Chef Monica Hayes
Chef Monica enjoys her role as a tastemaker of easy, healthy and delicious meals. Although she initially wanted to attend culinary school after high school, she was encouraged by her father to take a different route. She majored in speech pathology at Jackson State University and after graduation she returned home to Chicago where she began working with students at Chicago Public Schools. It was here that her passion for culinary arts was reignited. She observed that students would often come to school hungry or malnourished due to the poor food choices in their communities. She also reflected on when she felt the most joy: making Christmas cookies in the kitchen with her daughter.
Chef Monica took matters into her own hands and registered for school at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, one of the most respected food education institutions in the world. Boasting such famous graduates as Giada De Laurentiis, Chef Monica knew this was the school for her. With her daughter in tow, she took classes at night while still working full-time during the day. She honed her skills and had an initial desire to become a pastry chef. God had other plans. Combining her training as a speech pathologist and professional chef with her experience as a mother and zeal for working with students, Chef Monica launched Tasteful Manners NFP in 2009.
A cooking, nutrition and etiquette education enterprise based in Chicago, Tasteful Manners involves pre-school, elementary and high school students, along with their families, in hands-on learning about healthier food options while preparing culturally-diverse foods. To date, the organization has served more than 5,000 students and their families at 15 public schools on Chicago’s South and West sides. She also serves as a mentor and coach to high school culinary students participating in “Cooking Up Change”, a national healthy school lunch contest sponsored by Chicago-based Healthy Schools Campaign.
A celebrity chef in her own right, Chef Monica has had the pleasure of cooking fresh and savory meals for NBA MVP’s, Rap stars and politicians, including Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx. Chef Monica also has a successful meal plan catering business where she brings hearty choices to customers with her food delivery service. She also enjoys several successful partnerships with La Rabida Children’s Hospital, the Walnut Room in Macy’s and Mariano’s.
Adding author to her list of titles, Chef Monica released her first-ever cookbook: Your guide to Tasteful Manners with Love Cork Screw. The book, the brainchild of Chef Monica and vintner/Love Cork Screw owner Chrishon Lampley, explores the fun pairings of food and wine. You can purchase the book here: http://lovecorkscrew.com/love-cork-screw-cookbook/