This was one of my first ventures into the culinary world, and I haven't looked back since...although I've sharpened my skills quite a bit over the years.
Even in college, food was my focus – I spent four of the best years of my life at the University of Illinois, studying Food Science and Human Nutrition.
Upon graduation from college, I began work as a restaurant manager at the largest casual dining chain in America. While I enjoyed my job managing the kitchen, wait staff and bar staff, I missed the hands-on work with food.
Shortly thereafter, in December of 2005, my first son was born, and I became a stay-at home mom. I couldn’t wait until my tiny baby became a hungry growing boy with a bottomless pit for a stomach. Just over two years later, in the Spring of 2008, his brother was born, and two years after that, baby boy number three completed my family.
My three boys have presented me with their own types of challenges in the kitchen. Not only does each of them seem to like only what the others don't, but one of my boys has severe food allergies as well, so I understand what is involved to ensure a safe meal for someone with allergies.
Since starting Thyme for Dinner Ltd in December of 2010, I’ve cooked for a wide variety of clients, many of whom require or choose special diets. It brings be a great deal of joy to see people enjoy the personalized food that I make for them. To date, my favorite highlight in my career as a personal chef was when I cooked on a weekly basis for a family whose 5 year old son was severely autistic. They entire family was following the “autism diet” with him, which meant no sugar, no gluten, no dairy, no soy, no metals (ie canned products), among other restrictions. Mom and dad were beside themselves trying to figure out how to feed the family with all of these restrictions, and a limited knowledge of cooking. They also found themselves having arguments about food on a regular basis. 6 weeks after they hired me to cook for them, the little boy, who was struggling to get past 30 lbs at age 5, had shot up to 35 lbs, and was showing signs of improvement in terms of the autism as a result of following the strict diet. His mom said to me, “you have brought joy back to eating for us!” …and this is why I love what I do. Everybody has to eat, but if I can improve someone’s quality of life by doing what I know and love, then we both benefit.
So what can I do for you? I can take on your challenge. I have always felt at home in the kitchen, and I'd be honored to cook for you and your family in your kitchen.
I am a a certified safe food handler, fully insured, and a member of the American Personal and Private Chef Association as well as the Chicagoland Personal Chef Association.
At the age of 9, I made my first pizza – from scratch, homemade dough and all. My mother loves to tell the story: “Oh, she was so cute”, she would say, “her little hands were too small to press out the stiff pizza dough, so she put the dough in the pan, and put the pizza pan on the kitchen floor, put plastic bags on her feet and stomped on it until it was thin enough to resemble a crust”.
I can remember spending the summers at my grandparents' house as a young child and playing house with my cousins. I was always in charge of the cooking and instead of using your typical plastic food toys; I would pick fresh produce from my grandmas’ garden and cook our meals from scratch.
By the time I reached the age of 10, I was responsible for cooking our family dinners, as both my parents were working full time. One of my favorite memories of my childhood was my father’s requests for dinner. He loved my blintzes above all, and his subtle ways of requesting I make them was to go shopping prior to coming home, hand me the bag of groceries and say, "This might be good for dinner. What do you think?”
As the years progressed I developed a strong understanding of European cuisine and found it to be my biggest passion above anything else. I found that my creativity best shined in the kitchen and here is where I found my innovative canvas.
After high school I attended Kaunas Technology University where I studied Engineering and received my Master’s degree with a focus in Furniture Design. Soon thereafter I moved to the United States and, as I was still trying to find my way in this world, I took multiple jobs in restaurants. This is where I started understanding World cuisine at a higher level.
As time passed, I ended up getting married and had two beautiful little girls. Being a mother and a housewife was a blessing and while I wasn’t pursuing a career in my passion, I was in a position where I was able to perfect my understanding of American and World cuisine through exploration and creativity. This is where my passion began to bloom to where it currently resides. Over the years I found that I am just as comfortable and passionate cooking for 4 as I am cooking holiday meals for 50.
I am excited to be a part of “Thyme for Dinner” and providing delicious meals to our clients. I am also looking forward to be a part of your dining experience.
Born and raised in Kaunas , Lithuania, one of the three Baltic states, located in eastern Europe. As a child I was always fascinated with creating. Whether it is Hand knitting, Crocheting, Decorating, Party Planning, or Cooking/Baking, you can say I was bitten by the creative bug at an extremely early age.
Associate Chef Vaida Jurek