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Fifty+ under 50: Innovative leaders transforming metro DCís food systemEconomic and workforce development, social entrepreneurship, and businesses


This is page 2 of Elevation DC's 50+ #foodheroes under 50. Click here to go back to the beginning.

Cathal Armstrong is chef and owner of the acclaimed Restaurant Eve and Eamonn’s in Alexandria. He has demonstrated his commitment to regional farmers and producers through his careful local sourcing, and his board service to FRESHFARM Markets, a network of 13 producer-only markets in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. Cathal has been featured in a number of well-known publications and recognized by the White House, but one of his most recent interests is transforming school lunch. (Image credit Scott Suchman)




Michael Babin is co-owner of Neighborhood Restaurant Group, a rapidly expanding portfolio of 17 restaurants in Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. that employs approximately 850. Michael is also founder and board chairman of Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture, a nonprofit dedicated to making positive change in Metro DC’s food system. Recognizing his business and policy expertise, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe recently appointed him to the state's new Commonwealth Council on Bridging the Nutritional Divide.


Christie Balch is executive director of Crossroads Community Food Network in Takoma Park. Founded as the unique, multi-cultural Crossroads Farmers Market in 2007, Crossroads staff have raised an impressive $300,000 since that time to help low-income seniors and community members purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. Christie is currently working with market vendors and community members to establish a micro-enterprise kitchen for beginning, immigrant, or low-income food entrepreneurs.


Reinal (Roy) and Arti Caspari
own Roy and RT’s Kitchen and Garden. Originally from Indonesia, Roy broke into the local food scene through ECO City Farms’ New Farmer Training Program and now have a backyard farm inside the Beltway. Roy and Arti sell their delicious cuisine at farmers markets in College Park, Greenbelt, Riverdale Park, and Takoma Park.



Paty Funegra
is executive director of La Cocina VA, a new non-profit that provides job training and placement to minority and immigrant community members in hospitality and food services. To date, 18 community members have gone through the program, improved their culinary and language skills, and obtained full-time jobs in restaurants, hotels and other food-related business. Currently operating out of a church kitchen in Arlington, Paty and her team are working on a kitchen incubator project that will allow La Cocina VA to expand its programming to create job opportunities and foster new small businesses. 


Cullen Gilchrist and Jonas Singer are the founders and owners of Union Kitchen. Offering kitchen space, distribution services, and its own retail outlets, Union Kitchen offers a broad set of services to new food businesses. Since 2012, its members have created an estimated 350 full and part-time jobs, including for disabled and formerly incarcerated adults. Last year, Union Kitchen members earned $25 million in combined revenue. Cullen, Jonas, and their team will open a second kitchen location in Ivy City this summer to accommodate growing demand and interest.


Brookland resident Fiona Lewis is the owner of The District Fishwife in Union Market. This native Australian’s commitment to sustainable fish and seafood was solidified at an early age after watching her father grow endangered fish in their Melbourne garage. Building on years of her own restaurant experience, Fiona has built District Fishwife with an emphasis on sustainably sourced seafood, including regional products whenever possible.


Tom McDougall
is founder of 4P Foods, one of the growing number of enterprises in the region connecting farmers to consumers. 4P stands for Purpose, People, Planet, and Prosperity. Tom talks to local, regional, and national audiences whenever there is an opportunity, advocating for true cost accounting to properly value the real costs of healthy and unhealthy foods.


Spike Mendelsohn
may be best known to metro D.C. for his appearances on Bravo TV’s Top Chef as well as his local restaurants: Good Stuff Eatery, We the Pizza, and Béarnaise. But this well-known Culinary Institute of America graduate is also committed to improving food, health, and opportunities for food entrepreneurship. Building upon his experience working with the First Lady’s “Let’s Move!” initiative and service as a State Department Chef Ambassador, Spike was recently named Chairman of D.C.’s new Food Policy Council. 


Francisco Rivera leads production for Brainfood’s latest social enterprise: Brainfood Homegrown at Union Market, a program in which youth run a stand at Union Market selling fresh produce and healthy snacks. This D.C. native is a culinary graduate of Baltimore International College and Brainfood program alumni. Francisco has become a critical part of the new team at Brainfood, ramping up its multi-faceted, youth-led food ventures that fall under the Brainfood Homegrown brand.

Phil Wong and Ann Yang are co-founders of Misfit Juicery. Working out of Mess Hall, a culinary incubator in Brookland, Misfit Juicery “fights produce prejudice” by turning cosmetically imperfect fruits and vegetables into fresh juices. With a triple bottom line in mind, Misfit supports volunteer gleaning efforts and recently hired its first two part-time employees, both graduates of DC Central Kitchen’s 100th Culinary Jobs Training class. Phil was recently named to Halcyon Incubator’s newest cohort of fellows.


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Read more articles by Lindsay Smith.

Lindsay Smith consults with philanthropic and other nonprofit organizations to build relationships and deliver customized research and recommendations for building healthy communities. She has a deep personal and professional commitment to strengthening our regional food system. You can find Lindsay on Twitter @lindsayplans.
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