Bridget O’Boyle


Bridget, aka Birdsh*t, loves cooking, laughter and bringing people together around food – all the things that make cooking with First Descents her dream job. She has been cooking since she was a little one on a hobby farm in Minnesota and hones her craft by a lot of practice, learning from other chefs, and a whole lot of trial and error.

Birdsh*t is part of the cancer community, she was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer at 33 and thankfully found First Descents a few years later and was a participant in a white water kayaking trip in Hood River Oregon. She joined the FD Chef team in 2016 and has happily been out cooking it on programs all over the USA.

When not cooking for FD, Birdsh*t works in Marketing, cooks for friends and neighbors, hangs out with her husband Jim “Benchy”, 2 hungry college kids, and travels as much as humanly possible.

Clara Darling


Originally from Auburn, AL, Clara moved to Denver, CO to persue a bachelor’s degree in Culinary Nutrition. She began her journey with First Descents through an internship collaboration with Johnson & Wales University. This unique opportunity to share her passion for cooking and nutrition in beautiful outdoor settings with an incredible culture of people has influenced the trajectory of her career.

Since 2013 Clara has contributed to over 30 week long programs and helped to shape the nutrition program for First Descents. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Nutrition Science, as well as a dietetic internship, through Samford University in Birmingham, AL.

Diana Cornell


“Dirty” Diana is 100% sure that all her past roads have led her to First Descents. Lots of theatre, working with incredibly talented and generous people. Diagnosed with MS at 25. Graduated from the Natural Gourmet Institute. Owner of a pie company called This Pie Is Nuts where she spent 10 years making pies for people all over NYC (what a ride that was!)

She is now officially a nature girl thanks to her time at FD and says hi to all the trees she encounters.

Dirty can’t get enough of her family, her dog and eating as much delicious food as she can get into her stomach. What a privilege it is to share meals with everyone on these adventures!

Gabrielle Kennedy

"Disco Panther"

Gabrielle (FD name Disco Panther) has been working with First Descents since 2014. Her culinary career was sparked by a zeal for nutrition and healthy eating when she began reading about the topic over a decade ago. A co-founder of Malcolm Fontier Accessories (now Pakt Bags), she decided to leave her job in the fashion industry in 2012 and enroll at the Natural Gourmet Institute — the world’s only accredited health-supportive culinary school. She started out as a personal chef and freelance caterer in New York City, catering large and small parties, teaching culinary education and building programs and menus. She has volunteered for the Food Bank of New York and the James Beard House, where she worked with some of the world’s most famous chefs, assisting on elaborate meals in the New York City kitchen.
More recently she has shifted her focus to cooking for the greater good, where she has been a culinary influencer and educator for First DescentsCape Wellness Collaborative and The Mercy Ships. Her culinary journey has led her to kitchens all over the world, from cooking for 500 people aboard a hospital ship to cooking for cancer and other life-altering illnesses.
Gabrielle is passionate about using seasonal, locally sourced, organic ingredients. Her love for plant based cuisine propels her mission: to make vegetables the star of the show without sacrificing flavor or elegance. She considers herself a vegetable-forward chef, having traveled the world to learn about rustic food preparation in different cultures.
Currently, she is a freelance chef and educator, focusing her skills and passion on working with non-profit organizations to strengthen human rights initiatives. Gabrille has a breadth of skills in her apron, but her diverse interests (chef education, non-profit kitchens, emergency relief cheffing, urban farming work, recipe testing/developing, travel cheffing) all have a commonality — humanitarianism, purpose and helping communities.

Greg Spiegel

"Uncle Buck"

Hailing from the great state of Delaware, FD provides me with the chance to cook loving food for amazing people!

My passion and respect for all things culinary is amplified by our common nutrition mission, love of the outdoors and shared camaraderie.

If it not in the kitchen, come join me outside to kick a ball, read a book, or brush my pretend hair.

Hannah Maldonado


Hannah aka “Loxx” is a passionate and eccentric plant-based chef who graduated from Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts specializing in plant-based food. Her love for nutrition and the healing power of food led her to pursue a culinary education with the goal of working for First Descents. Hannah embodies all that First Descents stands for and enjoys using her skills to create nourishing meals that support healing and self-discovery. Join her on a vibrant culinary adventure, celebrating plant-based nutrition and the art of healing through food.

When she’s not boogieing in the FD kitchens- she can be found frolicking on the beaches of Mexico or finding other beautiful human connections in other parts of the world as she sustains her unforgiving passion for travel.

Jenna Bos


I am a Yoga Instructor, a Nutrition Therapist Master, Natural Food Chef and an overall wellness enthusiast! My goal as a chef is to empower my clients to achieve well-being through food that excites them and nourishes every part of themselves; mind, body, soul and spirit!

I believe in sourcing food that is farmed, foraged and raised in a natural environment close to home; free from pesticides, preservatives and growth hormones. I choose recipes and ingredients that are supportive of my client’s health goals and create meals based on my client’s needs that taste amazing and are even more amazing for them!

I am passionate about the environment, culture and creativity; all of which I embody in everything I cook! Nothing brings me more joy than bringing people together around the table for nourishing food and great conversation! I hope you’ll join me for a meal that nourishes your body and your soul!

Jonah Chasin


Always ready for my next adventure, I (Jonah “BigMo” Chasin) moved to NYC from Boston to attend the Natural Gourmet Institute (NGI) in 2001.  Since then I have worked in restaurants, for caterers, and as a private Chef.  For the past 12 years, I have been the Executive Chef at a private school for low income kids in Harlem.  It is the first vegan school in NYC.

After learning about First Descents from many colleagues, I knew I had to get on board. Cooking healthy foods in gorgeous settings for beautiful humans combined with a little outdoor adventure is my recipe for happiness.

In my spare time I love traveling, snacks, cats, and laughs. I can’t wait to see you on the river!

Julia Deppe


Julia (aka Nomad) believes in the deliciousness and powers of eating real, whole foods: simple, balanced dishes and flavors, all with a nutritional punch. She has been cooking with First Descents since 2015.

Upon being prescribed a restricted diet, Julia hesitantly embraced the change, and began experimenting in her Brooklyn apartment.  She soon realized it wasn’t impossible to eat well within the given restraints. Inspired to help others redefine their relationships with food, Julia focused on creating nourishing, feel-good meals for individuals with varying health hurdles.

A departure from the photo world, and subsequent training and certification from The Natural Gourmet Institute in 2012, led Julia to a variety of NYC’s health-focused, plant-based kitchens. Not long after, Julia was tasked with the creation of the opening menu and kitchen management of Philadelphia’s first organic, plant-based, gluten-free, dairy-free eatery.

Love of travel and a desire for new experiences moved Julia to California, where she first discovered the beauty that is FD. She has continued to expand her cooking repertoire while working as a Health-Supportive Private Chef, and is super grateful for the opportunity to share her passion with all of the friendly faces of FD.

Leah Ferreira


Leah Ferreira aka “¡Torta!” is a wild child of Mother Earth, a rolling stone, and a wahine warrior. Their culinary background is rooted to familia cooking lessons, and Kapi’olani’s Culinary Arts program in Oahu, HI. They believe that food is medicine; and cooking from the heart with intention and love makes the best recipe for delicious soul food! First Descent is the apex of all their passions: healthy, nourishing food, outdoor adventures, community building, and lots of free flowing aloha!

When “¡Torta!” is not Out Living It with First Descent they are living their best life through exploring nature, roaming the open forest roads, cycling, surfing, climbing, stretching, or spending time with choosen ohana and their sweet furry buddy, Atlas!

Mia Lewis


Mia Lewis serves as the Chef Manager for First Descents – a role she is truly grateful for. After raising her five children and being in the hair industry for 20 years, Mia became extremely curious about the food she was consuming and how it was impacting her body. This personal journey led her to the Natural Gourmet Institute (NGI) to fulfill her goal of sharing the healing properties of food with others.

Mia found First Descents shortly after she graduated from NGI in 2013 as a health supportive chef, and has been serving the organization ever since. She instantly saw how, just like outdoor adventure, food can help participants heal, inspire them to make lifestyle changes, and provide a new opportunity for “challenge by choice” by eating different/healthier food options that may be new to them.

After working nearly 40 programs with First Descents, Mia assumed an even more rewarding role in 2018 as Chef Manager. She has since grown the chef team from six people to more than 25 – all trained in supportive cooking. While she still gets out on programs, building this team has been one of her most rewarding experiences.

Mia’s journey to discover ways to nurture and heal the body didn’t stop with delicious food. During the pandemic, Mia was craving community and other ways to help people feel better in their bodies. This led her to pursue her 200-hour yoga teacher training certification and she is now not only teaching yoga in her local community, but is sprinkling it into FD programs as well.

The most joyful part of Mia’s job is knowing that she has been able to provide participants with the gift of nourishment. There is nothing quite like the feeling when she runs into a participant years down the line who are still eating plant-based or is feeling so much better because of diet changes they were inspired to make.

Rachel Hogan


After a life altering illness left Rachel wheelchair bound for two years in her early 20s, she decided to live “out living it” long before she knew what that was. Having always had a passion for sharing love and community through food, Rachel embarked on a journey to a nutritionally based culinary school in Denver, Colorado in 2013. The Universe knew exactly what it was doing… Having called her own health challenges her darkest hour and her biggest blessing, the entire mission of First Descents immediately resonated in Rachel‘s heart.

2013 was her first program and she has never looked back- working as a lead chef for First Descents on locations across the country. Aside from being a certified natural foods chef and licensed massage therapist specializing in clinical movement, Rachel is an avid outdoors woman. She raises and trains upland game hunting dogs and can be found cooking and guiding hunts in rural South Dakota in the fall. Her passion truly lies in giving back to “special population“ young adults that are so dear to her heart.

For Rachel, or “Wizard” as she is known among the First Descents community, food is love. Food is that “holiday at grandmas”, loved up from the inside emotion. Food is indulgence and healing. Her mission is to share love, indulgence, and deliciousness in a way that facilitates healing to body and soul.

Tracy On


I have always enjoyed cooking and find food as a way to connect people from different perspectives and backgrounds. Food is extremely powerful and I love when it can be nourishing while being satiating and delicious simultaneously. While I reside in Santa Barbara, California, most of the year I am traveling the world as a Sous Chef on tour. Most of my culinary career has been with Patagonia and Patagonia Provisions. Other experiences include Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Chez Panisse and Project Koru. When not in the kitchen, you can find me practicing yoga, enjoying the outdoors, wine or eating a good bite. Regardless, always exploring, learning and being curious!

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