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Chef’s Spotlight: Chef Tyler Wicezorek

Chef’s Spotlight: Chef Tyler Wicezorek

This month’s chef’s spotlight is dedicated to Tyler Wicezorek.  He is a personal chef and Friend in Indianapolis

In his own words. 

In 2006, I graduated Cum Laude from Sullivan University with an Associate’s degree in Culinary Arts. When I started I could barely cook a grilled cheese sandwich or scrambled eggs, but I knew I didn’t want a normal “desk job”.  I also knew I wanted to work with science. I figured at the very least I would never have to worry about going hungry being a chef (I was right!). However, it was a bit different than I expected and a whole lot harder.

Chef Tyler Wicezorek
Chef Tyler Wicezorek

Luckily, I made it through school with my raw determination and friends I had made along the way. I’ve been cooking professionally now for 13 years in kitchens throughout Louisville, including the ones at Churchill downs. Working on the riverboat, The American Queen, cruising the Ohio and Mississippi rivers was definitely my favorite job of the bunch. Before Friend That Cooks, I worked at the steakhouse in Hoosier Park.

When I’m not cooking, I’m the Vice President and co-owner of Wizard of Paws Wildlife Education Inc. along with my wife of 5 years. We are a 501(c)3 nonprofit wildlife sanctuary that takes in domestic wildlife that can’t be released back into the wild.  We use them to educate schools and the community about the delicate ecosystem all around us.  Currently, we take-in foxes and New Guinea singing dogs, but are looking to expand and care for more animals with the help of donations from the community.

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Chef’s Spotlight: Krystal Vazquez

Chef’s Spotlight: Chef Krystal Vazquez

This month’s chef’s spotlight is dedicated to Krystal Vazquez.  She is a personal chef and Friend in Kansas City.

In her own words.
Krystal Vazquez
Krystal Vazquez

If there is any universal language (apart from Math, ha) it is food. We all speak it. Food is memory, comfort, caring. Not just the thing that fuels us, but something that brings us together for all manner of celebration. The joy you can bring someone simply by fixing them a scratch-made meal is remarkable. Being a born people pleaser, I knew that in cooking I would find the perfect conduit to spread this joy to others.

Growing up I wasn’t much the Saturday morning cartoon type of kid – I would rather be watching Justin Wilson on PBS. We all remember him, that Cajun chef with his jolly catchphrase “I Guar-on-tee!”. Watching Mr. Wilson was like spending time with a beloved grandparent. I loved his gentle style of storytelling and learning about the food that moved him. With his help, I was about 10 years old when I decided that being a Chef is what I wanted to do with my life.

In high school I took every culinary, nutrition and home economics course offered. I was president of the FCCLA and traveled state wide to participate in cooking competitions. It was at this time I discovered Johnson & Wales University, alma mater of the likes of Emeril Lagasse and Tyler Florence. In 2004 I graduated Summa Cum Laude with my Associates in Culinary Arts from the Norfolk, VA campus. Several years later after marrying my high school sweetheart and starting my family, I graduated again from Johnson & Wales with my Bachelor’s in Food-Service Operations and Culinary Management.

My career has been spread across prestigious country clubs (The Country Club of Virginia and Pinehurst to name a few). I have been a sous chef in private catering establishments and at upscale senior living communities, which have given me experience not only in event work and fine dining but also therapeutic diets. Joining Friend that Cooks over a year ago has by far been the most gratifying career move I’ve made to date. I’m able to continue my dreams of sharing joy while being able to spend more time with my family. The best of both worlds!

In my free time I also spend time with my goofy bulldogs, I enjoy painting and interior decorating. I’m also fond of the music scene in Kansas City and am always game for a live show. Having the Royals and the Chiefs in the same town is fantastic and I love going to games when I get the chance.

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Chef’s Spotlight: Chef Jacob Gordon Wright

Meet our March Chef’s Spotlight: Chef Jacob Gordon Wright!

Chef Jacob prepping for a weekly meal prep client.

Chef Jacob Gordon Wright was born and raised in the rural town of Lawson, Missouri, forty miles north of Downtown Kansas City.  In high school, his focus was chemistry and playing tuba with no set career goals.  After high school, he was introduced to the culinary program at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, KS.  Since day one, he fell in love with the culinary arts and soon realized his passion for preparing really great food.

Jacob has always felt strongly that he wanted to experience everything the hospitality industry has to offer.  He has worked in many different types of food service operations, from hospitals and hotels to catering and country clubs, absorbing all he can at every location.  In fall of 2013, Jacob earned his chef certification through the American Culinary Federation, and two Associate Degrees in Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts with an emphasis in dietary management.

Creating food is his art, but Jacob wanted to do more for others too.  Teaching soon became his next goal.  Just over one year ago, Jacob joined the Friend That Cooks family of personal chefs.  It has been an incredible stepping stone for him to move from behind the line in restaurants to helping families improve their quality of life and educate them on basic nutrition that the general public lacks.  At the end of the day, Jacob does not cook only to fill stomachs and nourish minds; he cooks to bring happiness into everyone’s life.  Being able to connect with his clients and their families, and to see first-hand how the food he prepares directly improves their lives, is such an important part to loving what he does.

When he is not cooking, Jacob enjoys spending his free time with family and friends, wood working and being outdoors.  He especially likes foraging and camping in the spring.  In the winter months, when he is stuck indoors, he likes playing video games and experimenting with new recipes.

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Chef’s Spotlight: Chef Jonelle Luchsinger

This month’s Chef’s Spotlight: Meet Chef Jonelle!

Chef Jonelle Luchsinger
Chef Jonelle Luchsinger

Raised in Anchorage, Alaska and Upstate NY, Chef Jonelle began her informal culinary training at a 100-year-old restaurant on one of The Finger Lakes. She quickly fell in love with cooking and decided to continue her education at Johnson & Wales University.  She graduated in 2007 with an associate’s degree.

Eager to practice her skills and further her education through experience, she worked for a variety of restaurants ranging in Middle Eastern, Modern American and Italian cuisines. She took pride in starting from the bottom, working her way up each station, absorbing everything she could along the way.

An opening in the in-house bakery of Rosalies Cucina, where she worked on the line, led to a full-time head baker position and a new love for bread and pastries. She would later go on to work under Maurizio Negrini, of Izzio’s, learning the art of Artisan Italian Bread.

Restaurant and bakery industries can be rough. They generally require working long hours on your feet during nights, weekends and holidays. In return, the pay is low, the benefits are few and the turnover is high causing for stressful working conditions. Even in the best managed restaurants, it’s hard to find a work/life balance while working opposite schedules as the rest of society. The high demands paired with few rewards of the industry can quickly turn the passion you once had into resentment.

Five years after switching gears to Quality Assurance and Food Safety Roles, she found herself once again on her feet, in her kitchen most nights and weekends. This time cooking not only because she wanted to, but because she had to.  An artist needs a creative outlet and a chef needs to cook!

Chef Jonelle is currently one year into her dream job at Friend that Cooks!  She is able to spend her days cooking; doing what she loves all while having endless creative freedom, a desirable schedule, a great management team supporting her, and amazing clients to cook for! Chef Jonelle currently lives in a north suburb of Denver.  She likes to grow her own vegetables and is planning her wedding that will take place later this year.

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Chef’s Spotlight: Nikki Murillo

Chef Nikki Murillo

This month’s chef’s spotlight comes from our Chicago market. She has been with Friend That Cooks for just over a year after making a career change to pursue her passion for food. Meet Nikki!

In her own words.

Growing up in an Italian household, food has always been an important part of my life.  I used to watch and cook with my grandma, and that is what inspired me to become a cook. Ever since I can remember, food has been my passion. I honestly never thought that cooking would be my career. After several years of schooling in various majors, and never really feeling happy or satisfied with what I was doing, I decided to go to culinary school. While working overnights as an ER Tech, I attended Kendall College and graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in Culinary Arts. I went on to work mostly in corporate catering on a very large scale. I’ve worked for companies such as Google, Yahoo, Uber, Pinterest and Walt Disney World and eventually on to Friend that Cooks.

I wouldn’t trade what I do for anything in the world.  Food is my passion. It brings people together, makes people happy, and gives us the nourishment that we need. I’m happy that I can provide that for people. Whenever I’m not cooking, I love going out to eat in Chicago, one of the greatest food cities in the world! I also love traveling and exploring new places!

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Chef’s Spotlight- Elizabeth Armstrong

 

This month’s Chef’s Spotlight features our new admin and office assistant, Elizabeth Armstrong.  Elizabeth was born and raised in Olathe, Kansas. She graduated from Olathe South High School in 2006 and went on to receive a Bachelor’s in Mass Media Advertising with a minor in fine arts from Washburn University in 2013.  Elizabeth spent a period of time designing websites and teaching drawing classes to elementary school kids.  She has also worked in the service industry for 14 years.

Elizabeth has a passion for all kinds of art and helping others. Staying creative is an ongoing outlet for her. She enjoys going to art exhibits, being out in nature, spending time with her niece, going to concerts and binge watching Netflix.

WELCOME ELIZABETH!  Not technically a chef, but definitely an important addition to our Friend That Cooks family, Elizabeth started with us in early May.  She works in our new headquarters office in Shawnee as our office assistant, website tamer and social media guru.  Check out her work on our Facebook and other social media platforms.

 

 

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Chef Spotlight – Nate Lane

Nate Lane FTC
Chef Nate Lane of Friend That Cooks

Chef Spotlight – Nate Lane

This month’s Chef Spotlight features one of our Kansas City chefs. Nate joined Friend That Cooks almost a year and a half ago and has really enjoyed working with the company. He started his education at Kansas State University with the goal of obtaining a degree in Dietetics. However, he soon realized he would rather work with food directly and transferred to Johnson County Community College for their renowned Culinary program. Shortly after, he obtained his Sous Chef Certification and began working for the Indian Hills Country Club. Since then, he has also worked as a Sous Chef at Garmin, and as a Storeroom Manager for the Art Institutes International of Kansas City.

New restaurants are always being added to his list of places to dine in order to keep an open palate and update his menu ideas. A few of his favorites include the Harvest at Renee Kelly’s, ABC Cafe, and El Salvadoreno. 

Nate enjoys supporting the KC Chiefs and Royals, playing frisbee golf, and spending time with friends and family. He looks forward to another year working with the FTC family. He lives in Lenexa with his wife and young daughter.

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Chef Spotlight | Jillian Mahl

In out Chef Spotlight this month

…we introduce you to Jillian Mahl, a Friend That Cooks personal chef servicing clients in Des Moines, IA.

jillian bio pic
Jillian Mahl, Friend That Cooks personal chef in Des Miones, IA

Chef Jillian Mahl has been cooking professionally for 13 years.  She started out, as all good chefs do, at the bottom of the proverbial food chain in a fine dining restaurant in Omaha,NE and worked her way up from there. She graduated top of her class in Culinary Arts at the International Culinary Center, New York City in 2010 and went on to work in several NYC restaurants such as Restaurant Allegretti and Bergdorf Goodman.

She returned to the Midwest after several years on the coast to pursue a personal business venture.  In 2015, she joined the FTC family in Omaha, NE.  She now cooks for her clients in Des Moines, Iowa.

When she isn’t working, Jillian enjoys playing with anything involving yarn and needles, reading about all sorts of real and fictional things, practicing Tae Kwon Do and yoga, and visiting with her gentleman friend.

Watch our Chef Spotlight every month to learn about another Friend That Cooks personal chef. Visit www.friendthatcooks.com to learn more about weekly meal prep from Friend That Cooks.

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Chef Spotlight | Pha Le

pha le
Pha Le, Friend That Cooks Personal Chef in Chicago

In our Chef Spotlight this month

…we introduce you to Pha Le, a Friend That Cooks personal chef servicing clients in Chicago, IL.

Pha Le was born in Vietnam and grew up in Nebraska, Texas, and now resides in Chicago, IL. After graduating from high school in Houston, Texas, she decided to go straight to culinary school. Wanting to stay close to home, she attended the Art Institute of Houston.

While attending culinary school, she did her internship at St. Regis Hotel in Houston, Texas and stayed after earning her degree to further her understanding of hospitality.

Her culinary background in Houston includes Haven Restaurant, which was the 1st certified “Green” restaurant that she helped open for Randy Evans, (formerly Brennan’s & Commander’s Palace, Louisiana). She also helped open Hendricks Deli & Grill and later became the sous chef before moving to Chicago to further her culinary repertoire.

With Haven being such a “green” restaurant, vegetables and herbs were grown and harvested on site. She was able to learn and understand farm to table dining and the true meaning of “cook what you can grow”. This inspired her to learn and mix finesse from fine dining and local ingredients while still maintaining integrity and utilizing each ingredient to its full potential. That kick started her decision to move to Chicago where there’s so much opportunity and back to her midwestern roots.

While in Chicago she worked at Paul Kahan’s Blackbird restaurant as a line cook before leaving to work at the legendary Pump Room conceptualized by Jean-George Vongerichten at The Public Hotel as a Sous Chef. During both times, she was able to learn more about Midwestern ingredients, farmers, and local purveyors. She was able to establish a rapport and push their products and businesses and the knowledge of farm to fork.

Farm to fork really cemented when she left the Pump Room and went to work for Nicole Pederson at Found Restaurant as her Executive Sous Chef. During her 3-year duration, there were multiple field trips for back-of-house and front-of-house employees to farms to learn about where the products came from. She enjoyed making last minute specials based on ingredient availability, changed the menu every two to three months based on seasonality, and worked with local purveyors to see the smile on their faces when a restaurant supported their life’s work.

Pha continues her passion for using local, fresh and seasonal ingredients with her menus for her Friend That Cooks clients. She has been with FTC since October of 2015.

Watch our Chef Spotlight every month to learn about another Friend That Cooks personal chef. Visit www.friendthatcooks.com to learn more about weekly meal prep from Friend That Cooks.