Meet Our Magician! Executive Chef Shawn Doolin.
The day after high school graduation, Shawn Doolin boarded a plane to New Jersey to begin working in the kitchen of an oceanfront hotel. He had always been drawn to the culinary arts, and this first real life experience whet his appetite even more. His passion for the profession has intensified through the years. Today he is really cooking -- as the Executive Chef of Entertaining Company. Doolin’s talents and originality have been recognized many times throughout the years, most recently by the Jean Banchet Awards, twice-awarded to Doolin and his team in the category: Best Catering Company in Chicago.
After earning a degree from the Culinary School of Kendall College in 1990, Doolin worked at Carlucci restaurants throughout Chicago, and began what was to be a 3 month internship with Roland Liccioni at the venerable Le Francais in Wheeling, Illinois. The association continued for 2 years, during which time the new chef gained extensive experience, advancing through the food station hierarchy to saucier. His subsequent positions as Sous Chef at Les Nomades and Zealous in Chicago further enhanced his resume.
Joining Entertaining Company in 1995, Doolin found the freedom and encouragement to create, sophisticated, visually exciting cuisine. Founder Wendy Pashman shared his vision of food as art. Together they are culinary adventurers, constantly in search of new ingredients, unique menus, and exciting presentations, whether catering an intimate birthday party for four, events for President Obama, Oprah, or a fundraising gala for 3000. With hundreds of social, corporate, and charitable events a year, Shawn Doolin’s plate is always full. Throughout Shawn’s 18 years with Entertaining Company he has been involved and partnered with Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Starlight Foundation, as well as Meals on Wheels.
Q & A
Q: It is pretty uncommon in this industry to be working at one place for an extended period of time. What are some of the reasons that have given you and EC the longevity?
A: Everyday is a new challenge here. It is very difficult to get bored or stagnant. We are constantly developing new ideas, menus, and taking on task that no one else wants to do. Each client and event is looked at as an individual canvas, and we are so excited to do something original and outside the box. Wendy is easily bored with an idea after a short period, so she is always pushing us to another level that we may never have reached. There are countless trends and barriers that we have broken through first in this industry. In 18 years here I cannot remember a challenge that a client has asked that we have not been able to figure out with our amazing team.
Q: So you must have a pretty amazing team of people getting this all pulled together. What makes your team different than the competitors?
A: This is an easy one. Wendy who is the owner has been here since day one. She is the creative force and is writing menus, coming up with new concepts and is always traveling to exotic and crazy places on the off beaten track to find foods that are true to the cultures and not some tourist trap. I am not sure there are competitors who are on the same level with us right there. Next, to have an Executive Chef who has been working together with her and the company for 18 years has really helped us to know each other and make each other better. I am known by Wendy as the engineer. I make Wendy's ideas into reality. Most of my staff has been with me in the kitchen from the beginning, and some came from past restaurants with me, so we also know each other well. On top of that, we have the best General Manager, Julie Fitzgerald who has also been here from the beginning. She is the "glue" that keeps us all together. Once the ideas are there, and I figure them out, and my team produces them, we have a great sales team who and operations team who get the events produced from that side. All of our sales team writes menus and helps in the creativity of our ideas, so I am thankful for that. It gives us more ideas and minds so that we can be more creative.
Q: You mentioned that Wendy does some traveling. Do you ever go with her ?
A: Actually I did just travel with her to the Amalfi Coast in Italy. It was a great experience, and we learned so many new things. She also sent me to Italy a couple of years ago (for a month) to get inspired. We have talked about a trip to India or Morocco, so we will have to see. I have had many great travel experiences while working at Entertaining Company.
Q: Where do you see the future and direction of EC going ?
A: We have always progressed to a level that has been unimaginable, so as long as Wendy continues to be the creative force, we may be doing the first event on the moon. I don't know what the future holds, but what I do know is that I hope my entire team is nearby. It’s easy to be in the spotlight and take credit, but I know who is really shining behind the scenes.