Jennifer Noone was all set to be a professional chef. With a major in food and nutrition in college and a passion for cooking, she began her career as a caterer.
She soon learned one very important lesson: "Everyone's playtime was my work time," she laughs.
So Noone, of Deerfield, decided to go into sales and has been a real estate agent in the Northwest suburbs and Chicago for years. Despite the change of career, Jennifer has kept her toe in the water (spoon in the batter?). She taught cooking lessons at a senior center for many years and often caters events there.
"It is my way of staying in it; a creative outlet that I love. The cooking classes kind of tapered off. (The seniors) don't necessarily like to learn to cook, but they love to be cooked for."
One of Jennifer's favorite topics to teach was how to cook economically, building a meal with whatever protein was on sale that week.
"I liked to start with humble cuts of meat and do something wonderful with them," she explains, "or make a new meal out of leftovers.
"When it was quiet in real estate, I had more time than money. The Old World recipes that I love were derived by women who had a lot of time. My life is still very home-based, so I have the luxury to try those recipes. I can walk away from the meat I'm braising and then return to it."
Growing up Jennifer was the daughter who gravitated to the kitchen.
"My mother worked full time, so my two sisters and I had chores. My oldest sister was assigned the cleaning, the middle sister was a tomboy so she mowed the lawn, and I liked tinkering in the kitchen -- that's how it started."
Her mother, who was the daughter of an ambassador, often attended state dinners and passed that appreciation of gourmet food to Jennifer and her sisters.
"Mom's Chinese and Dad is Korean. Mom would make won tons and they both taught me how to fold the pot stickers. The importance of food was a main grounding in our veins. A meal was not taken lightly. Every meal was special. There are those people who eat to live, and those who live to eat. We're from the 'live to eat' plan," she laughs, adding. "Obviously, we have to stagger that with exercise."
Jennifer loves to make foods from many corners of the world: Italian, Cajun, Mexican and Greek. She shares her recipe for a rich Greek pastitsio, which has creamy custard paired with a tangy ground lamb meat sauce. She also shares the recipe for a beautiful Asian dumpling that packages shrimp in a translucent wonton.
"Sometimes I just can't deny my heritage and I need a fix of Asian food!"
Even though her own children are grown, Jennifer hasn't scaled back her recipes.
"I love having a clean countertop where I can create something and if I'm going to go to the effort, I'll make no less than 12 servings."
There is one problem, however.
"I've created a monster," she says, referring to her husband. "He never wants to go out! He's very picky now."