Frank Mentesana is the founding Director of EcoSpaces Education, a program created at Philip’s Academy Charter School in Newark, NJ. Frank has over 20 years of experience in foodservice, 10 of which were spent as the owner of Once Upon A Tart in Manhattan. He is also author/photographer of the cookbook, “Once Upon a Tart…Soups, Salads, Muffins and More” (Knopf 2004).
Looking to give balance to his career as a food consultant, stylist, writer, photographer and culinary teacher, he developed and now directs EcoSpaces Education, a comprehensive program that teaches children about the interconnectedness of food, health and the environment. Through the use of learning environments, which include the school dining room (serving healthy, made-from-scratch lunches), a rooftop garden, a controlled environment growing lab, a hands-on teaching kitchen and an Eco Handwork Studio, teachers are able to incorporate curriculum while reinforcing key health and wellness concepts. His proudest achievement by far is his son Matthew in spite of the fact he still doesn’t like lettuce.
Executive Chef, Foodservice Director,
Advocate of Eating Well and Doing Good
Robert wants to change the perception of the School Lunch program in the United States and hopes that within his lifetime he witnesses a shift to a sustainable food system that nourishes bodies, builds stronger communities and benefits the earth.
A food industry veteran of 15 years he has trained in the kitchens of James Beard award winning Chefs and with leading food scientists at manufacturers focused on health and wellness.
When he is not developing recipes or sourcing farm to tray menu components, you can find Robert toiling in his garden or trying to convince his three daughters to clean up after themselves.
He encourages young and old alike to always ask “why?” and if you are dining at Philip’s Academy he suggests you try the soup
Director of Programming
Raised in Oregon moving between a rural logging community and the city of Portland, Catkin became passionate about ecology at a young age. While receiving her B.A. in Environmental Studies at Mills College in Oakland, CA, she developed a keen interest in how communities around the world address environmental issues. This interest led her to study in Greece, Madagascar and Brazil, and to explore over 20 other countries. Catkin moved to the Bronx, NY in 1995 and discovered the joy of connecting with and inspiring young people to become leaders in protecting and beautifying urban greenspaces. While working for Green Guerrillas, NYC’s oldest community gardening organization, she collaborated with young people, community gardeners and city agencies to complete projects throughout the city with a focus on the Bronx, Brooklyn and Harlem.
Catkin’s interest in gardening and nutrition drew her to explore health and wellness and in 2006, she become Board Certified in Acupuncture in Chinese Herbology. She is now entering her fifth year at Philip’s Academy Charter School.
FoodCorps Service Member
Cassidy remembers not always being excited about cooking and gardening. Reflecting on her time in her Papi’s summer garden, she recalls the feeling of dirt under her fingernails and sweat beading on her forehead. Yet, her father’s garden was also where Cassidy remembers first snacking on cherry tomatoes — her favorite — and feeling as if food in the house was most abundant.
After studying food and culture at the University of Vermont, Cassidy became passionate about her own relationship to food, which led her back to the garden with local, food justice initiatives. She now serves in her home state of NJ with FoodCorps as a returning service member.
- Advancement Team PEP
- Communications, Karen SanGiacamo PEP
- Technology, Jerri Drakes PEP
- Foodservice Staff
- Handwork Teacher, Judith Symonds
- Philip’s Academy Faculty