Meet Joelen

I love lists! I'm that person who always has a list on hand - whether it's an e-note on my phone app, scribbled on a napkin stuffed in my wallet, a Google Doc easily accessible on my laptop or stacked Post-It notes of multiple lists tucked into my work bag. Lists help me organize my thoughts, hold me accountable for tasks that need to get done, and I love the satisfaction of seeing a sense of progress with each item I can cross off. Since I have a list for everything, it seems the best way to share a little bit about me is through a list....but first, some introductions!

This is me, Joelen - a busy mom/wife/daughter that juggles work/family/faith while keeping my sanity and hopefully catching some sleep when I can. I started this blog back in January 2007 as a way to jot down recipes to share them with friends, note the different restaurants I visited, and write about how much food has influenced my life.

My parents had a catering business and as a child, I learned the ins and out of the culinary industry through them. I also realized how food has this amazing way of bringing people together. This realization lead me to the culinary arts, and soon I was an executive chef for a restaurant in Chicago. I left the restaurant industry to focus on raising a family but knew I needed to maintain my ties to the foodie community. What's Cookin, Chicago has been that platform to relate to others...

Top 5 Reasons Why What's Cookin Chicago Was Created

1. Recipes
Recipes are the main topic here on the site and although I am a formally trained chef, I cook and bake with convenience in mind. Outside of What's Cookin, Chicago, I work full-time in project management as a certified & licensed specialty pharmacy technician for a biopharmaceutical firm. This means I have the same struggles of feeding my family after a long day, while keeping meals healthy and appealing for slightly picky eaters.

2. Entertaining Ideas
When I’m not working, I love a good party! In my social circles, I’m the first one to host a party and I chalk this up to how I helped my parents organize and execute events for their catering business. To me, entertaining is more about the food than it is decor or ambiance than anything else. My entertaining posts will provide you some creative ways to throw a party with a culinary theme in mind.

3. Ethnic Cuisines
Growing up, I was accustomed to eating Asian cuisine (Filipino, more than anything else). As I got older, I had more exposure to other cuisines and something clicked. I became so attracted to learning about all these other cultures through their delicious cuisines that were new to my palate. My love of cultures is captured here through my attempts to make authentic recipes and explore ethnic neighborhoods. What’s Cookin Chicago will take you through a colorful journey of cultures through food, which I feel is the most fun way of learning.

4. Culinary Travel Notes
We’re fortunate to live in the Midwest where there is so much to explore within 1-5 hours drive. My husband and I are avid travelers, where we enjoy exploring new places each month.We’ve also done our share of domestic and international travels as well when our work schedules allow. Here, you’ll find our notes on places we’ve been, attractions/activities to consider, and restaurants to check out from our foodie perspectives. So if you need a reason to have a getaway, we have plenty!

5. Restaurant Reviews
Chicago’s restaurant scene has been known to have every type of food represented in some way. I’m the type of diner that is drawn to approachable meals that I could potentially create in my own kitchen. So dining at a restaurant also serves as a source of inspiration for creating recipes. I’ve captured some of my restaurant visits to share my reviews on the site in case you’re looking for a new place to check out if you’re local or visiting the Chicagoland area.

What's Cookin Chicago is more than a food blog. In a world where everyone seems to be more comfortable having an online presence and hiding behind a screen, I am passionate about having people come together physically through culinary events such as hands-on interactive cooking classes, kitchen parties, food tours, themed potlucks and other events. Check out my event calendar for things we're up to. Better yet, let's have some culinary adventures together - read some of the reviews of those that did!

For those that cannot join us in person, I extend those experiences virtually, in hopes it inspires others to build a sense of community through food. So if you're looking for recipes, entertaining ideas, ethnic cuisines, culinary travel notes, or area restaurant reviews, I've got you covered!

Sharing this culinary adventure with me are the loves of my life...

This is my son, Joel - inquisitive extrovert, passionate gamer, taekwondo fighter, King of Cuddles. I don't know how I feel about this 3rd grader being half a foot or so shorter than me. But this little guy is growing like a weed and eats baby carrots like a machine.

This is my husband, Patrick - fanatic sports score checker, die-hard Cubs & Manchester United fan, IT data geek, Master of Puns. He liked my "Top 10 Reasons Why I'd Be the Best Girlfriend Ever" and we've been together ever since. Now 6+ years later, we're making our own silly "Top 10 Lists". #SoulMate