Board of Directors
Doug Paine grew up in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. After working many years in kitchens around the Stowe/Waterbury area he moved to Chittenden County with his family shortly before opening Hotel Vermont. He has forged great relationships with many farmers and food producers and is committed to serving only the best ingredients in true Vermont Style. As the Executive Chef at Hotel Vermont and Bleu Northeast Seafood, he is helping to create a fresh and vibrant dining scene in downtown Burlington. Doug is also an active member of Slow Food and NOFA helping to raise awareness of social issues involving the food community.
Cara Chigazola Tobin
Cara Chigazola Tobin is the Chef-Owner of Honey Road, an eastern Mediterranean Mezze restaurant, in Burlington, VT. After spending six years at Oleana in Cambridge, MA first as the Sous Chef and then as Chef de Cuisine, she grew her passion for the flavors of the Middle East. Her culinary curiosity has taken her to Turkey, Morocco, and Lebanon. While there, she researched traditions and honed her skills as a chef. Cara has been nominated twice as a Semifinalist by the James Beard Foundation for the category of Best Chef: Northeast and Honey Road was nominated as a Semifinalist for Best New Restaurant. She currently lives in Charlotte, VT with her husband and two children.
Jake was born and raised in southern Vermont in Sunderland. After graduating from Fordham University, he spent time doing environmental education for the Vermont Institute of Natural Science and as a field technician in British Columbia working on a land management plan for the Taku Tlingit First Nation before returning to graduate school at Bard College in Environmental Policy. He spent a year with the Vermont Natural Resources Council working with town energy committees before joining the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund where he’s been ever since, first as Farm to Plate Network Assistant and now as Farm to Plate Program Director.
Annie Rowell comes her role as Vermont First Coordinator for Sodexo after working for more than three years as a Program Manager at the Center for an Agricultural Economy in Hardwick, Vermont. Her work in Hardwick focused on creating new markets for Vermont farms by creating a line of local fresh cut and frozen vegetable products, focusing specifically on Vermont and regional wholesale markets. She graduated from Middlebury College in 2011, majoring in Political Science. In addition to her role at Sodexo, Annie is a member of the Craftsbury Town Planning Commission, Craftsbury Land Use Task Force, Secretary of the Craftsbury Village Improvement Society, Stage Manager for the Craftsbury Chamber Players, and cellist in the Porter Brook String Trio. She also has her Vermont Real Estate license with Peter D. Watson Agency, based in northeast Vermont.
Joe Buley of Screamin’ Ridge Farm, Inc and Joe’s Kitchen attended the University of Texas Austin and then L’Ecole Superier du Cuisine Francaise in Paris France for three years. While there he interned at Michelin Starred Restaurants before returning to New York City and working at the River Café. He has worked for the Ritz Carlton and several free standing restaurants in San Francisco and Austin,Texas. Joe taught at the New England Culinary Institute for 9 years and started his vegetable farm in East Montpelier. Joe’s Kitchen came into existence as a way to make healthy local food with his farm's vegetables. It has since grown to a point that he now sources from many other Vermont farmers and producers. Joe was one of the early VFN Board members and returned to the Board in 2016.
Ryan Chaffin is the general manager of 14th Star Brewing Company in St. Albans, Vermont. He joined 14th Star in November 2021. Formerly the Director of Business Development and Marketing at Farrell Distributing. At Farrell Distributing, he worked directly with brand partners across all segments, helping tell their stories while traveling across the state engaging retailers and consumers. His work included executing national marketing campaigns along with much more local efforts. The "Made in Vermont" portfolio (39 suppliers strong) reinforces a commitment to smaller, local partners. Previously Ryan worked at Long Trail Brewing Company in numerous roles including State Manager for the brands under the company portfolio. Ryan is a Champlain College graduate and proud to bring years of experience in business and brand management, content management, digital and social media marketing, major event and field marketing, partnership alignment, and community outreach experience. He lives with his wife, daughter, and dogs in Chittenden County.
Silas was born and raised in Monkton, VT, on Last Resort Farm (LRF), which was a dairy and produce farm during much of his childhood. He graduated from Skidmore College in 2009, majoring in Economics and minoring in Business and Asian Studies. He then lived in Shanghai and Beijing, China for two years, teaching English and working for Asian Agribusiness Consulting, a firm focused on helping agribusinesses enter into the Asian marketplace. In 2011, he returned to LRF where he continued to learn the craft from his folks before signing a lease to own and taking over operations in 2017. LRF now produces 27 different crops including berries, vegetables, hay, hemp, and maple syrup, almost all certified organic.
John has been the Executive Director of the Lamoille Economic Development Corporation since March 2010. Prior to that he was the Director of the Incubator Without Walls program at Lyndon State College and was briefly the President of Northern Community Management Corp. He served as the Area Business Advisor for the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont as well as for Lamoille County for the VtSBDC for two years. John was an executive for the New England Culinary Institute for five years after moving to Vermont with his family in July 2000. John served on the Vermont Agricultural and Forestry Products Development Board for two years and is currently the Co-chair of the Farm to Plate Education and Workforce Development Working Group as well as serving on the Consumer Education and Marketing Working Group. He has served for several years on various local, regional and statewide boards including Salvation Farms, the Buffalo Mountain Co-op, the Town of Hardwick DRB, the Vermont Early Childhood Business Council and many others.
Susan is a Chef, CIA grad, and former core faculty member and Chef-Instructor at the New England Culinary Institute. She has worked for King Arthur Flour since 2002, she has written and tested recipes, written and edited King Arthur cookbooks and magazines, driven their Bake Truck, and done demonstrations, television and radio appearances to advance the causes of baking and employee-ownership. She is currently the food editor of Sift magazine. From 2007 to 2014 she was a member of the Vermont Employee-Ownership Center’s board of directors, serving as Vice President during 2014. She is also the author and photographer of the culinary blog The Well-Plated Life. In her previous life she wrote TV commercials for the Lonely Maytag Repairman, among others, at Leo Burnett Chicago.
Chef Lyndon Virkler is a Senior Core Faculty member at New England Culinary Institute and co-author with Darryl Benjamin of Farm to Table, The Essential Guide to Food Systems for Students, Professionals, and Consumers (Chelsea Green October 2016). Lyndon holds a Master’s Degree in Adult and Higher Education from Vermont College of Union Institute and University (2007), a B.A. in American Literature from Middlebury College (1975), and an Associates of Occupational Science from The Culinary Institute of America (1977). Lyndon worked in fine dining restaurants in Washington D.C. for three years and was chef de cuisine of Sam Rupert’s Restaurant in Warren, VT, for eight years. Since joining NECI in 1988, Chef Virkler has been active in a number of issues related to food and agriculture and has been involved in incorporating the sustainable food systems component into New England Culinary Institute’s curriculum. He is a founding member of the Vermont Fresh Network and the Vermont chapter of Chefs Collaborative. He is an executive member of the Vermont Higher Education Food Systems Consortium. Lyndon lives in Waitsfield with his wife and has two daughters and two grandchildren.
Chef Eric Warnstedt, a graduate of Johnson and Wales University in Florida, opened Hen of the Wood in Waterbury in 2005. Eric has been a James Beard Nominee or Finalist eight times as Chef of Hen of the Wood. The restaurant focuses on showcasing the products of the amazing farmers, cheesemakers, and others who make Vermont so special. Alongside General Manager turned partner, William McNeil, Eric opened the second Hen of the Wood location in Burlington in 2013. The third project for the partners was Doc Ponds in Stowe, a popular spot for foodies and craft beer drinkers. And now the team has scaled their operation even further to include Prohibition Pig Restaurant & Brewery, also in Waterbury.