Nicole: The Intersection of Passion and Pride

Nicole, an Inspiration Corporation Foodservice Training participant. Photo courtesy of Inspiration Corporation

Inspiration Corporation is a 2019 grantee in the Christopher Family Foundation’s Employment & Entrepreneurship program area. This story was contributed by Inspiration Corporation staff.

For years, Nicole worked a job that had her traveling all over the country on business, working 16 hour days and constantly being away from her family and loved ones. Then, when a family member fell ill, Nicole took several years off to provide needed medical care and support.

When her family member began to recover, Nicole prepared to go back to work. Driving through Chicago and listening to the radio, she heard an ad for Inspiration Corporation’s Foodservice Training program, and a door opened. Growing up, Nicole had always been told that food and the culinary world weren’t a “thing;” that the foodservice industry wasn’t a truly viable means of supporting yourself. But here was a place saying just the opposite.

“I came that Tuesday for the orientation and I started a couple of weeks later, and I haven’t looked back… it’s completely changed my whole life… this was the place that I need to be… it just kind of took off from there.” 

Enrolled in the Foodservice Training program, which is housed in the agency’s social enterprise restaurant, Inspiration Kitchens, Nicole quickly discovered the intersection of her passion and abilities, learning and honing the skills necessary to begin a sustainable, long-term career in the culinary world.

“There are a lot of things that I learned from Inspiration Kitchens that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I’m so happy. Coming here to IK really was a life changing experience for me.”

Following her graduation from the Foodservice Training program, Nicole decided to use the skills she learned to start her own catering company, Niki’s Urban Eats.

Now, Nicole jumps out of bed each morning to hit the local farmers market, design an entirely made-from-scratch fresh menu, and get started with her work day. Combining the fresh wholesome cooking learned from her grandma with the skills needed to work in an industrial kitchen learned in the Foodservice Training program, Nicole is now truly living her dream.

“Inspiration Kitchens enforced it that it’s ok to live your dreams, because you’re not here for a long time on this earth… they gave me the skills to make that happen… and it worked out!”

With a steadfast belief the power a good plate of food has to bring people of all races, religions, and backgrounds together, Nicole hopes to expand the impact of her catering business by starting a food truck. When asked about her plans for the food truck and the future, Nicole’s thoughts turn immediately to helping others:

“And [now] I can help other people too! Because if I can help somebody else who has this same passion, who wants to cook, I can employ them as well and help them feel the same way I do every day. That’s life. That’s living to me.” 

In between living her dream and impacting lives through food (she brought us a jerk chicken and shrimp salad with homemade Tuscan Vinaigrette to try and we still dream about it), Nicole now has time to spend with her husband, granddaughter, and dog. She hopes the Foodservice Training program can carry on helping others begin sustainable careers in the culinary industry and change their lives through food.