former attorney, having spent twenty years representing employees and labor unions in various industries. Stephanie holds a B.A. from Amherst College, a J.D. from Northeastern School of Law, and a Certificate from the Institute of Nonprofit Management.
Drawing from a varied background of studio art and business, Ms. Callahan handles communications and brand marketing for Future Chefs. Prior to joining Future Chefs, Ms. Callahan worked in corporate community relations with schools and non-profit organizations, which sparked an interest to move towards the non-profit field. She holds a B.A. in Studio Art from University of New Hampshire and a M.S. in Communications Management from Simmons College as well as a certificate in Community Relations from Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship.
The Future Chefs Advisory Council includes 13 highly successful industry professionals, restauranteurs and educators. The Council is chaired by Patricia M. Keegan, Ed.D, Executive Coach and Susan Lange, Vice President, Commonwealth Corporation. Erin Griffith, proprietor of Middle House Events, is the Secretary. The Advisory Council was formed in 2010 and benefits from active Governance, Finance, Marketing and Fund Development committees.
Chris Douglass, Proprietor/Chef, Ashmont Grill and Tavolo Ristorante
Gabriel Dym, Esq., Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, LLC
Andy Freedman, Marketing & Fundraising Committee; Merkatus Partners
Erin Griffith, Secretary; Fundraising Committee; MiddleHouse Events
Naome Jeanty, Research and Evaluation Analyst, Commonwealth Corporation
Jake Kalick, Fundraising Committee; Harbour Food Service Equipment, Owner, Made In
Patricia M. Keegan, Ed.D, Co-Chair; Strategy Committee, Executive Coach
Travis Keltner, Fundraising Committee Chair; State Street Corporation
Aquila Kentish, GM Jamaica Mi Hungry; Future Chefs Alumni
Susan Lange, Co-Chair; Strategy Committee; Vice President, Commonwealth Corporation
Thomas F. Muldoon, Finance Committee Chair; Partner, AAFCPAs
Robert Ocko, Finance Committee; Retired Banking Executive
Ellie O’Keefe, Industry Advisor, Corporate Sponsorships
Eric Papachristos, Finance Committee; Co-Owner, Trade, Porto and Saloniki Greek
Julia Shanks, Proprietor, Julia Shanks Food Consulting
Kay Snowden, Strategy Committee; Finance Director, Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center
Cheryl Straughter, Owner, Soleil