Successes

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.


Play

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."

After graduating the high school program in 2018, Easley didn't head to college immediately. Instead, he focused on finding ways to further pay college expenses beyond the scholarship. During that journey, he enlisted in the Marine Corps, serving for a short time period until the end of February 2019, when he returned home to Chicago, where he continued to work various jobs so he could move forward to studying culinary. 

One day as he was out and about in Chicago, he ran into Nicola Copeland, who had been teh C-CAP Chicago Program Coordinator while Easley was in the CTE program, "and that made me want to go back to culinary school even more," he says. "Nicola was a big reason why I didn't give up during my (high school) competition season, and seeing her sparked a new fire in me. She impressed in me to not only be patient but to also push for what I wanted and need."

That fire to succeed eventually led him to pursue his dreams in Vermot at the New England Culinary Institute. "Just like I made my decision for high school, I wanted to shoot as far as I could, away from what I knew here in Chicago. While in Vermont, I learned that I love the community that comes from working with good genuine people that share my passion."

After receiving his Associate Degree in Culinary Arts, he has held several different jobs. "My most fun job experience was at a Dog Daycare simply because the dogs were sweet," he explains, adding, "Beyond that I've had the opportunity to shine as an Expediter, Bartender, Sous Chef and even Teacher Assistant in a culinary setting. With every new or recurring role I play, I learn something new each time." Currently working as the Team Leader at Jenny's Blended Ice Cream, Avery is quick to point out that "Every kitchen is a classroom, and I am confident that life will take me where I need to go."

In addition to being a constant learner, Easley also considers himself a mentor. "I love returning to the Culinary Future event. It's like a home away from home," he says. "It is a great reminder of those who helped me get to where I am today. And at the same time, I hope that I can help or inspire another. My cup is overflowing, and I hope to give someone else a part of that overflow."