A full-time, stressed out real estate agent, Vanessa Moses hated to cook. Yet somehow one day, she was inspired to try. Since then, she says, cooking has become her “outlet,” a source of “relaxation,” and finally, a creative new career path. In 2010, Moses established The Cooking Chicks meet-up group for professional women. Whether you love to cook or just love to eat, Moses says The Cooking Chicks offers something for you.
OT What inspired you to found The Cooking Chicks?
VM I run a very busy residential real estate business and property management company. I got into cooking about 4 years ago, needing to break away from my everyday professional world. I wanted a dinner club but could not get friends to commit. I thought, why not start with a group of people who just love food and want to share recipes? Cooking Chicks was born and it's changed my life.
OT What exactly is a food club?
VM A food club to The Cooking Chicks is all about creating amazing dishes and sharing our passion for food. You really just need to love to eat but we also have professional chefs in our group and artisan business owners. [We] love the diversity we've created. An important part of our take on a food club is information sharing - talking tips, tricks, and most importantly sharing family recipes that may not live on without someone making them and passing them on. While the Internet offers a lot of information, to us, human interaction is the most fulfilling.
OT Your group grew to over 700 members in its first two years, to what do you attribute the quick growth?
VM My background has always been about connecting people to the right people and right resources. I have been a networker all of my professional life so I looked to this as a more personal way to connect with others around something we all love, food. Our organic growth is grew out of the fact that we provide a strong focus on creating a variety of events and opportunities where busy, professional women can connect with others just like them. Cooking Chick events are educational, affordable, fun and also create new business opportunities.
Our Town You’re self taught. Does there come a point when a formal education is necessary?
Vanessa Moses You know that depends on how far you want to take, but I must say the best cooks I have ever been inspired by are everyday home cooks! I think if you want to learn a specific type of cooking or want to perfect a skill, the right classes can teach you a lot. The Cooking Chicks works hard to put on classes for those who want to learn practical skills, from truffle making to basic Middle Eastern. More serious cooks like myself my take that a step further. For example, I really wanted to learn french cooking and baking so I took it up a notch and booked a ticket to Paris last August and joined a cooking school for 3 weeks. These culinary immersions are well worth it.
OT You were a sponsor for Baconfest, what was that like?
VM Baconfest was amazing! I got to meet some amazing chefs, and [the event] allowed us to get some great Chicago-based exposure.
OT In addition to running the group, you also teach cooking classes and cater. What goes into organizing a successful cooking class?
VM Our classes are structured in a few different ways. Sometimes I will teach a class, for example, June 16th, I am doing a "Farmer and The Chef" class. It's a Cooking Chicks farm to table event where we dive into the Green City Market, get our ingredients and head back to a kitchen nearby to cook up an amazing meal. We also bring on other chefs, artisan food producers and farmers to collaborate with other cooking schools for classes and food educations. We like variety, practical-skill based classes for the everyday busy professional.
OT What food says “Chicago” to you?
VM Beer and Burgers, hands down - A classic, after work, late night, Sunday Funday, anytime, Chi-town treat!
A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for a number of web sites and print publications. Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," (Soft Skull press) is available for pre-order here. She is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
IMPORTANT: the official Our Town site doesn't support comments. Join in the conversation by following facebook.com/OurTownBlog.ChicagoSunTimes and Sarah on Twitter: @SarahTerez and Facebook.