Headshot5 Questions with Joelen Tan, Chef, Culinary Instructor, Founder of “What’s Cookin, Chicago?,” and Dabbler based in Chicago.

Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a Chicago area private caterer and former restaurant chef behind the What’s Cookin, Chicago? website, as well as an avid food enthusiast with years of experience as a culinary instructor. I also work full-time in the pharmaceutical industry involved with specialty medications. Combining my upbringing as a child to retired caterers, my science education, and extensive experience in the culinary arts, I have a unique perspective on food. As a result, I enjoy teaching and helping others learn in the kitchen with a fun, easy, and educational approach. I especially love focusing on cuisine and culture, often teaching classes that combine both with a hands-on and interactive style for students.

When did you discover your passion?
I discovered my passion in college and post-college. The idea of entertaining and bringing people together with food came naturally as a result of my upbringing and I soon realized that it was something I can teach others to do too.

From Vietnamese street food to New Orleans style brunches, Joelen’s classes cover a wide variety of tastes!

Who inspires you? What motivates you to keep creating?
My family inspires me and keeps me motivated to keep creating. They give me reasons to bring family and friends together, often times with food involved…and those moments generate ideas that I can create for others to experience as well.

What do you like to dabble in?
When not in the kitchen, working at the specialty pharmacy, or teaching/hosting culinary classes and events, I love spending time with my husband, Patrick, and my son, Joel; hiking forest preserves; gardening; and being in the outdoors.

More than just cooking lessons, Joelen’s classes incorporate a fun, relaxed atmosphere including holiday appetizers and cocktails, Pie-apalooza, and Oktoberfest!

Tell me about some of the people you’ve met while teaching.
I’ve met numerous people while teaching – students, start-up entrepreneurs, small business owners, corporate executives, families, couples, etc. Folks from all walks of life and diverse backgrounds have graced our kitchen studio and, often times, our paths cross again outside of the kitchen. Students I’ve taught came into my life as neighbors, coworkers, friends of mutual acquaintances, and even in passing while out and about. It’s been wonderful to offer classes and form a sense of community both in and out of the kitchen!

Want to Dabble with Joelen? Click here to view her current classes!