Faculty and Staff
Our multidisciplinary program welcomes a wide variety of scholars and working professionals as instructors each semester. While most teach classes on campus, others lend their expertise to the Gastronomy program digitally, through blended and online courses. The following list includes instructors from recent and upcoming semesters.
Megan Elias, PhD
- Dr. Megan J. Elias is Associate Professor of the Practice and Director of the Gastronomy Program. Prior to coming to BU she was an associate professor and administrator at the City University of New York and most recently Director of Online Courses for the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. She earned her PhD in history at the City University of New York Graduate Center and has since published five books in food history. Her most recent book, Food on the Page: Cookbooks and American Culture (Penn Press, 2017) was featured in the New York Times. Elias has been the recipient of several grants for her work, including a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for her Foodways and Humanities project, which brought together culinary arts and history students to recreate and adapt historic foodways to the contemporary context.
Elias teaches Introduction to Gastronomy: Theory and Methodology (ML 701), Food and Gender (ML 706) History of Food (ML622) and Readings in Food History (ML633)
Mary Beaudry, PhD
- Mary Beaudry is Professor of Archaeology, Anthropology, and Gastronomy at Boston University. A historical archaeologist, her current research focuses on gastronomical archaeology, an approach that brings together multiple, converging lines of evidence to examine relationships among food, culture, and the dining experience. Her approach draws upon recent streams of thought in archaeology, anthropology, material culture studies, and decorative arts, and allows archaeologists to move beyond discussions of food and foodstuffs to explore menus, meals, and dining. In 2015-16, Beaudry received fellowships from the Boston University Center for the Humanities and the Winterthur Museum to conduct research for her forthcoming book, Gastronomical Archaeology: Food, Materiality, and the Aesthetics of Dining.
Beaudry teaches Pots and Pans: Material Culture of Food (ML 612).
Sandy Block, MW
- Sandy Block is a certified Master of Wine—one of only 312 in the world, and one of two Masters of Wine teaching in BU’s Wine Studies program. He also holds membership in the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs and the Confraria do Vinho do Porto, and received the Diplôme d’Honneur from the Corporation des Vignerons de Champagne. Block is vice president of beverage operations for Legal Sea Foods. He is also the wine editor for The Improper Bostonian, and on the editorial advisory board of Cheers magazine, the executive symposium committee of Santé Magazine, and the executive board of Boston University’s Elizabeth Bishop Wine Resource Center.
Block teaches History of Wine (ML 632) for Gastronomy. In the Wine Studies program, he teaches Levels 1 and 2 (ML 651, 652) and is involved with Levels 3 and 4 (ML 653, 654).
- Netta Davis is a Lecturer in Gastronomy. She holds a Master of Arts in American Studies from Boston University. Davis received the Award for Food Studies Pedagogy from the Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS) in 2011 and was appointed ASFS Fellow in 2016. Her research interests include utopian and alternative foodways, New England food history, and sensorial experience. Davis’s publications include “To Serve the ‘Other’: Chinese American Immigrants in the Restaurant Business” (Journal of Food and Society, 2002) and “The Ideal Way to Eat: How Utopian Foodways, Democratic Diners and Competing Perfections Came to the Party and Ruined My Appetite” (Appetite, 2011), and a contributed entry on “Alternative Foodways” in the edited volume Material Culture in America: Understanding Everyday Life (ABC-CLIO, 2008).Davis teaches Wild and Foraged Foods (ML 625) and Culture and Cuisine: New England (ML 638) and Food and the Senses (ML 715).
- Ihsan Gurdal is the owner of Formaggio Kitchen, one of the top gourmet food retailers in the country. The Cambridge institution stocks artisan cheeses from around the world, imported and house-cured meats, and specialty grocery items. Since taking ownership of the store in 1992, Gurdal has worked extensively with cheese makers and affineurs throughout the U.S. and Europe. His efforts in support of agricultural artisans have brought many rare and unique cheeses into his shop.Gurdal teaches Artisan Cheeses of the World (ML 705).
- Michael Leviton’s career pathway as a chef has been forged by a belief in sustainable change. After seventeen years at Lumière, eight James Beard Foundation Award nominations and honors from Food and Wine, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, and Saveur, he has stepped away from the day to day of the kitchen. As a founder of Region Foodworks and through his work with Marlo Marketing, Michael is now expanding his reach by focusing his time and talent on projects and partnerships that demonstrate the promise of broadening food systems sustainability. He is long-time member, and former Board Chair of the Chefs Collaborative, as well as a member of the Chefs Action Network, an Impact Program of the James Beard Foundation. Having attended two Chefs Boot Camps for Policy and Change, Michael continues to build on his advocacy for a sustainable future. A longtime advocate for sustainable seafood and fisheries, Leviton is also on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force.
- Leviton teaches Special Topic: Sustainability (ML 702).
Karen Metheny, PhD
- Karen Metheny is Senior Lecturer for the Gastronomy program and Visiting Researcher in the Department of Archaeology at Boston University. She is a historical archaeologist and anthropologist whose work with the material, documentary, and archaeological evidence of food and foodways serves as the basis for her work as a food studies scholar and instructor. Her interests include the intersection of food and food practices with social institutions and cultural beliefs in past and contemporary cultures, the role of foodways in identity formation, and the application of interdisciplinary approaches to food studies, including the use of food mapping and other visualization techniques to understand the importance of foodways in the social and cultural life of historical communities. She is co-editor with Mary Beaudry of the two-volume Archaeology of Food: An Encyclopedia (Rowman & Littlefield 2015), the first reference work devoted to the study of food and foodways through archaeology. She has presented her research to both professional and public audiences, including Plimoth Plantation, the Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife, the Jacques Pépin Lecture Series in Food Studies and Gastronomy, the Theoretical Archaeology Group, the Society for Historical Archaeology, and the Council for Northeast Historical Archaeology. Metheny received Metropolitan College’s Chadwick Fellowship in 2015-16 for her on-going, multi-disciplinary study of the cultural significance of maize in colonial New England. In this study, she explores material cultural, architectural, archaeological, ethnohistorical, and documentary evidence to understand not only how unfamiliar foods were and are accepted or rejected, but how food is central to the formation and maintenance of individual and group identities and is used to communicate and symbolize those identities.
Metheny teaches Introduction to Gastronomy: Theory and Methodology (ML 701), Anthropology of Food (ML 641), Food and the Senses (ML715), Archaeology of Food in Ancient Times (ML 611), Culture and Cuisine: New England (ML 638), Food and Society (ML 712), Cookbooks and History (ML630), and Food and Public History (ML623).
James McCann, PhD
- James McCann is Professor of History and Associate Director of the African Studies Center at Boston University. His research and teaching interests include agricultural and ecological history of Africa, Ethiopia, and the Horn of Africa; field research methods in African studies; the agro-ecology of tropical disease; and the history of food and cuisine in Africa and the Atlantic world. He is the author of five books, including Stirring the Pot: A History of African Cuisine (2010), and has published many articles and reviews.
McCann was named to a 2012–13 John S. Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship and was a Fulbright Fellow in Ethiopia from 2012–13. He has served as consulting field scientist on agriculture and development for OXFAM (UK), OXFAM America, Norwegian Save the Children, UNEP, and American Jewish World Service. He has also given testimony at the House of Commons, Parliament, and the U.S. Congress, and served as principle investigator of a five-year Rockefeller Foundation research project in collaboration with the Harvard School of Public Health investigating the agro-ecology of the cultivation of maize and malaria transmission in Africa.
McCann teaches History of Food (ML 632) and Nature’s (Re)past: Histories of Food, Environment and Society (ML 589).
- Christine Merlo is an Associate Professor at Massasoit Community College and adjunct instructor at Boston University. She has taught at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she received the 2010 L’Espirit d’Excellence Award—given to educators who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in their contributions to their students, peers, and campus. She was also awarded the 2010 Outstanding Faculty Award—voted by the graduating class at Le Cordon Bleu Boston. She is involved in the children’s program “Cooking Up Culture,” and has been a freelance writer for the Boston Globe’s food section, recipe coordinator for “The Phantom Gourmet” television program, wine associate for Sebastiani Vineyards, and a chef on the PBS television program “Simply Ming” with Ming Tsai, chef and owner of Blue Ginger Restaurant in Wellesley, Massachusetts. She was also previously an Assistant Professor of Culinary Arts at Newbury College, and a kitchen manager and teaching assistant at Boston University.
Merlo is a graduate of BU’s Culinary Arts Certificate program, and a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers. She is also a candidate for a Sommelier Diploma with the International Sommelier Guild, and has earned an intermediate wine certificate from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust. A former class dean at Babson College, she received her Bachelor of Science in Business at Providence College and a Master’s degree in Human Resource Management from Framingham State University.
Merlo teaches Laboratory in Culinary Arts: Cooking (ML 698).
Ellen Messer, PhD
- Ellen Messer is an anthropologist and culinary historian with an extensive background in food policy and food justice issues. Her research interests encompass cross-cultural perspectives on human right to food; biocultural determinants of food and nutrition intake; sustainable food systems (with special emphasis on the roles of NGOs); and the cultural history of nutrition, agriculture, and food science, including the impacts of biotechnology on hunger. She has authored and co-authored several books on food policy, including Who’s Hungry? And How Do We Know? Food Shortage, Poverty and Deprivation (United Nations Free Press, 1998). Previously she was Director of the World Hunger Program at Brown University and a Fellow of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Messer is a Lecturer in Gastronomy at Boston University and has current faculty affiliations at the Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and at Brandeis University’s Department of Anthropology.
Messer teaches Food Policy and Food Systems (ML 720), U.S. Food Policy and Culture (ML 721), and Food Values: Local to Global Food Policy, Practice, and Performance (ML 719).
Bill Nesto, MW
- Bill Nesto holds the prestigious Master of Wine certification awarded by the London-based Institute of Masters of Wine. Bill and his wife, Frances Di Savino, authored The World of Sicilian Wine (University of California Press, 2013), which won the 2013 Andrè Simon Book Award, and more recently Chianti Classico: The Search for Tuscany’s Noblest Wine (University of California Press, 2016). He is a frequent guest lecturer and judge at international wine competitions. Bill’s prior experience in the wine world includes serving as an award-winning sommelier at the Ritz-Carlton in Boston, wine director of a food and wine festival, managing director of an Italian wine-tour company, and wine journalist for several publications, including Massachusetts Beverage Business and Gastronomica. Nesto is a Master Lecturer in Gastronomy.
Nesto teaches Wine Studies Level 1 (ML 651), Level 2 (ML 652), Level 3 (ML 653), and Level 4 (ML 654).
Potter Palmer, PhD
- Potter Palmer brings a unique mix of culinary, educational, media, and technological insight to his role as director of MET’s Programs in Food and Wine. Palmer began his culinary career by attending La Varenne Cooking School in Paris and working as the kitchen manager at Ma Cuisine Cooking School in Los Angeles, where he collaborated with luminary chefs Ken Frank and Wolfgang Puck.He went on to earn a master’s degree and doctorate in film and media studies at UCLA, before serving in leadership positions in academic and instructional technology at L.A.’s Occidental College. Switching coasts, Palmer resumed his culinary career by completing the Certificate in Culinary Arts and Master of Liberal Arts (MLA) in Gastronomy at BU’s Metropolitan College, before joining the MLA faculty as a Lecturer in Gastronomy.
Palmer teaches Food and Visual Culture (ML 671) and Food in Film (ML 673).
Karen Pepper, PhD
- Karen Pepper studied history at the University of California, Berkeley (AB), history of science at San Francisco State University (MA), microbiology at the University of Paris (PhD), and creative writing at Bennington College (MFA). She briefly worked as a substantive editor at Gastronomica. She currently teaches scientific writing at M.I.T. and Children’s Hospital and has taught for the writing program at Boston University (Source and Sorcery: All about Food). She presented “Hot Sausage and Mustard: Putting Food Studies on the Undergraduate Menu” at a meeting of the American Association of University Professors, and she loves her courses in the Gastronomy Program.
Pepper teaches Reading and Writing the Food Memoir (ML 615), Debating Diet: The Fat Controversy (ML 613), and Food and the Senses (ML 715).
Valerie Ryan, MLA
- Valerie Ryan, Lecturer in Gastronomy, is a food scientist and a correspondent for the Boston Globe. Her column, “A Side of Science,” regularly features articles exploring the intersection between food, cooking, and science. She is a graduate of the Master of Liberal Arts in Gastronomy Program at Boston University and holds a Certificate in Culinary Arts from the Food and Wine Program at Boston University. She has a Bachelor of Science in food and nutrition with a concentration in food chemistry from Framingham State University. As a food scientist, she has worked for both government and industry in the areas of research and development, ingredient applications, chemical, nutritional, and sensory analysis, and product innovation. Ryan has focused her food studies research on the impact of taste preference on human evolution.
Ryan teaches Food and the Senses (Ml 715) and The Science of Food and Cooking (ML 619).
- Bill Ward is an accomplished business leader and entrepreneur. His experience ranges from corporate engineering, marketing, and sales to his own consulting and real estate ventures. He has been active in the family business, Ward’s Berry Farm of Sharon, as a hands-on consultant for over 30 years, contributing to improved operations and increased profitability. He has been a mentor at SCORE (a group of executives providing pro-bono business consulting) for over 10 years. Since 2009, he has run an Entrepreneurship Training Program at JVS, a workforce training and development non-profit. Recently, in collaboration with Commonwealth Kitchen, he shifted the emphasis of the JVS program to food-related businesses. The program has successfully launched several local food businesses.
Ward teaches Planning a Food Business (ML 655), Launching a Food Business (ML 704), and Food Marketing (ML 565).
Merry White, PhD
- Merry White is Professor of Anthropology at Boston University, with specialties in Japanese studies, food, and travel. A caterer prior to entering graduate school, she has written two cookbooks, one of which—first published in the mid-1970s—was recently reissued by Princeton University Press. Following publication of her book, Coffee Life in Japan, by the University of California Press (2012), she received the prestigious John E. Thayer Award from the Japan Society for “For Significant Contribution to the Advancement of Understanding Between Japan and the United States of America.” White recently contributed an essay on “Café Society in Japan: Global Coffee and Urban Space” to the edited volume, Assembling Japan: Modernity, Technology and Global Culture (2015). Her current research project, also based in Japan, investigates the many meanings of “work” in food, from domestic to artisanal to industrial. A World History of Food, Oxford University Press, co-authored with Benjamin Wurgaft, is scheduled for publication in 2017.
White teaches Food, Culture, and Society (AN 308/708) and has taught Culture and Cuisine: Asia (ML 634) and Culture and Cuisine: France (ML 631).
Barbara Rotger, MLA
- Barbara Rotger is the Assistant Director of the Gastronomy program, and is always happy to answer questions from current and prospective students, alumni, and anyone else interested in the program. Rotger is also an avid collector of recipes boxes, scrapbooks, and manuscript collections, and in her master’s thesis proposed a methodology for analyzing these collections as historical, cultural, and gendered artifacts. She holds a Master of Liberal Arts in Gastronomy from Boston University (MET`11), and a BA in Russian studies from Brown University.