Thank you for visiting my blog and taking some time to learn more about me. I’m Joelen (pronounced, Jo-Ellen) and I’m an avid food enthusiast who has a deep passion for cooking, baking, learning and sharing anything related to the culinary arts and culinary industry. This blog captures my adventures in and out of the kitchen, most of which involves the culinary events I host for my social cooking group, What’s Cookin, Chicago.

Chicago is a city that is rich with diversity and cuisine and I definitely want to take advantage of it. … as I’m sure many others do too. Even those who aren’t in Chicago often get inspired to discover what tasty treasures await in their corner of the world. So if you like cooking, baking and learning about the culinary experiences I have with friends and food, you’ve come to the right place. Here are some frequently asked questions which I hope will help you understand more about me and my culinary point of view, as reflected in this blog.

So who’s Joelen and what are you all about?

To start off, I grew up in the far north suburbs of Chicago and moved to Chicago to work for a large firm. I work full-time in human resources and have worked in the human resources industry for over 10 years. Shortly after moving to Chicago, I married my wonderful husband, Louis. We live in the heart of downtown Chicago and love urban living, even if it means my kitchen is pretty small. I’m an all around avid foodie who loves cooking, baking and entertaining… and with the amount that I do every week, it often feels like my culinary life is another full time job on it’s own. However, I have a genuine passion for anything food related that I continue to do it without hesitation.

When and why did you start blogging?

I started blogging in January 2007. The idea was actually my husband’s and he encouraged me to start writing down my recipes after we got married. Blogging first started out as a hobby, but now after a couple of years, it’s become a major part of my life. Some folks scrapbook, make home videos or keep photo albums to capture special moments in their life, while I blog to not only have memories documented but to also share them and impart knowledge with others. Food is my focus on my blog simply because everyone must eat and everyone has some kind of relationship with food. I love learning about those relationships and food is one thing that can bring people together. I’ve come a long way, as seen in my early blog posts. This blog will continue to grow and evolve, just as my cooking/baking skills do along with the experiences I have with food.

Do you work professionally in the food industry?

I’m not classically or formally trained in the culinary arts but I did grow up in the kitchen at a very young age, thanks to my parents who were caterers. They’ve since retired, but through them I picked up the passion for cooking, baking & entertaining. After years of helping and working my way around the kitchen throughout childhood and adolescence, cooking became second nature. Now as an adult, I’m intrigued by all things food related and I love sharing my “culinary adventures” both locally and virtually.

What is your culinary point of view?

I don’t know how to really categorize it… but I’d like to think it’s global or at least it’s an open viewpoint when it comes to food and culture. Growing up I ate strictly ethnic Filipino and Asian foods. My mom cooked a majority of the time and only made dishes using whole foods – fresh meats, vegetables, rice, Asian ingredients. It wasn’t until high when I really ate other foods outside of Filipino and Asian cuisine. When I realized there were so many different kinds of foods from other cultures out there for me to try, I was hooked. It allowed me to get a taste of other cultures and it was a way for me to learn about them through food. Now I love learning, teaching and sharing how food and culture are intertwined, and challenging others to cook ethnic cuisines they may not have otherwise.

When and how did What’s Cookin, Chicago start?

What’s Cookin, Chicago is a social group I created through a social networking site called, Meetup.com. I created this group back in March of 2007 because oddly, there wasn’t any similar active groups in Chicago at the time. There were foodie groups, but events were random and not consistent. Aside from that, cooking and baking classes in the area didn’t allow much time and/or hands-on interaction at an affordable price. As a result, I wanted a culinary interest group that would consistently foster learning in and out of the kitchen, coupled with the opportunity to improve my own cooking and baking skills with other everyday folks like me.

What’s Cookin, Chicago is a group I’m very proud of because in just over two years, we have done so many things and come so far. Did you know…

  • What’s Cookin Chicago currently ranks as the 5th largest out of 486 Cooking & Recipes meetup groups worldwide with over 1,400 members?
  • What’s Cookin Chicago currently ranks as the #1 most active Cooking & Recipes meetup groups worldwide?

Through What’s Cookin, Chicago, I encourage others to participate and engage others in culinary events. These culinary events are captured here on my blog, where I share our food related experiences with recipes, pictures and some culinary information I find interesting and helpful.

What kind of culinary events does your group, What’s Cookin, Chicago participate in? Can I read about them here in your blog?

You can find descriptions of our various monthly events HERE. Many of the events are here in my blog, especially those that are consistently done each month. I have a page of monthly Culinary Adventures which includes links to events I’ve hosted in the past. When it comes to offering culinary events, I realize everyone looks at food differently and has varying needs that food satisfies. I strive to offer culinary events that reach out to everyone in some way, shape or form. Events I offer also have an emphasis on teaching and learning from others. There’s always something to learn and it’s even better when food is involved.

What kinds of recipes do you have in your blog and are they geared to a specific skill level?

When creating culinary events for What’s Cookin, Chicago, I take into consideration that not everyone has the same skill level or even the same interest in the kitchen. I like to offer events that challenge those who want to be challenged, regardless of skill level. The same applies to my blog, where you will find recipes that run the gamut from kid-friendly recipes, to recipes using convenience items to recipes that involve more exotic and hard to find ingredients as well as recipes that are complex and require some technical skill… including everything in between. To make finding recipes easier, I have a Recipe Index with links to dishes based on different categories… or you can use the search function in my blog.

What kind of camera do you use for your photos?

I’ve come a long, long way with my photos which is pretty obvious if you compare my photos from the beginning to where they are now. My first digital camera I ever had and purchased for my blog was a Sony Cybershot DSCW50 6MP, back in January 2007. Unfortunately, it was dropped and broken while on vacation in December 2008. As a result, I ended up buying a Sony Cybershot DSCW120 7MP as a replacement, which I used up until August 2009. My husband treated me with a long awaited digital SLR camera, a Nikon D60 10.2MP DSLR, which I started using in September 2009. I have a few friends who are professional photographers that are hardcore Nikon fans who have taken the time to school me on how to use the camera, along with a Nikon SB-600 Speedlight I purchased to get decent lighting if natural light wasn’t possible. Occasionally, I’ll also use a tripod to capture shots and 2 Lowel EGO Tabletop Light Units to help with lighting… but I prefer handling the camera and taking shots wherever it feels comfortable and looks good. I’m still learning how to take better digital photos and hopefully my photos will continue to improve over time.

Last question – How do you juggle everything you do?

I get asked this question a lot! It may seem like I probably don’t have enough time to sleep between my full time job and organizing/managing What’s Cookin, Chicago, but when you have a genuine passion and truly love what you do, you will find a way to achieve your goals. It took quite a bit of practice to balance my corporate work, culinary happenings, social and family life… but now I’ve got my groove where I can comfortably dedicate time to all the things important to me. I’m happy to be able to enjoy my life to the fullest and hope it continues!

Thanks again for visiting my blog and I hope you visit again soon to see what culinary adventures I’m having in my corner of the world!

Some Legal Information to Note:
Creative Commons License

Recipes, photographs and text on ItsJoelen.com by Joelen’s Culinary Adventures and What’s Cookin, Chicago is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Attribution: You must attribute the work in the manner specified by me (author/licensor), but not in any way suggests that I endorse you or your use of my work.

Non-Commercial: You’re prohibited from using my work (photographs, text, and recipes) for commercial purposes.

No Derivative Works: You may not alter, transform my work.

  • For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of my work. The best way to do this is with a link back to this web page.
  • Any of the above conditions can be waived if you get permission from me (the copyright holder).

One Response

  1. I hate to bother you, I know you must be crazy busy, however, I am writing an article on the difference between Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Thai food. Can you give me any good sources? I would appreciate it greatly.

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