Brainfood uses the power of food to engage, empower, and employ DC teens and young adults. Our programs are run by a growing team of creative, food-loving, hard-working youth advocates and food entrepreneurs. We love what we do, we enjoy what we eat – and we are happy to tell you about both!

Meet our Team

Leadership

Paul Dahm

Executive Director

Paul took the lead at Brainfood in February 2003, following his interests in food and supporting youth, and a desire to be closer to on-the-ground work to enrich the DC community. Prior to joining Brainfood, he spent two years as a director at Orr Associates, consulting for nonprofit organizations in board development, fundraising, and organizational strategy. Before that, he worked for the Make-A-Wish Foundation as the Associate Director with overall responsibility for fundraising, community relations, and program services in the Baltimore Metro region.
Favorite food to cook: Wood-fired pizza or anything slow cooked
Favorite food to eat: Oysters

paul(at)brain-food(dot)org

Carina Gervacio

Program Director

Carina’s experience at Brainfood started as a Cooks in Training instructor. She taught for six years across all three existing Brainfood programs before becoming our Program Director in 2011. As Program Director, Carina provides leadership and support to our team of program instructors and coordinators. Carina is a trusted advisor and authority on youth development principles, effective teaching practices, obscure cooking skills, and having fun.

Favorite food to cook: Sour cherry pie
Favorite food to eat: Coffee

carina(at)brain-food(dot)org

Molly Madigan Pisula

Brainfood Homegrown Manager

Molly supervises a team of young adults and Brainfood graduates in the day-to-day operations and long-term growth of Brainfood Homegrown, our entrepreneurial food business. Before joining Brainfood, Molly spent nine years as the owner and CEO of Vanilla Bean Cuisine, a certified personal chef service specializing in family meals and small event catering. Prior to that, she worked for six years in high-tech product marketing at Apple after completing her MBA at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Favorite food to cook: Desserts, especially chocolate ones!
Favorite food to eat: Soft-shell crabs

molly(at)brain-food(dot)org

Lyssa Houser

Program Coordinator, Community Cooking Coaches

Lyssa spearheads our after-school food education outreach program, training a group of returning Brainfood teens to lead hands-on workshops throughout the DC community. Lyssa’s background includes developing and implementing intergenerational gardening programming as the Garden and Cooking Educator for the DC Department of Parks and Recreation and leading garden education efforts through her work as the Director of Education for Wangari Gardens.

Favorite food to cook: Galettes
Favorite food to eat: Ice cream sandwiches

lyssa(at)brain-food(dot)org

Amanda Kirsch

Program Coordinator, Cooks in Training

Amanda joined Brainfood in 2014 through a service corps placement with the Lutheran Volunteer Corps (LVC). After two years of supporting our Cooks in Training program as an LVC corps member and kitchen instructor, Amanda took the lead as Program Coordinator to manage a team of first-year program instructors and coordinate volunteer involvement across all Brainfood programming and special events.

Favorite food to cook: Anything requiring three pots simultaneously
Favorite food to eat: Margherita pizza with lots of basil

amanda(at)brain-food(dot)org

Katie Kovacovich

Program Associate, Cooks in Training

Katie joined Brainfood in the fall of 2016 as a Lutheran Volunteer Corps service member and is an instructor for our Cooks in Training program at our Chinatown location. Katie graduated from Luther College with a BA in Social Work and has worked as a summer camp counselor and state park employee. Katie has passions for social justice, building community, and environmental work.

Favorite food to cook: Banana bread
Favorite food to eat: Tacos

katie(at)brain-food(dot)org

Sophie Neems

Program Associate, Cooks in Training

Sophie joined Brainfood in the fall of 2016 as a Lutheran Volunteer Corps service member and is an instructor for our Cooks in Training program at our Columbia Heights location. Sophie graduated from Grinnell College with a BA in Anthropology and Spanish. Her background in education is rooted in the philosophy of Place Based Education, or the idea that one’s “place,” both one‘s community and one’s physical environment, should be used as a teaching tool.

Favorite food to cook: Blueberry-blackberry galettes
Favorite food to eat: Chocolate cake or zucchini bread

sophie(at)brain-food(dot)org

JaNeya Lee

Brainfood Homegrown Intern

JaNeya joined Brainfood in January of 2016 through a partnership with DC’s Department of Employment Services Career Connections program. After nine months of co-teaching for our programs and supporting Homegrown kitchen operations, JaNeya joined Brainfood Homegrown officially as a part-time Kitchen Intern in September 2016. JaNeya is also pursuing a degree in Nutrition from the University of DC. Ask her about her native-DC accent and hard-learned lessons in making the perfect curry oil for our popcorn.

Favorite food to cook: Cake!
Favorite food to eat: Chicken

Francisco Rivera

Brainfood Homegrown Production Lead

As Production Lead, Francisco heads up kitchen operations for Brainfood’s growing snack food business. He creates and perfects recipes, leads production, and is often the face of Brainfood Homegrown at our retail locations. Francisco participated in several Brainfood programs as a high school student, including Cooks in Training and a Brainfood Internship. He graduated from Dunbar Senior High School in 2007 and went on to earn a degree in professional cooking from Baltimore International College. Francisco started his culinary career at a few restaurants here in DC and spent most of his time at Boundary Stone before joining Brainfood Homegrown.

Favorite food to cook: Cooking a steak to the perfect temperature is always a pleasurable thing to do.
Favorite food to eat: Thai food!

francisco(at)brain-food(dot)org

Ryan Williams

Brainfood Homegrown Kitchen Associate

As a high schooler, Ryan participated in Cooks in Training and Test Kitchen, learning foundational cooking skills and food business basics. In 2013, he graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School and began his studies at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. Before joining Brainfood Homegrown, Ryan worked at Bibiana, becoming the youngest person to ever work on the hot line at age 18. Ryan can make a killer tomato basil sorbet and has perfected the art of crunchy-edge, gooey-middle cookie baking.

Favorite food to cook: Anything involving braising, stewing, roasting or smoking
Favorite food to eat: Italian food

ryan(at)brain-food(dot)org

Quan Wu

Brainfood Homegrown Intern

Quan graduated from School Without Walls High School in May 2016 and is currently taking a gap year before heading to culinary school. Quan participated in both Cooks in Training and Test Kitchen as a high school student and joined Homegrown this fall as a Kitchen Intern. Quan has mastered the art of mixing, braiding, and baking challah dough, but his favorite part of working for Homegrown is the joyful reactions people have when they try any of the foods he had a hand in creating.

Favorite food to cook: Anything he’s never made before because it’s a whole new experience
Favorite food to eat: Oxtail

Want to join our team at Brainfood?

Board of Directors

Mark Belles

Chairman

Relias Learning

Sonny Goyal

Vice Chairman

The Advisory Board Company

Matt Baker

Gravitas

Monica Debban

The Center for Global Enterprise

Teddy Folkman

Granville Moore’s Restaurant

Susan Holt

CulinAerie

Jennifer Koide

Publicis.Sapient

Thomas Patton

Cellarius Strategies, LLC

Dean D’Angelo

Stellus Capital Management, LLC

Ryan Drant

Questa Capital Partners

Chris Caine

Mercator XXI, LLC

Paul Dahm

Brainfood Executive Director

P. Kevin Smith

Invictus Advisory Group, LLC