Welcome New Students – Spring 2023

We look forward to welcoming a wonderful group of new students into our programs this spring. Enjoy getting to know a few of them here.

Jadel Myra Biteng (She/They)- Jadel has always been surrounded by food and the love of food for as long as she can remember. Having been raised by her grandmother, who was a farmer and a cook, Jadel naturally grew up to become interested in the world of food herself.

After working in numerous restaurants/bakeries, she saw firsthand how COVID affected the restaurant industry. Spending the better half of the pandemic making food for the community, packing, delivering fresh groceries for homebound Asian elders and baking goods for free food fridges in NYC.  Jadel really believes that food heals and everyone should have access to nutritious food. The system itself is broken but how we fix it and/or make it better is one of her main focuses.

Jadel is now seeking to gain the knowledge and background to be able to share more about this industry she called home for over 15 years. She hopes to gain strong connections and concrete opportunities with like-minded folks. To tackle meaningful issues that will ultimately lead her to a position where she can help push the industry that always made room for people like her to push forward.

Jadel currently works as baker, where they use freshly milled, traceable and locally sourced grains and flours. Jadel can always be found either reading up on her favorite food history magazine, Eaten, or cooking new recipes, eating with friends, and drinking a good glass of wine.


Chef Robert Danhi has dedicated the past three decades researching, codifying, preserving, and sharing the cultures of Southeast Asia. Robert worked his way up from dishwasher to executive chef in restaurants and attended the Culinary Institute of America. Teaching culinary arts became his passion including a Chef Instructor at the CIA and Director of Education at the Southern California School of Culinary Arts. Chef next evolved into an R&D chef, industry thought leader, conference speaker and full-time consultant since 2005.

This curator of cultures is a James Beard award winning publisher, author and photographer for Southeast Asian Flavors-Adventures in Cooking the Foods of Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia & Singapore. His most recent book Easy Thai Cooking showcases simple recipes that result in the genuine flavors of Thailand.

Robert continued to share his passion and knowledge as the host of the 26-episode docuseries, Taste of Vietnam leads the global audience through 19 provinces of the vibrant lives of farmers, artisans, cooks, chefs, and street food vendors. The Vietnamese community then welcomed chef to be a main judge for all episodes of Season 1 of Top Chef Vietnam.

His latest project beginning in 2015 was founding and building Flavor360, a mobile app and interactive database for capturing structured multimedia culinary heritage research data. Robert’s next chapter includes joining the gastronomy program at Boston university and rebuilding Flavor360 as an open-sourced platform to connect support a global community of food studies researchers, journalists, culinarians, and students

When not exploring food cultures around the globe Robert splits his time between Los Angeles and his home in Melaka with his Malaysian born wife and best friend.


For over fifteen years, Crystal Black-Davis has had the privilege to work as both an executive and an entrepreneur within various sectors of the food industry.  Crystal’s fascination with gastronomy began as a child, in 1980s Indianapolis, after eagerly flipping through the pages of Food & Wine Magazine every month.  Her father received the magazine as a free subscription for being an American Express cardholder but had little interest in the publication.  Upon overhearing him mention to her mother that he planned to cancel the subscription, Crystal begged him not to. Surprised to learn that someone in the house was actually reading and enjoying the magazine, he decided to maintain the subscription.  Crystal has been obsessed with food, specifically global cuisine, ever since.

Crystal is the former EVP (US) for the Italian-based CPG brand, Loacker, the global category leader in wafer confections. She currently owns Savvy Food consulting, advising early-stage and import CPG brands on market readiness, and consulting commodities importers on new market opportunities.  Crystal has recently partnered with web3 venture studio, ZK Ladder, to explore how technology can disrupt broken food systems.

Crystal has been featured in notable media outlets such as Fast Company, Food Navigator, ABC7 New York, and Candy Industry Magazine for her industry insights and expertise.  Crystal is an avid supporter of the UN World Food Programme, No Kid Hungry, Food Bank for New York City, and MoFAD (Museum of Food and Drink).  Crystal is a mainstay at key food events such as the James Beard Awards (chef and media), Smithsonian Julia Child Award, Natural Products Expos (West and East), Fancy Food Show (Winter and Summer), SIAL (Paris), and ISM (Cologne).

Crystal has received numerous honors and awards from organizations including the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce and Path to Purchase Institute.

Fun fact, the best meal that Crystal has ever eaten was speck dumpling soup and radicchio ravioli at Patscheider Hof in Renon, Italy (Italian Alps).


John Curran is a life-long resident of the Greater Boston area. While John’s professional career is not food related, he spends most of his free time cooking for his family and learning, formally and informally, about food. He has completed many adult education programs, including classes in classic European cooking and baking, the cuisine of China, American regional cooking, whole-hog butchery, and cheese production. Most recently, John earned his certificate in Culinary Arts from Bunker Hill Community College. This year-long program consisted of classroom lectures on topics such as sanitation, menu planning, and food purchasing, as well as significant hands-on kitchen instruction in baking and cooking.

John is excited to learn from the distinguished faculty and his fellow students in the Gastronomy program at Boston University. His goal is to wed this knowledge with his thirty years of advocacy experience as a trial attorney, to positively influence Federal, State, and local food policy and legislation. He is particularly interested in the laws regarding agricultural land use, sustainability, and the distribution of healthy foods, and how legislation can be drafted, or modified, to better serve the public, generally, and those in food insecure communities, specifically.

John has been married to his college sweetheart, Maria, for thirty-one years. They are especially proud of their three children who have gone on to careers as a teacher, an eye doctor, and a soon-to-be lawyer. On weekends, you can usually find John, undeterred by the New England weather, in the backyard at his kamado grill.


As an incoming Gastronomy master’s student, Hilary Landa is interested in exploring the role that food systems play in environmental, socioeconomic, and health issues and examining how food products/experiences affect how communities connect, build local economies, and solve problems.

Thus far in her academic and professional career, she has focused on how communications and media can be leveraged to shift cultural norms and drive social change. Currently a Campaign Director at The Ad Council, she has managed fifteen national, integrated public service advertising campaigns concerning social issues like immigrant inclusion, recycling, and emergency preparedness.

While each issue she has worked on is important, the one that sparked her deep interest in food issues was Save The Food, a campaign in partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council meant to increase Americans’ awareness of the impacts of wasted food and empower them to waste less in their own homes. Through working on Save The Food, she learned how food can be a mechanism to bridge divides and engage people around increasingly urgent issues like climate change, migration, and social cohesion. Additionally, working on this issue completely transformed her relationship with food and inspired her to become an avid cook and baker.

She can’t wait to build upon this foundation of knowledge and gain a deeper understanding of all aspects of the food field alongside other food enthusiasts in the Gastronomy program.

Hilary is a Californian at heart, but currently lives in Washington D.C. with her partner and cat. She has a B.A. in Public Policy from Duke University.


Erik Lucas grew up on Long Island surrounded by food and people who loved to eat. Shortly after getting his BA in Theatre Arts at Fordham University at Lincoln Center, he attended culinary school at The Natural Gourmet Institute in NYC. That led to over 15 years working in food and beverage as a cook, chef, manager, event planner, and culinary director. He is excited to continue to explore interests in the intersection of food and culture, local food systems, food justice, and how we share our stories and histories through food. When not trying out a new recipe in his home kitchen, he loves exploring new areas and sampling the regional cuisine or popular local spots. Erik currently resides in Ithaca, NY and he greatly enjoys the local bounty of the Finger Lakes region. He lives with his wife, two children, cats, and a dog. When not cooking or eating he enjoys reading, film, and being out in nature.


William Purdy (he/him) was raised in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Growing up he never showed much interest in food. In fact, his love of food wouldn’t show until he was about 23 years old. During his undergraduate career, he majored in health studies and discovered a passion for nutrition, learning as much as he possibly could. Eventually, this led to cooking and baking more, as well as helping friends and family make healthier food choices. He began baking bread and cooking all the time, trying new recipes and even attempting to make his own. Now, he cooks nearly every day for him and his partner. He loves trying new things in the kitchen. Recently discovering a fondness for making hot sauce, one his favorite condiments. His favorite foods to make include bread, pasta, and anything spicy. He spent a couple years working as a barista and discovered a whole new world of coffee. He loves going to new coffee shops and making coffee at home. When he is not cooking, you can find him reading, watching movies, or playing board games with friends and family. His love of film is just as strong as his love of movies. His favorite film is Pan’s Labyrinth.


Growing up primarily in a single-parent household, Lucas Quintero (he/him, they/them) would often help their mother prepare dinner for their family. This gave Lucas a foundational knowledge of foods and cooking. Coupled with some home-economics classes in middle school and frequent viewings of Disney Pixar’s Ratatouille, Lucas would only become more fascinated with the art and preparation of foods.

Lucas currently resides in Boston and has been a MA native their whole life. They were raised on the South Shore of Massachusetts and received their B.A. in Psychology from Framingham State University.

After some ventures in various fields such as healthcare and non-profit work, Lucas eventually found himself as an Administrative Coordinator BU’s Residential Life Department in August of 2022. It was here that Lucas learned about BU’s Master’s Program in Gastronomy and (with the encouragement of their friends, family, and work colleagues) decided to apply.

With a master’s degree in Gastronomy, Lucas hopes to take what has always been a passive interest of mind and act upon it. They wish to adopt a career that grants them the ability to unite people in a meaningful (and fun!) way using food.

In their off time, you can typically find Lucas exploring nature trails, analyzing films and TV shows, or dancing their heart out wherever there is music playing. They love to appreciate the little pockets of sunshine that life has to offer, whether it be a beautiful sunset or a delicious cup of coffee in the morning. Lucas is a firm believer that there is always reason to make oneself smile. Lucas is beyond excited to expand their involvement at BU and cannot wait to see what this new experience will bring!


Jessica Schumann was born and raised in Guatemala City, Guatemala. From a young age her goal was to be an entrepreneur like her parents. She moved to the USA to attend grad school. She holds an MBA from Suffolk University and a MS in Marketing from Boston University MET. She started a few small ventures throughout the years, but she didn’t find her true passion until two years ago. She started baking bread and desserts for friends and family while she stayed at home without being able to work. One year later her new food business was established when she joined Hope & Main, the first food business incubator in Rhode Island. The business, Mariela’s Sweets, is named after her 5-year-old daughter, and it is currently dedicated to creating beautiful French macarons.

The past year and a half Jessica has been part of many local markets that allowed her to connect to her customers and to grow her business. She is now in the process of building her own commercial kitchen to expand production capacity and product line.

Jessica has realized the roadblocks and challenges that many entrepreneurs face, particularly women owned business and Latin businesses. Her goal is to continue building her business and with her experience help her community. She wants to be part of the change that will open doors to underserved communities, like the Hispanic community.

Jessica is new to the food industry; she wants to dive in fully and being part of the Gastronomy program at BU is the perfect next step to accomplish her personal and business goals.


Tiffany Taylor has been waiting for the gastronomy program to start an online master’s degree since she graduated with her communication bachelor’s degree in 2016.
Living right outside the big city of Fort Worth, she teaches all levels of culinary arts and food science at Rio Vista High School. Her goal is to give them an education that transcends their smaller boundaries. From winning grand champion at the Texas High School BBQ Cookers Association and through transforming their kitchen with the Rachael Ray foundation’s Grow grant. After building a coffee shop, and growing their catering business, they are currently working on putting up a greenhouse and providing a quality lunchroom experience.
When not at work, she enjoys listening to her church’s band and working on her 1950s farmhouse or traveling with her husband and their two teenage daughters. Upon graduation, she hopes to become a professor, help write culinary textbooks and curriculum.


Bruce Arlen Wasserman began his relationship with food as a teenager when he took it upon himself cook all his own food, motivated by the whole food movement. Then, 20 years ago, he created a personally driven, hands-on course in cooking, challenged by his reading of a cookbook by British Chef Nigel Slater. For one year he cooked entirely from scratch until his relationship with the raw base that builds out recipes was more like a conversation. Later, he found and devoured books by chefs like Julia Child, Thomas Keller, Emeril Lagasse, John Besh, Emily Luchetti, Yotam Ottolenghi, Michel Roux and Tyler Florence. He and his wife have traveled to France, Italy, England, Scotland, Puerto Rico and Israel, finding local food ranging from street vendors and patisserie to a 3-star Michelin restaurant. He has cherished buying local ingredients and creating unique dishes with them in his travels. Bruce visited a chef’s supply in Paris and carefully packed his suitcase full with pans and assorted culinary tools and has collected cookbooks in French, Hebrew, Spanish and Italian.

His interest in gastronomy reached a critical mass that brought him to the MA in Gastronomy degree program, which will allow him to take this pursuit to the next level. Bruce is excited to be a part of the program and looks forward to meeting his fellow students.

He has had a full career as a dentist, has an MFA in Writing and is a literary critic. His book, The Broken Night, was recently published by Finishing Line Press. Bruce is a potter and a musician and at one point, ranched in the vast spaces of northern Wyoming, where the aroma of wild sage on the breeze is something like a culinary garnish for everyday life.

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