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Jennifer McDermott

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FINALIST PROFILE

JENNIFER McDERMOTT

Age: 24

Occupation: Line cook

Birthplace: LaGrange, Ill.

Hometown: Oak Park, Ill.

I am the youngest of four children.... Born October 20th, 1980, in La Grange, Illinois and was raised in Elmhurst, Illinois until I was 16 years old. My father left when I was a year old and my mom had to support all four of us on her own. She worked two jobs and barely got to see any of us so all of us could have a wonderful life. My great-grandparents Joseph and Josehine Maynez wanted to live with us so it could take some stress off of my mother, and besides, it was better to be with Nana and Grandpa than with total strangers who we all wanted to run away from because we were scared of strangers.

It was so fun with Nana and Grandpa because three days out of the week they would take us fishing and afterwards go to McDonald's for ice cream cones. For dinner my Nana and Grandpa would cook something different every night and always have me be a part of it. They would measure everything out and let me pour in the different ingredients and stir everything around until we were ready to eat. My great-grandparents put so much love into their cooking. My Grandpa came from Chihuahua, Mexico and my Nana came from Managua, Nicaragua. It was so amazing to watch them use all the combination of flavors they did and make food taste so awesome!!

They also made home videos of how to cook their favorite recipes. They would walk you through step by step and show you what the food should look like step after step.... It is sooooo amazing. It is so priceless to all of us, especially myself, because I was so lucky to take part in it everyday for the majority of my life. I know that they are the true inspiration for me, cooking today. There is not one day that goes by when I don't think of them and wish they were here today to see how hard I work and how great I have become. I do know that they are always with me in spirit and feel so lucky that I was as close to them as I was.

Another time when I was in high school in Commercial Foods class we got to come up with our own recipes and cook something different every week, whatever we could possibly think up in our heads and cook and put on a plate for our teacher to taste. Every week she was so impressed with whatever I cooked. Right before I graduated from high school she told me, "you've got such potential and should pursue this as a career." Between my great-grandparents (especially) and my Commercial Foods teacher, I knew what I had to do and did it and i'm so happy with where I am today.

I am really close to my mom, she means the world to me. I have lived with her all of my life besides the two years in college. We do everything together. My sister, Eileen, moved to the East Coast for her job. I am her little itty bitty.... that is what she calls me. My brother, Michael, is a lawyer here in Chicago and we hang out a couple times a week. My other brother, Jason, is in college at Western Illinois University. We went clubbing over the weekend to scope out some guys. I was scoping out the guys!! MEOWWW!! Anyway, I talk to my dad once a week, but there are hard feelings there because he never helped my mom out at all.

I love my job at the University Club of Chicago. I love working banquets and work with a lot of cool people. All I have to say is you have to work hard in this business or you will never succeed. It is not for the weak hearted. I used to be that way, but I have been slapped around enough to toughen up, for sure. It has and always will be a constant learning experience.... you will never stop learning in this business and that's why I know it will never be boring. If you have tickets across the board and stop for one second, the chef is going to be like, you're in the s***, now get yourself out. I love that!