Melissa Graham is the founding CEO and Head Spear of Purple Asparagus, an award-winning 501(c)(3) non-profit that educates children, families and the community about eating that’s good for the body and the planet. Though its Delicious Nutritious Adventures program taught at over thirty Chicagoland sites, Purple Asparagus teaches parents and children about healthful eating. From 2005-2010, Melissa was also the chef-owner of a boutique catering company, Monogramme Events, and cooked for luminaries most notably First Lady Michelle Obama at a private dinner party in her home. Until 2005, she was a partner at McDermott Will & Emery LLP resident in the State and Local Tax practice group in the Chicago office.
Melissa has received several awards for her work including a 2011 Chicago Tribune Good Eating Award, the International Association of Culinary Professionals Culinary Youth Advocate Award of 2012, and the 2012 Chicago Children’s Empowerment Award. In July 2012, Greatist.com named Melissa one of the 15 Top Crusaders for Health in the Food Industry by Greatist.com alongside Alice Waters, Michael Pollan and Jamie Oliver. In April 2015, 2017 and 2019, Melissa was named one of the Chicago’s NewCity Big Heat: Food and Drink 50 — the Dining and Drinking Cultural Leaders of Chicago, an honor also bestowed upon restaurateur and television personality Alpana Singh and former Top Chef Stephanie Izard. Melissa is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, a professional honor society for women in the food industry.
Melissa received her bachelor’s degree from Colgate University in 1991 and her law degree from the Washington College of Law, The American University in 1994. Melissa is currently pursuing her Executive MBA at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and a Certificate in Non-Profit Management from Northwestern’s School of Professional Studies.
Listen to the podcast here: