Gail Mitchell was raised by a single mother and started to cook for her three sisters as a teenager. Today she herself is also single parent of two children, one grown, and another in high school. She has worked as a security guard and presently is a hospice nurse and full time student with a 3.64 GPA. Both of Gail’s supporting recommendations recognized her drive and leadership ability. “I have been on a long journey, but I would not change a thing. I am where I always wanted to be.” Gail wrote in her application essay. “I am now striving towards my goal of becoming a great chef and owning my own catering and event planning business. It has definitely been a long time coming!” The scholarship committee was immediately impressed by Gail’s positive, high energy personality, and her plans for her catering business are firmly grounded.
Christina Nieves is a wife and mother finishing her Washburne degree this summer. She plans to continue on to Dominican University to work on a BS in nutrition in the fall. Christina has overcome the major obstacles of having a limited food background and cancer treatment for a tumor on her vocal chord, a condition that is now in remission. Although her academic record is not strong due to her illness, Christina received a very impressive three-page recommendation from long-time staff member Rhonda Purwin, who described her as “motivated, focused, personable and intelligent.” She also commented that unlike most culinary graduates, Christina has the realistic professional goal of working as a nutritionist in a school or hospital. Nancy Rodriguez helped interview Christina and has offered to mentor her at Dominican where she is a trustee. The committee felt that the benefit of the Les Dames scholarship was extremely important in Christina’s case.
Following the goals of last year’s scholarship committee to expand the program to other qualified professional culinary schools, the committee this year has also offered two scholarships of $5,000 to:
Luminita M. Cirstea arrived in Chicago seven years ago as a green card lottery winner from Romania, speaking no English and without friends, family or connections. Today this slim, articulate woman is an American citizen and outstanding student with a 3.5 GPA at Kendall College. In her essay she wrote, “I was very lucky. I discovered that my passion was for making desserts.” What set Luminita apart from all the other candidates we interviewed is the intensity of her drive to learn and experience the most demanding pastry techniques. She has already spent a day in several of Chicago’s most sophisticated restaurants. And the weekend before our interview with her, Luminita’s dessert had helped Kendall win a “Cook with the Chefs” competition in Baltimore. The Les Dames Scholarship will relieve Luminita’s tuition costs at Kendall. After graduation this spring, she will spend the summer in Europe at several stages arranged through faculty connections and underwritten by her brother. The committee felt that Luminita is a scholarship recipient we can continue to nurture when she returns to Chicago and whose future success will enhance Les Dames’ reputation in Chicago’s hospitality industry.
Ebru Basaydin is a green card lottery winner from her native Turkey. She arrived here just after 9/11 and had to deal with job discrimination in addition to the usual hurdles of a foreign resident. She is mid-way through her degree at the Illinois Institute of Art as a full-time student with a 3.8 GPA and works part-time at an Italian restaurant. Three recommendations accompanied Ebru’s application. J. Mark Stanley, Chef Instructor at IIA summed up their appraisal of Ebru best, “Ebru brings a perfect balance of skill, intellect and personality to bear.” The committee would add that Ebru is extremely articulate, and resourceful. She alone contacted Les Dames for a scholarship application before we got the process underway this spring. Because Ebru is strongly connected to her family, she wants to return to Turkey and write a cookbook featuring healthy versions of traditional dishes. “As diabetes and heart disease run in my family, my goal is to create appealing healthy dishes with desirable nutritional values,” she wrote. Her view of food is also nuanced: “I see food as not only a material to stimulate growth and maintain life, but also a form of art.” And she thinks globally: “As a prospective chef, I understand that my responsibility is …. to support sustainable agriculture and organic products for ourselves and future generation’s sake.” The Scholarship Committee felt that Ebru can work on an international level to advance Les Dames goals and the role of women in Turkey.