Our Staff and Advisory Council


Toni Elka

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. 

 

Barry Maiden

Culinary Director

Chef Barry Maiden began work in professional kitchens at a young age in and around his home town of Abingdon, Virginia. Early in his career, Chef Maiden worked alongside Emile Labrousse, renowned French chef and teacher, in Nashville, Tennessee. Chef Maiden’s innate need to learn and grow along with his commitment to sustainable food practices drew him to work with Chef-Owner Michael Leviton at Lumière, as Chef de Cuisine. Maiden's five year stint at Lumière was the final step before opening his own kitchen in 2008, Hungry Mother in Cambridge, MA.  He was quickly named one of Food and Wine Magazine’s “Best New Chefs” in 2009 and in 2015 he was awarded the prestigious James Beard Award of “Best Chef Northeast.” Chef Maiden is a faculty member of the culinary arts program at Boston University, and continues to bring his unique Southern approach to cooking in the Boston area.

 

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Mario Hines

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.

 

Loni Zelfon

program Manager

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.

 

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Cheryl Straughter

Post-Secondary Planning and Placement Specialist

Ms. Straughter graduated from Boston State College with a B.A. in Biology, Johnson & Wales University with an Associates Degree in Culinary Arts, and Simmons College with a Masters Degree in Social Work and a Certificate in Urban Leadership in Clinical Practice. She is the former owner of Keith’s Place in Dorchester and has worked at Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut.

 

Yasmin Hussain

Program specialist

Ms. Hussain graduated from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA, with a B.A. in Global Justice.   Since her graduation she has worked in not-for-profit organizations whose missions focus on social, environmental, and political justice.   Most recently she served as a Program Coordinator at AmeriCorps in Boston.

 

Mary Fronk

Grants Coordinator

Ms. Fronk holds a B.S and M.P.A from The Ohio State University, and an M.B.A from Simmons College.   She has over 20 years development experience.  Prior to joining Future Chefs, Ms. Fronk worked as the Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations at the MGH Institute of Health Professions, The Home for Little Wanderers, and the Harvard Business School.

 

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Michelle Callahan

Communications

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.

 

Advisory Council

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
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
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

 
 

The Future Chefs organization continues to win my support and involvement because they keep the focus on launching Boston area young people into a positive engagement with the world of work. At its 10-year milestone, Future Chefs has weathered the challenges of being a start-up to becoming a solid contributor to youth development in the city of Boston. I could not be more proud or excited about what comes next.

 

—Pat Keegan, Co-Chair, Executive Coach