Joliet Junior College chef and culinary arts instructor Ken Thompson won the Central Region Chef Professionalism Award during an American Culinary Federation ChefConnect Conference this April at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort and Spa in Waikoloa Beach, Hawaii.
Thompson is the newest addition to the JJC Culinary Arts Department faculty. Beginning in August 2015, Thompson started teaching fundamental culinary courses at the college including Introduction to Food Preparation and Nutrition.
Thompson was excited when he found out he was one of three finalists for the award, and said he was content to just be attending the awards ceremony and conference, but when he found out he was named the winner, it was like the icing on the cake.
“When they called my name, it was a huge honor,” he said. “I had no idea I was going to win the award. But I love what I do, and I believe the key to success is to find happiness in what you do.”
Before becoming a culinary educator, Thompson, currently of Plainfield but originally from Michigan, worked for country clubs in Tennessee, Indiana and Georgia.
Thompson said since he first started studying culinary arts in the 1990s, he always knew he wanted to teach in the field. One of the most rewarding parts of his job is watching his students grow.
“I like to challenge students and then watch them as they transform into confident student chefs, ready to take on their next semester,” he said. “It’s my job to be a mentor to these students.”
He’s only been at the college for two semesters, but Thompson is already sure he wants to stay at the college for a long time.
“JJC is such a welcoming, friendly place. There are great people here, and that makes me excited to be here,” he said.
In addition to the Chef Professionalism Award, Thompson has a few other accomplishments under his belt. He won first place in the snack category at a “Please Customers with Peanuts” recipe contest put on by the Peanut Advisory Council in 2010. He also was a top six finalist in the 2002 Maple Leaf Farms Duckling recipe contest.
For more information about the Culinary Arts Department at JJC, please visit www.jjc.edu/culinary-arts or 815-280-2255.