board of directors


Brian Cisneros

Brian is the President of the Board for Specialty Cocoa Association and co-founder of the organization. Brian created the Northwest Chocolate Festival in 2008 to showcase craft chocolate makers and educate chocolate lovers from all walks of life. In 2014, Brian developed the Chocolate UnConference as the first industry conference based on participant-driven dialogue and shared outcomes. In 2020 Brian co-founded Chocolate Alliance and the Cocoa Academy which combine events (digital and in-person) with professional development programs and consulting services for artisan chocolate makers. Brian holds a university degree in Social Program Development, as well he holds a Masters Degree in Organization Systems Design and Renewal, and a Professional Certificate in International Work Systems Consulting. Brian is an advocate for cacao farmers, craft producers, and fine chocolate. He has dedicated his professional life to building community, educating consumers. and provoking social change within the chocolate industry.


Nicole Seymour

As a founding member and Board Secretary of Specialty Cocoa Association Nicole aims to keep the organization structured and organized while moving towards its goals and mission.

Before establishing Specialty Cocoa Association Nicole moved into the Artisan Chocolate Industry by way of events and education.

Nicole joined The Northwest Chocolate Festival in 2015 as Executive Director and in 2017 assumed the responsibilities of CEO for the organization. In 2020 she co-founded Chocolate Alliance, with the purpose to be of service to the Artisan Chocolate Industry. With a decade of event planning experience, and a keen eye for detail, she continues to move these organizations forward. She believes in the importance of furthering understanding and knowledge of food sources, including cacao, and that this leads to more responsible consumer and industry choices. She is proudly from Portland, Oregon, where she resides with her family.


Arcelia Gallardo


Sarah Weiner

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Paul Newman

Coming Soon....

Arcelia Gallardo has been in the chocolate industry for over 18 years - first as a chef instructor in Los Angeles, a chocolatier in her retail store in Berkeley, then a chocolate maker at Dandelion Chocolate in San Francisco, and finally as owner of Mission Chocolate based in Brazil. She is a co-founder and board member of Bean to Bar Brasil, an association for chocolate makers that seeks to improve and promote craft chocolate in Brazil. Her dark chocolate bars have been awarded, three years in a row, as the best dark chocolate in Brazil, in a blind tasting judged by consumers and chocolate makers. Aside from making chocolate, Arcelia works with indigenous women in several Latin American countries to assist them in recipe creation for their small businesses and teaches chocolate making classes. The goal of Mission Chocolate is to create the best chocolate possible, work directly with farmers and communities that grow cacao, make ethical decisions when it comes to the environment and employees, and always be unique.

Before becoming the Director of the Good Food Foundation in 2010, Sarah Weiner worked side by side with food movement visionaries across the globe. Beginning as an intern at Slow Food International in Italy, she was immersed in the roots of the food movement before heading to California to work alongside Alice Waters. Next she spearheaded the development of Slow Food Nation, produced the 20,000 person Organic Food Festival in Bristol, England for the Soil Association, developed the Art.Food.Hope fund-raising campaign on the eve of Barack Obama’s Presidential Inauguration, and ultimately returned to San Francisco to co-found the Good Food Foundation. Best known for the Good Food Awards, the Foundation supports both food crafters and retailers who are dedicated to creating a food system that is tasty, authentic and responsible. Its focus is long term, broad scale change, and its projects focus on shifting consumer preferences in order to create an enduring transformation of the economics of food.