Student Spotlight: Kelly Sears
Major: Culinary Arts
As a little girl, Kelly Sears was always in the kitchen with her mom.
“We entertained a lot and, although our family was small, we always had a full dining table,” she explained. “I dabbled briefly in the culinary world right after college. My mom and I opened a catering business and retail store. We discovered we had a lot to learn and our efforts weren’t successful. Life gets in the way sometimes of the original path you choose for yourself.”
Sears changed careers and worked in the financial industry for 15 years. However, when the chance to get back in the kitchen as a cooking instructor came up, she jumped at the opportunity.
After five years, Sears felt she had stagnated and decided to push herself to the next level.
“I was on a quest for the ‘how and why’ of cooking -- more technique-based than simply recipe following,” she said. “I checked out quite a few culinary programs from the suburbs to the city and decided that College of DuPage best fit my needs.”
Sears started at COD and graduated with her associate’s degree in Culinary Arts. She’s just two classes shy of obtaining a Pastry Arts degree and hopes to finish those soon.
“I was able to attend classes, continue working, and balance my life at home by choosing College of DuPage,” she said. “That opportunity wouldn’t necessarily have been available to me had I made a different culinary school choice.
“Personally, I attempted to test myself every day, with every class and every new experience. I learned something different from each chef and instructor. They all had their strengths in different areas, lending a strong, balanced education.”
She’s currently the culinary coordinator and chef at Marcel’s Culinary Experience, a retail store in Glen Ellyn. Along with the owner, Jill Foucre, Sears creates the cooking class program, obtains outside chefs and guest chefs, manages a staff of culinary assistants, and teaches classes. The program has grown to eight chefs and more than 40 culinary assistants, and in 2016 conducted 398 cooking classes and private events.
If she could have written a job for herself, this is it, and Sears is thrilled to have it.
“I love my job as it has grown into more than I would have ever anticipated,” she said.
Thanks to College of DuPage, she successfully reached that next level.
“When I first started at College of DuPage, I felt old enough to be my fellow students’ mother -- and was!” she said. “As my time in the program continued, more students in my age group were enrolling. The economy and life changes have pushed people in new directions and forced some altered paths. I think that can be great.
“I absolutely love to take classes. I try and learn something from anyone I surround myself with, even if they are a guest in one of my classes. As opportunities present themselves, I will continue to take classes and continue learning new techniques and skills. No matter what path you end up taking to get to your new destination, getting there is most of the fun and can be extremely rewarding. I have absolutely no regrets.”
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