Lucy R. Valena
Lucy R. Valena

bio

I grew up in sea coastal New Hampshire on a defunct family farm. With a half-mile dirt driveway and a bare minimum of TV, my sister and I were free to make things, read books, and run around in the woods. My dad constructed my first worktable for me when I was three years old.

I became interested in food history when I was in high school, and my mom even drove me down to a Culinary Historians of Boston meeting when I was sixteen. The ladies there were amazing and actually poured me a glass of chardonnay, a small but unforgettable gesture for an art/nerd teenager such as myself.

I studied Studio Art at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, and focused on combining sculpture and painting into high-relief optical illusion. After graduation, I boarded a train bound for Seattle with a manual typewriter and two suitcases. I didn't really know anyone there, but I thought it was the best place to seek my fame and fortune. In that rainy city, what I found instead was coffee, and the effect that good espresso can have on people.

After relocating to Boston, I launched an espresso catering service in order to spread the love of specialty coffee. Word spread, and with the help of some amazing people I was able to open Voltage Coffee & Art in 2010. A coffeehouse and gallery, Voltage was located in the heart of Kendall Square in Cambridge, MA and it served as the living room for the Boston tech scene.

My vision for Voltage was based on the original coffeehouses that I had read about in food history books- they were loud places filled with people exchanging ideas. I had hoped that this would provide a good forum for talking about food; that serving delicious coffee would nurture curiosity about where it comes from. 

During the five years that I ran Voltage, my love for food history was rekindled. I completed my MLA in Gastronomy at Boston University in the Winter of 2015. That same year, Voltage vertically integrated with barismo, a locally-owned boutique coffee roaster. Since this merger, my time has been significantly freed up to pursue the research projects I am truly passionate about. My interests lie primarily in the history of food and communication- how we talk about food, food as language, how food is taught and how it is learned.

I live in Jamaica Plain with my husband John, an amazing photographer, and our enormous cat Tiny Henry.