Since 2008, the Culinary Futures program has presented numerous scholarships to support students in their career path. Here are a few of their success stories.


Mariely Santisteban Shares Her Culinary Futures Experience

Story Spotlights

"I love spending time in the kitchen," explains Avery Easley, 2018 Culinary Futres scholarship recipient. "It's a place where I can continually learn about my passion for cooking, and to share that passion with others."

Easley's passion for cooking began during his childhood. As one of eight children, Easley points to the one-on-one time he spent in the kitchen with his mother. "The kitchen is where we would spend time together talking," he explains. "I would ask her about what she was cooking, or how to make something, and she would teach me," recalling making Jambalaya, Collard Greens or Spaghetti often when they cooked together. 

He admits that he isn't "a classroom kind of guy", which is why Easley enjoys being in the kitchen learning. "So, when the opportunity came to prticipate in a culinary summer camp [as part of the Career and Technical Information (CTE) program with the Chicago Public Schools], I decided to explore the possibilities. That culinary summer camp experience led him to participate in the CTE program outside of his school district " to see new parts of Chicago and braoden my horizons for opportunity."

He recalls how amazing he felt when he began to experience cooking. "In my head, I thought 'Wow, I could be making this at home,' or 'What if I did something different to this recipe.' I'm genuinely hospitable and creative so it felt comfortable and not so much of a job. After all, food brings people together, and makes the saddest of us all feel warm and happy."

Kenneth Griffin has always been reaching for the stars. As a child, he had dreams of being an astronaut. Today, he is a chef, police officer, mentor, and successful entrepreneur who is constantly focused on creating opportunities in the community as a way forward in life. 

While he has always enjoyed cooking, often spending time in the kitchen with his mom, he was unaware of how much importance cooking would have in shaping his future. As a high school student in the Chicago Public School system, Griffin learned the importance of taking advantage of an opportunity to help him reach for the stars and decided to enroll in the culinary arts and hospitality program at school. It was there that his mentor Chef Bryant recognized his talent for cooking, and inspired him to pursue a career in culinary arts. 

Back when Mariely Santisteban was a sophomore in a Chicago high school, she was exposed to the Chicago Culinary Arts Program, and almost immediately knew that this was an opportunity to build a future for herself, and her young son.

During her sophomore year at Neal F. Simeon Career Academy, a vocational high school on the South Side of Chicago, Danielle (Dani) Thomas’ grandfather, who had worked at the Academy, suggested she apply to the culinary arts program. Intrigued by his suggestion, and also inspired by her “Granny’ who loved to cook, Thomas applied for the program.