From Our Chefs

Chef Liz Pelc: Her Culinary Journey

This should be a story about mobility. About a chef grinding their way up the ladder in a company and reaping the reward of a new title, “better” paycheck, new found respect and increased bragging rights.

But… this is not that story.

Photo of Liz

This is a story about Liz. A story about her passions, her dreams and her journey.

Has she worked her way to a different position? Yes. But it goes so much deeper than that.

Liz Pelc, Account Manager here at College Chefs started her culinary journey studying nutrition at Illinois State. But, her passion to be connected with the food we consume and it’s origins weren’t exactly being covered in the home-ec style training she was receiving. She wanted to go beyond a discussion of carbs, fats and proteins and explore the extensive universe of the culinary arts. She wanted to explore the system of where our food comes from and how it affects our bodies.

The Journey

From working at Burger King to assisting in the Dining Hall kitchens, chopping fruits and veggies at 6am and experiencing the comradery on the line, she had an “aha!” moment. This is where I’m most happy!

So, she took the leap and transferred to the CIA (no not that one, the Culinary Institute of America). There, in an intensive program she dove head first into the culinary world. Not only did she fall in love with food during this time, but she also met her husband at the institute!

The program took her to the south of Italy where she learned and worked through the summer and harvest season. It was here that she really fell in love with amazing fresh ingredients and recognized how integral they are to the preparation of food.

Liz and her daughter with fresh garlic.

On the Grind

Working in some big name kitchens in Chicago, she experienced long hours, hot kitchens, general lack of female presence, outrageous personalities and missed holidays. All for the love of serving up a killer meal. These experiences that are traditionally trademark rites of passage for a chef, don’t exactly lead to the most stable, balanced lifestyle.

Living in the city, a farmer’s market was one of the few sources to get her hands on super fresh, seasonal ingredients. She knew that the products at the farmers market came from farms down state. This passion for whole food led her and her husband to move to Central Illinois!

Liz explored ventures such as working as a private chef, teaching as an adjunct culinary professor, serving the thousands of festival goers at Lollapalooza and even started an airstream food trailer. In the midst of assessing her future and questioning how her passion for food and desire to have a family would balance out, she came across an ad for a position at College Chefs. The hours, paid holidays and weekends off were unheard of- she almost didn’t believe it. But, she submitted her resume anyway.

Time at College Chefs

Her real goal at this time was life balance and what she found is what she called a “dream job” in a niche she didn’t know existed. Working in Chi Omega at Illinois State, she experienced the creative freedom that drew her to the field in the first place. It also offered an opportunity to interact with the members she was serving in real time! A big change from her experience in restaurants where she was usually holed up in the back of house. This connection further drove her passion.

Always ambitious, she worked up from a Chef to Special Events Coordinator, a position that would allow her more flexibility to care for her children! Today, she’s managing accounts for us all across the country. She now has a one year old, Hannah, and a four year old, Sophia. Her backyard is a bountiful garden described as a “labor of love.” This allows her to casually teach her kids where their food comes from. “It’s so fun to see the kids running around with tomatoes and cucumbers in their mouths.”

Liz's daughter cooking

What’s next for Liz? She may try her hand at bee keeping! For now, she’s experimenting with organic pesticides to keep the bugs out of the garden and enjoying time with her family. She's an amazing addition to the College Chefs family and we’re grateful to have her as part of our team.

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