Founder Chef Ann
About Chef Ann Cooper
Chef Ann Cooper is an internationally recognized author, chef, educator, public speaker, and advocate of healthy food for all children. In a nation where kids are born with shorter estimated life expectancies than their parents due to diet-related disease, Chef Ann has been a constant champion of school food reform as an important avenue through which to improve childhood nutrition.
In 2009, Chef Ann founded the Chef Ann Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping schools take action so that every child has daily access to fresh, healthy food.
I envision a time, soon, when being a chef working to feed children fresh, delicious, and nourishing food will no longer be considered renegade.
– Chef Ann Cooper
Also known as the “Renegade Lunch Lady,“ Chef Ann serves as Director of Food Services for Boulder Valley School District in Boulder, Colorado, and is Partner of Lunch Lessons, LLC, a consultancy for school districts going through large-scale food change. Ann attends many national conferences and performs regular Speaking Engagements. Visit our Multimedia Center to view some of Ann’s notable lectures, including several TED Talks.
A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Ann has 40 years of experience as a chef, including 17 years in school food programs. Her books Bitter Harvest and Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children have made her a leading advocate for safe, sustainable food. To raise further awareness about the value of healthy food systems, Chef Ann has held several advisory positions:
- Executive committee member, Chefs Collaborative
- Fellow, W.K. Kellogg Foundation Food & Society Policy
- Board member, USDA’s National Organic Standards Board (by congressional appointment)
- Member, Google Innovation Lab for Food Experiences
- President and board member, Women's Chefs and Restaurateurs
- President, American Culinary Federation of Central Vermont
- Advisory Board Member, Real Food for Kids
Chef Ann has also been honored by the National Resources Defense Council, awarded an honorary doctorate from SUNY Cobleskill for her work on sustainable agriculture, and received IACP’s 2012 Humanitarian of the Year award. Named one of the “Influential 20” by Food Service Director Magazine and one of the top 15 Crusaders for Health in the Food Industry by Greatist.com, Ann has also received the Women Chefs and Restaurateurs’ Community Service Award and a Special Inspirational Award from the Susan B. Komen Foundation. In 2016, she was named "One of the Top 50 Food Activists" by the Academy of Culinary Nutrition.
Speaking Engagements / Calendar
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Although she is busy running the Chef Ann Foundation, working as Director of Food Services for Boulder Valley School District, and consulting for other school districts, Chef Ann makes it a priority to share her experiences and insights through speaking engagements. Connecting with audiences as close to home as TEDxBoulder and as far away as Qatar, Ann has inspired people throughout the world to change the way we feed our children. A sampling of her past lectures is available in our Multimedia Content section.
“A Woman’s Place Is in the Kitchen,” The Evolution of Women Chefs“A Woman’s Place Is in the Kitchen,” The Evolution of Women Chefs
A Woman's Place is in the Kitchen is a collection of historical and contemporary research that provides a comprehensive look at women and their roles in the professional culinary arena. In the domestic setting, women have been the primary food providers to the world; yet until recently, women have been excluded from the upper echelons of professional kitchens. The first book ever to be written exclusively about women chefs and restaurateurs, A Woman's Place is in the Kitchen provides an informative, insightful, and objective portrait of women working in the multi-faceted culinary field.
Bitter HarvestBitter Harvest
"The history of food is not as straightforward as it may seem. Food isn't just food. It is ritual, tradition, and memory," begins Chef Ann‘s groundbreaking book on the relationship between food, politics, and health. Passionate, political, informed, and engaging, Bitter Harvest is filled with fascinating facts and anecdotes. Touching on virtually every aspect of the food culture, Bitter Harvest is a vibrant example of the emergence of the chef as a political voice to be reckoned with.
In Mother’s Kitchen: Celebrated Women Chefs Share Beloved Family RecipIn Mother’s Kitchen: Celebrated Women Chefs Share Beloved Family Recip
Much more than just a cookbook, In Mother’s Kitchen is a testament to the many ways that a mother can shape a child’s life through cooking. Time spent side-by-side in the kitchen stirring the soup, rolling out a bit of pastry, preparing carefully chosen vegetables, arranging a platter, and of course, bringing finished dishes to the table to hungry and appreciative family provide a child with tangible lessons in nurturing. In this heartwarming collection, more than fifty celebrated woman chefs and culinary professionals share cherished heirloom recipes along with the memories that made them so special.
Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our ChildrenLunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children
Known as the “Renegade Lunch Lady,“ Chef Ann has worked for nearly two decades to transform cafeterias into culinary classrooms. In Lunch Lessons, she and Lisa Holmes spell out how parents and school employees can help instill healthy habits in children. The two explain the basics of childhood nutrition and suggest dozens of tasty, kid-tested recipes for breakfast, lunch, and snacks. They also recommend how to eliminate potential hazards from the home, bring gardening and composting into daily life, and support businesses that provide local, organic food. With inspirational examples and analysis, Lunch Lessons is more than just a recipe book—it gives readers the tools to transform the way children everywhere interact with food.
Check out many of the Home Recipes featured in this book.
Lunch Lessons, LLC, co-owned by Chef Ann Cooper and her business partner, Chef Beth Collins, provides expertise and knowledge to school districts across the nation that are transitioning from "heat and serve" foods to scratch cooking. Lunch Lessons offers a variety of services to assist school districts and their community partners in realizing their vision for school food service, including:
- educational programming through speaking engagements
- workshops that address a variety of needs from fiscal to culinary training
- focused analysis of various aspects of existing programs
- full assessments that analyze all aspects of the food service department and provide recommendations to assist in strategic planning and goal setting.
Chefs Cooper and Collins have worked together for more than 14 years and are experienced in both public and private sector food systems, district administration, culinary training, fiscal services, food service facilities and operations, and strategic planning. Both chefs have hands-on experience in district-wide food services transition, including the challenges of large-scale system change. Their experience and understanding provide a realistic view of complex school district relationships and determine what goals and results are most realistic and cost-effective given the distinct conditions of each district.
Visit the Lunch Lessons website to learn more.
Meet Chef Ann Cooper
Chef Ann Cooper is an internationally recognized author, chef, educator, public speaker, and advocate of healthy food for kids.