My son graduated from culinary school this weekend in a lovely ceremony celebrating the hard work, internships and learning required to earn the title “Chef.”  We are very proud and excited to follow his future career choices in this wide-open, in-demand field.

With opportunities that range from restaurant to corporate to small business to health and wellness, we are constantly surprised at how many people assume he aspires to be on television.  The Food Network, “Chopped,” the “Next Iron Chef.”  Even relatives steer most conversations about his education to whatever they last saw on “The Chew.”

Not only is fame and fortune the presumptive career goal in our media-driven culture, but competition is as well.  My son is passionate about food with the demeanor and lens of an artist, looking to create. Yet people expect that he aspires to win food challenges on reality tv.

So it was with an incredible sense of appreciation and admiration that I took in what Jeff Mauro had to say about his career at last week’s Wednesday Journal Conversations series, co-hosted by Dominican University.  Our hometown celebrity chef grew up here, lives here, went to school at OPRF and has succeeded in the world of televised cooking. Jeff was funny, kind, affable and interesting. He engaged the audience from the get-go and had us hanging on every word.

Here’s what he shared:  Jeff is a trained performer. He did theatre at OPRF, was voted class clown, studied at Second City, earned a degree in television and radio at Bradley University, acted after college, appeared as Tony in “Tony and Tina’s Wedding,” moved to LA to try and “make it” and THEN went to culinary school.  Not to take away his legitimate skills in the kitchen – but Jeff chose culinary later in life as an avenue to performance, not the other way around.

Jeff Mauro has been on “Chopped”  four times. Never say never, but don’t expect to see my son on “Chopped” any time soon.   Goals and passion vary by person, regardless of training.  Successful business people identify their passion early and parlay that passion into success, acquiring needed training along the way.

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Cathy Yen

Cathy Yen is the Executive Director of the Oak Park River Forest Chamber of Commerce.  She has lived in Oak Park for 21 years and done business locally, first as a retailer and then as a small business...