Karen has been a member of the Guild for more than 20 years, and has served as Executive Director since June of 2022. In her work with the Guild, she supports bakery owners and professional bakers to achieve success in their baking practices and businesses through education, training, and community-building events. Prior to taking the role of ED, she spent 8 years in workforce and small business development with Hot Bread Kitchen, a nonprofit in NYC dedicated to creating economic opportunity for immigrant women and women of color through careers in food. While at HBK, Karen developed an initiative to improve job quality and business performance in small food businesses, and she oversaw a team to design and deliver a dynamic workforce development program in New York City, growing program outcomes fourfold over a three-year period. She launched her career at Amy’s Bread, one of very few women in production, and worked her way up from packer to supervisor while teaching part-time at the Artisan Baking Center.
The French Culinary Institute provided her the opportunity to focus her passion for teaching; she spent five years as the lead instructor and coordinator of their bread department, improving the curriculum and creating new classes for both professional and amateur students. She also worked for four years at Le Pain Quotidien, where she managed its Bleecker Street demonstration and teaching bakery, and then transitioned to product development, quality control and training on a national level. Through all of her years of experience as a bread baker and educator in New York City’s baking landscape, she brings a passion for education and advocacy for frontline food production workers. She is particularly interested in breaking down the systemic and structural barriers to career and economic advancement for people of color and women in the baking industry, and in cultivating and nurturing the next generation of bakers and bakery owners.
Melina Kelson, Education and Events Manager
Melina Kelson has always been happiest making, discussing, and enjoying thoughtfully prepared foods. Melina is a Certified Master Baker, Certified Executive Pastry Chef, a Certified Bread Baker, Certified Viennoiserie Baker, Certified Sous Chef, and Certified Hospitality Educator. She spent 17 years teaching baking and pastry arts in a highly regarded professional program, where she took the lead on writing an artisan bread and laminated dough classes and helped drive the curriculum along the path of continuous improvement.
She served four terms on the Board of Directors of The Bread Bakers Guild of America, was the three-time Director of WheatStalk and the chair of the Certification Committee, which has written defining and well-regarded levels for bakers. She has been the Education and Events Manager for the Bread Bakers Guild of America since 2022.
Her deep commitment to sustainability informs her approach to baking and living. An edible landscape surrounds her wood-fired oven, where she operated a micro-bakery, Bootleg Batard, just outside of Chicago. She also partners with local small grain associations for grain research and development in a changing environment.
Celeste Leal, Operations Manager
Celeste joined the team in January of 2022 as Business Manager and was promoted to Operations Manager later that year. She ensures that our members receive friendly and timely customer service, that our data and communication systems are functioning correctly, and that our finances are up-to-date and in order. Celeste brings a wealth of operational, financial, and administrative acumen and experience to this work from her many years working in financial services in varied roles, including analyst, program manager, loan processor and customer service before joining the Guild. She lives in Rhode Island with her husband.
Arielle Stevenson, Communications Coordinator
Arielle Stevenson joined the Guild as Communications Coordinator in 2023. She’s worked as a writer and journalist for more than a decade. She lives in Florida with her baker husband and their bread-loving toddler.
Ready to be part of a sharing community of artisan bakers who are passionate about their craft?