Dreams can & do come true...

After investing 10+ years in a human resources career, I left the corporate world and I'm no longer looking back. I thought about going back for the sheer comfort of having the benefits of working for a corporation once again, but I know there is something bigger waiting for me. This time, I'm not going to pass up the opportunity to do what I truly want to do. I've spent the past couple of years skipping over some great opportunities and I'm not getting any younger. I have a dream... and it's a dream that's slowly coming to reality. It's about time...

I'm happy and look forward to going back to school next month to obtain my professional chef certificate. It's a fairly short culinary program which I'm hoping to complete in a year or year and a half. The program provides me with advanced level culinary skills. I'll learn advanced cooking techniques for meat, poultry, seafood and breakfast cookery as well as basic baking techniques. My courses emphasize nutrition, sanitation and safety, and purchasing and inventory management. Once I complete the program, I'll meet the American Culinary Federation (ACF) initial certification and re-certification requirements for the Sanitation, Nutrition and Supervision courses in the ACF Chefs Certification program. EEK! I'm so, so thrilled to *finally* do this.

Granted I have several years of non-professional, casual kitchen experience under my belt. However having the opportunity to learn and apply what I know in a structured setting for a professional certificate is what I've wanted for so long. I've already got my classes scheduled and couldn't be more excited! It's a 9 credit hour semester for me this fall based on the schedule I could maintain:

- Culinary Principles I
- ServSafe: Food Service Sanitation
- Nutrition

So what are my long term goals for having a professional chef certificate? It seems that it's imperative to have some kind of plan with how you'll apply your culinary degree/certificate otherwise it'll just go to waste. That's where my ultimate goal is...

I've been organizing/managing my culinary group, What's Cookin, Chicago for over three years now. We've built it up to over 1700+ members and it continues to grow every day. Additionally, I've also acquired a wine group within the past year and have named it, What's Pouring, Chicago. My wine group has over 2,000+ members, also growing every day. I'm currently in the midst of transitioning these online culinary groups, What's Cookin, Chicago? and What's Pouring, Chicago?, into a recreational cooking school and social venue for culinary focused events. I want to continue doing what I have been doing the past 3 years online, only now in a public, physical location. I'll provide clients and guests hands-on/interactive cooking classes, educational food lectures and discussions, as well as wine classes, themed cooking parties, culinary food tours around the city and suburbs and even private catering/private chef services. I'm so incredibly excited and thrilled that everything I've been hoping for is actually happening and becoming a reality. Here are pictures of our kitchens and event space!

Catering Kitchen

Pastry Kitchen

South side of event space

North side of event space with loft

The kitchens are in the Fulton River District, just northwest of the Loop. We'll be using the facilities of Kitchen Chicago to host events, specific to my cooking and baking classes, as well as wine events. In fact, before my school classes officially start next month, I'll be resuming my culinary events in Chicago again after my slight maternity leave. Now that I've secured a commercial kitchen to work in and event space to entertain in, I'm busy structuring the cooking classes and culinary events I'm hosting for August and September. I can't wait to get back into the kitchen! So don't be surprised to see many more culinary events highlighted here in my blog, along with recipes to share. I'll also be sharing my experience of culinary school as well so stay tuned!

I do encourage readers who are on Facebook to follow What's Cookin, Chicago online! Connect with us on Facebook to...
  • Find out about upcoming What's Cookin, Chicago/What's Pouring, Chicago events
  • Connect with other food & wine enthusiasts in, around and beyond Chicagoland
  • Participate in discussions and food & wine related giveaways - a big one is in store!
  • View recipes, photos, entertaining tips & tricks, party ideas, and more...
  • Connect with us on Facebook today!


  1. Awesome Joelen!! It's about time! And I'm sure you could teach them a thing or two!

  2. Awesome! I am so excited about this.

  3. How absolutely wonderful! Congratulations!

  4. Congrats, congrats, congrats! It is wonderful for you. I'm sure you going are going to be happy pursuing this.

  5. Congratulations, Joelen! The space is simply gorgeous.

  6. CONGRATS!!! Yet another reason for me to return to Chicago soon (I HAVE to see that garden you toured, can't stop thinking about it!) I am so excited for you, been following your blog since 2007 and am so happy you are moving forward with your dreams!

  7. Congratulations!!
    I am now a fan on your FB page.
    I can not wait to hear about the school!!

  8. How exciting for you Joelen! All the best to you in your new adventure.

  9. Joelen,
    Congratulations! I am so thrilled and happy for you! Blessings to your plans, I wish I lived in Chicago to be able to take part in some of your offerings!

  10. I didn't know you had a baby.Congrads! what will baby do when you take on all of this? Congrads again!!!!

  11. Go you!!! I've been following you since "meeting" you on the Cooking board of

    And while I'm not an active commenter I wanted to let you know that your recipes and blog are what inspired me to start my own cooking blog. I love your love of food and your passion and drive to succeed in what you love.

    I also wanted to send a congrats over on the birth of your beautiful baby!

  12. well to peter's ass with everything i say go for it girl! at the end of the day it's your happiness and fulfillment at stake. i am so happy for you. you go go sago!

  13. Congratulations! How exciting for you :)

  14. well done! i'm so happy for you. i hope one day i can liberate myself from the corporate/legal world i'm trapped in here in the Philippines and then do what i have always dreamed of doing... cooking and running my own restaurant :) congratulations!

  15. Congratulations! That is so awesome that your dreams are being realized and put to life! You deserve it! That space is amazing too and the concept is such a great idea!