Shelley Young
The Chopping Block

Shelley Young

Growing up in Fort Dodge, Iowa may not be the setting that conjures up images of gastronomy, but the influence of that rural upbringing has shaped Shelley's cooking philosophy and entrepreneurial style.
Shelley spent her youth surrounded by the vivid colors and flavors of the freshest fruits, vegetables, poultry and fish. Memories of summers spent putting up beans, corn and tomatoes; afternoons pitting sour cherries for pie; hunting wild morel mushrooms with giant hefty garbage bags; and catching fresh catfish on a weekend camping trips created Shelley's appreciation for fresh, unfussy, flavorful food.

Shelley's vision for The Chopping Block is fueled by these experiences. Chicago's premier recreational cooking school is about building communities, providing opportunities and education that support our employees and our customers in living their dreams. We are taking our winning mix of fun, interactive, individualized and affordable education and addressing the deficiencies in culinary education. We provide opportunities to have fun, drink wine, eat amazing food, learn to cook, gather around the table, swap stories and share our lives. We are not only developing a system of education that supports the needs of our students and employees but creating a legion of chefs, instructors and cooks who drive our mission to get the country to cook.

Shelley has been cooking in professional kitchens since 1970 and holds a degree in the Culinary Arts from Iowa Culinary Institute. After moving to Chicago from San Diego in 1994, Shelley worked simultaneously as a private chef for one of the most influential families in Chicago and as a full-time chef at the hip French Bistro, Café du Midi. While holding down her two full-time positions, she created The Chopping Block Cooking School, which opened its doors in April 1997. In 2003, the Chopping Block expanded to its second location. It doubled the square footage of the original location in the heart of the vibrant Lincoln Square neighborhood. In 2005, Shelley moved the original location from Lincoln Park to the iconic Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago. This move quadrupled the square footage of the original location and propelled The Chopping Block into the forefront of recreational cooking schools.

Since the inception of The Chopping Block, Shelley has managed to not only succeed but to thrive in an industry few have. Shelley has grown her business into the busiest recreational cooking school in the country offering between 250-300 classes and events every month with an active customer data base of 65,000 people. She has created a brand that is locally and nationally recognized and has won numerous accolades and awards for her accomplishments.


  • 2014 Women's Chefs and Restaurateurs: Educator of the Year
  • 1998-2013 Best of Awards: Time Out, New City, Chicago Magazine, Chicago Social, Metro Mix
  • 2007 International Association of Culinary Professionals: Nominated Cooking School Teacher of the Year
  • 2006 Gourmet Retailer: Leadership Award
  • 2006 Chicago Tribune: Good Eating Award
  • 2005 International Association of Culinary Professionals: Entrepreneur of the Year
  • 2004 Lincoln Square Chamber of Commerce: New Business of the Year
  • 2004 Gourmet Retailer: Top 20 under 40
  • 2003 Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce: Small Business of the Year

A Sampling of Shelley's Print and Television Coverage:

  • Bon Appetit
  • Food and Wine
  • Fitness
  • Midwest Living
  • American Way Magazine
  • Savuer
  • Crain's
  • Today's Chicago Woman
  • Chicago Magazine
  • Midwest Living
  • Chicago Home and Garden
  • Chicago Tribune
  • Chicago Sun Times
  • The New York Times
  • Cooking Light
  • Traditional Home
  • NBC
  • ABC
  • CBS
  • FOX
  • Bravo

Community Service:

  • 2002-2007, Lincoln Square Chamber of Commerce, Board Member, Vice President, President
  • 2003-Current, SSA 21 Commissioner
  • 2005-2007, International Association of Culinary Professionals, Conference Planning Committee
  • 2007-2010, Board of Directors, Gender PAC-True Child
  • 2009-Current, Executive Chef Board for Common Threads
  • 2013, Les Dames Escoffier, Scholarship and Mentorship Committee


The Chopping Block supports the communities where we do business. We support the causes our customers and employees support. We support the health and well-being of the general public through our own programs and those like-minded organizations that teach and support healthy eating habits. We support human rights through organizations who seek to protect and advocate for them.

A Sampling of the Organizations The Chopping Block Supports:

  • Green City Market
  • Chicago Botanical Gardens
  • Great Chicago Food Depository
  • Meals on Wheels
  • Lakeview Pantry
  • Common Threads
  • La Rabida Children's Hospital
  • Chicago Public Schools
  • Namaste Charter School
  • Susan B. Komen
  • Gilda's Club
  • Les Dames Escoffier
  • Women's Chefs and Restaurateurs
  • International Association of Culinary Professionals
  • Old Town School of Folk Music
  • Steppenwolf
  • Designs for Dignity
  • HRC
  • Lambda Legal
  • Salvation Army



© 2014 The Chopping Block Cooking School