about our staff.

Didi Emmons – Executive Chef

A graduate of La Varenne culinary institute in Paris, France, Didi has become a fixture of the Boston food justice scene.  Although her award-winning cookbooks “Vegetarian Planet” and “Entertaining for a Veggie Planet” have given her national recognition, she has chosen to spend her time working for healthy food here in Boston.  After serving as the founding Chef of Veggie Planet and Haley House Bakery Cafe, Didi now lends her patience, creativity, and love of all things food to Take Back the Kitchen.  She also is working to help the Boston Public School system improve the health of their school lunches, has worked for the Boston Public Health Commission, and is a member of the Boston Collaborative for Food and Fitness and the Mayor’s Food Council.  She has recently been awarded the 2009 Gardens for Humanity Visionary award.  Keep an eye out for her new book Edible Planet, which will be published by Chelsea Green publishers in fall 2011!

Laura Zientek – Education Coordinator

Laura’s real passion for cooking began when she started to cook for herself as a college student at Boston University.  Armed with a copy of Chef Didi Emmons’s Vegetarian Planet, she became both more adventurous and more confident in the kitchen.  It wasn’t until a study abroad experience that brought her to Mexico, India, and New Zealand that Laura truly started to understand the role that food and cooking play in culture around the world.  Ever since, Laura has dedicated herself to sustainable food and food justice through community development and is now pursuing a culinary certificate through the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts.  As the Education Coordinator, Laura merges her culinary education with her program management experience to teach classes as well as coordinate guest chefs, chef instructors, and volunteers.

Vanessa LaBranche – Chef Instructor

A graduate of “The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts”, Vanessa’s obsession with food was something that gradually occurred in her life over the years. Born and raised in the inner city of Boston, with southern roots of New Orleans and Mississippi, she was taught by family and friends on all aspects of soul food cooking. An avid cookbook reader, she explored other ethnic cuisines, which opened her curiosity on how other cultures prepared food and believes anyone can be a great cook with patience and persistence. With this being said, she also believes great food can taste delicious prepared healthfully. Her mission with the TBK program at Haley House is to empower students of all ages and ethnicities to embrace food and feel comfortable preparing dishes for the home cook. She continues her mission for healthy cooking for individuals through her business at http://www.budgetcuisinecoaching.com.

Fulani Haynes- Cultural Guest Chef

Fulani Haynes has returned to Roxbury’s own Haley House to teach her progressive style of twisting local flavor into easy-to-enjoy comfort foods.  A personal chef for years, Fulani has satisfied the picky pallets of daycare children and stuffed the bottomless pits of countless pre-teens and young adults.  She is also the creator of various hybrid restricted diet plans for elderly and diabetic clientele.  Fulani is a self-taught Iron Chef with an instructional slant towards learning the basics and veteran experimentation.  From discovering the differences in curry to baking a homemade Rye loaf for the first time, one participates with a sense of pride and confidence wielding fresh dough and sifting worldly spices with ease.  The excitement of trial and error pitches West Indian and Southern influences; low-to-no Salt dietary plans and the nostalgia of her famous all-American Fulani Burger.  The time of your life awaits you in the Haley House kitchen.  Indulge in nutrition and savor the new found interest in your complex digestive process; and remember the mantra.  ‘Put love into the food, and it will love you back.’