After 26 years of teaching people how to cook, The Chopping Block is changing ownership. Founder and Chef Shelley Young officially sold the Lincoln Square business to Executive Chef Lisa Counts effective August 31, 2023.
Executive Chef Lisa Counts and Founder Shelley Young
“The Chopping Block is ready for its next chapter. I made the move to Union Pier, Michigan a few years ago, building a 4400 square foot cooking studio in Harbor Country. Southwest Michigan is one of the most diverse agricultural areas in the U.S. and home to more than 300 micro growing climates. Its proximity to Chicago and position next to Lake Michigan make it a tourist destination and second home hub for Chicagoans. This unique combination makes it a prime location for me to foster my interests in gardening, farming, cooking, writing and entertaining, both in conjunction with The Chopping Block and on my own. I’m excited to be able to have the opportunity to pursue farm to table dinners, classes, cookbooks, private events, and new business ventures that both compliment The Chopping Block but also open new doors and opportunities,” said Young.
Young says Counts is the perfect person to hand over the business to. “She has been at the helm of managing the facilities for the past eight years. Over the past year, Lisa has led The Chopping Block’s Lincoln Square location through a tremendous amount of change. With her expansive and impressive culinary experience, impeccable customer service skills, pristine facility care, organizational genius, management prowess and media savvy, I can honestly say there is no Lincoln Square without Lisa Counts,” said Young.
Counts is now Executive Chef and Owner of Forty Seven Forty Seven, Inc. She will own and make decisions for all day-to-day operations for The Chopping Block at Lincoln Square.
“I am excited to take on this new role and responsibility to carry on the legacy that Shelley has built. Our staff has accomplished so much over the years, I cannot wait to see what we will be able to do in the future years to come. We will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Lincoln Square location in November 2023 so it’s a very special time for the location and our staff. My vision is to continue to offer the best cooking, wine and spirits classes and private events in Chicagoland while doing everything we can to give our customers more confidence in the kitchen,” said Counts.
History of The Chopping Block
Young opened the first location of The Chopping Block in Lincoln Park in 1997, the Lincoln Square location in 2003 and the Merchandise Mart location in 2005. Over these 26 years, The Chopping Block has seen many changes for the business, including closing the flagship location in 2005 and the Merchandise Mart location in 2022.
The Chopping Block grew to be the busiest recreational cooking school in the country, offering between 350 to 450 classes and events a month, during the business’ peak prior to the pandemic. The Chopping Block’s brand is recognizable throughout the country and world, and it has been featured in major media channels and food publications all over the U.S.
The Chopping Block not only survived the pandemic, but it is thriving again – classes are well attended, more private events are being hosted at Lincoln Square than before, wine and spirit sales and education continue to grow, and the five-star Culinary Boot Camp is at its most successful place yet. The Chopping Block has continued to invest in its facilities and people, even through the most difficult of circumstances. The business model has evolved to be solid, stable, and focused today.
Future of The Chopping Block
Young will continue to own Tenka, Inc. which owns The Chopping Block’s trademark and brand. Her goal is to have more time to devote to new ventures as well as pursuing other interests, including producing Three Oak’s first-ever Oaktoberfest this fall. “The success of The Chopping Block at Lincoln Square is no less important to me now than it ever has been. I plan to provide any support needed to assist in the transition,” said Young.
Counts says she will work to continue the company’s mission of getting the country to cook with in-person and virtual classes and private events. The retail store will continue to offer its hand-picked selection of gourmet equipment and ingredients and an expansive selection of wine and spirits. “We will continue to support our local community of Lincoln Square by participating in events such as Apple Fest and our chef demonstrations at the farmers market. I look forward to building new relationships and fostering existing ones to continue to be the go-to culinary solution for home cooks”, said Counts.