Chef Katie Simmons Plant-Based Story

Chef Katie Simmons is the best personal chef in Chicago, but her journey to cooking has been a winding path from Kentucky to backpacking in New Zealand through culinary school at Kendall College and working for Whole Foods Market.  Her own frustrations of being an overweight fitness professional finally led her to embrace a plant-based, vegan diet.  She is excited to share her love of food and passion for cooking with this community.

Chicago Personal Chef Katie Simmons

Chicago Personal Chef Katie Simmons

My Story

How did a classically-trained chef develop a passion for plant-based cooking?  

How did an overweight girl, growing up in Kentucky, become a healthy vegan, cooking in kitchens all over Chicago?

Here's my Journey...

Kentucky Roots:

Early love for Fitness and Community

Beautiful Bluegrass of Kentucky Horse Farms

Beautiful Bluegrass of Kentucky Horse Farms

My journey began as a child, drawn to the social communities in fitness and the arts -- constantly running from dance rehearsals to field hockey practices, cross country meets to theatre performances.  My Kentucky roots filled my blood with the importance of family, community, and letting the day take a break to share dinner with the ones you love.

But I was not healthy.  Through college and after graduating from Loyola, my involvement in the fitness world increased, as did my self-consciousness.  Always overweight, I struggled with how to guide Personal Training and Group Fitness clients on nutrition.  For some reason, the rules of calories in/calories out failed me.  This simple message seemed to be lost in the packaged "energy" bars, fiber-laced cereals, and "extra protein" Greek yogurts.  I felt more guilty about eating potatoes than the processed food that filled my cabinet.

Leaving "Comfortable":

Backpack Solo in New Zealand

Then I took a trip.  I left my safety, my routine, my dependable job, and went halfway around the world to New Zealand.  By myself.  For five months.  With no plan, a barely-opened travel book, and a brand new camera.  Finding my way through the country, I learned how to listen to my desires.  I learned how to follow my passions.  I worked on organic farms and learned how to harvest squash.  I lived in crowded hostels where English was lost to Germans, Swedes, and Japanese.  I remembered my Kentucky roots.  In the crowded hostel kitchen, I'd cook a huge dinner.  I'd make extras.  I'd share.  I'd use food to start the universal conversation of travelers: What they miss about home, what they've discovered, and where they're heading next.  Food became a story that unraveled when shared others.

Tongariro Crossing, New Zealand North Island, 2008

Tongariro Crossing, New Zealand North Island, 2008

Bit of a Snow Day at Mount Cook, highest peak in New Zealand

Bit of a Snow Day at Mount Cook, highest peak in New Zealand

Hiking through the mountains of South Island, New Zealand, 2008

Hiking through the mountains of South Island, New Zealand, 2008

A Passion for Cooking:  

Classic Training at Kendall College

Kendall College Fine Dining: Grilled Peaches and Prosciutto

Kendall College Fine Dining: Grilled Peaches and Prosciutto

Coming back the States, I knew I wanted this conversation to continue.  I began my culinary training at Kendall College.  I worked with respected Chicago chefs -- in restaurants, at special events, in volunteer opportunities.  Here, I learned to respect the ingredients.  I tasted the difference between a farm fresh egg and a conventional, sad impersonator.  I shook as I butchered my first farm-raised pork loin.  I learned how to close my eyes and let the glide of my knife filet down the spine of a wild-caught salmon.  I smelled fresh basil from the garden.  I got addicted to the candy-sweet burst of sungold tomatoes, still warm from the sun.  I inhaled the intoxicating aroma of fraises des bois strawberries.  I not only respected the story of food for people, but I respected the history of the kitchen, the discipline of the cook, and the community created between farmer, chef, and diner.  

Transition to Plant-Based:

Wellness Club Chef for Whole Foods

Chef Katie Simmons, Wellness Club Chef for Whole Foods Market

Chef Katie Simmons, Wellness Club Chef for Whole Foods Market

I began to celebrate plants.  I left behind the fake foods of my cabinet in place of trips to the farmer's market.  I opened my arms to the potato.  I researched more about nutrient symphonies, calorie density, unnecessary oils, and the power that a whole-foods, plant-based diet can have in reversing disease, improving quality of life, and creating a healthy, thriving being.  I began my position as the Wellness Club chef at Whole Foods Market, developing and teaching plant-based, oil-free recipes.  I earned my certificate in Plant-based Nutrition from e-Cornell.

I stopped eating dairy. 

I stopped cooking with oil.

I filled my plate with whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, and a variety of plants.

And I finally lost weight.  A lot of weight.  Like 50 pounds weight (about 27% of my body weight)

April 2002

April 2002

October 2015

October 2015

My energy surged.  My body changed.  I slept better.  My moods balanced.  And I still feel great. 
It took me about two years to fully embrace a vegan diet.  There's no looking back.

Knowing all I know, I want to share this message and this food with as many people as I can.  Eating a plant-based, whole-foods diet has affected me greatly, and I want to share this positive change with my community.  It is my responsibility as chef to share how delicious healthy eating can be.  Please come taste with me.

Chicago Personal Chef Katie Simmons Chopping Potatoes

The recipes on this website are mine, shared to connect.

The photos on this website are mine, shared to inspire.

The writings on this website are mine, shared to educate.

Please share your story with me.


Chef Katie's Services

Chef Katie Simmons Teaching Cooking Class

Cooking Classes and More

Want to host a unique event?

Want to create a memorable celebration?  

Need help getting healthy meals each week?  

Learn how Chef Katie can help you 

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Press and Media

Chef Katie's Plants-Rule recipes have been featured on numerous healthy websites, and she has been a guest for blogs, podcasts, and cooking shows

Click to see more

Chef Katie's Credentials:

Thumbtack Best Pro of 2015

B.A. in Theatre from Loyola University Chicago

A.A.S. Culinary Arts from Kendall College

Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from eCornell University, T Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies

#1 Personal Chef in Chicago by Thumbtack, "Best of Chicago" 2015, 2016, 2017 Winner

Chicago Reader, 2017 Best Up-and-Coming Chef, Runner-Up

2 Years Chef of Wellness Club at Whole Foods Market, teaching cooking classes, catering, and recipe development for vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, whole-foods diets

Over 13 years experience in the fitness industry, AFAA-certified in Group Fitness and Personal Training, currently teaching over 200+ people weekly at Equinox Fitness and Fitness Formula Clubs