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

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.

“Being involved in a culinary arts program in high school was an eye-opening experience,” she explained. “I’m from a community that is focused on finding a job immediately after high school. But much of that focus is more about finding a job, rather than finding a job that you are passionate about. Culinary Futures gave me the opportunity to find my passion.”

In 2001, as a senior, she received the Culinary Futures scholarship, for a full ride to college. Soon after beginning the culinary arts program at Lexington College, circumstances brought her back home where she enrolled in community college. This is where she fully realized her passion for something beyond culinary arts. “I found a desire to make a difference in people’s lives, and that led me to transition from the kitchen to the front of the house, and to pursue a degree in Hospitality Management.” She adds, “As much as I loved the food aspect of the culinary focus, I found most happiness and fulfillment in the front of the house, dealing with people.”

Like so many other Culinary Futures Scholarship winners, Mariely credits the program as something that provided her the exposure to a future she might not have otherwise dreamed about. Currently, Mariely serves as the food and beverage operations manager for Sheraton Grand Chicago. “Today, my focus is on changing someone’s moment,” she explained. “After all, people don’t always remember what you said, but they do remember how you made them feel.” She adds, “While I no longer focus on the culinary arts, there is no doubt that the Culinary Futures scholarship not only opened doors to opportunities but to my passion.”

In addition to opening up the possibilities for a career after college, Mariely is also grateful for the Culinary Futures program for making her part of the ‘family.’ As she tells us, even after she graduated, she never left her Culinary Futures family. “Today, working with Kenneth and other Culinary Futures alums at No Matter What is special as they’ve seen me grow up as part of the Culinary Futures family. Now we continue to work together ensuring that we are doing the same thing for students that others did for us.”