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  • Rachel O'Brien
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Chef Rachel O'Brien

Chef at The Chopping Block since: 2016

Favorite class to teach: Anything Mexican or Italian.

Training/education: BS in culinary nutrition from Johnson & Wales University.

Cooking since: I've been cooking with my family since I can remember, but high school is when I realized I wanted to be a chef.

Favorite childhood food experience: Christmas Eve has always been my favorite food day because all the people I love are in one place enjoying amazing food. I also won a gourmet sandwich contest when I was younger which was pretty cool.

What made you want to become a chef? I absolutely love to eat, and I think that's where it all came from. There is also nothing like making something out of nothing and being able to share it. 

What is your signature dish? I love making street style tacos with fresh tortillas, or anything pasta related. 

What are the 5 ingredients you can't live without? Garlic, lime, salt, onion, wine.

What do you love about cooking? The way everyone can bond and relate over food. Not a lot of things can bring everyone together in that way. We all have to and love to eat, I think it's awesome that chefs have the power to bring joy to people not only through the food, but through the company and experience. 

When you're creating a new recipe, what influences and inspires you? Dining at a restaurant that is innovation and creative is the best way I get inspired. I have a mass amount of cookbooks that I should look at more often, but the photos alone really inspire me. Chef documentaries can be really inspiring too.

What advice would you give a new cook? Don't be so caught up in technique or what you are "supposed" to do. Recipes are guidelines. Some of the favorite dishes have come from my breaking the rules and taking chances. That's where the magic happens. Trust the instinct!

What are you doing when you're not cooking? I love doing yoga, hanging out with friends, and marking restaurants off my list of where to eat.

Describe your perfect evening. Dining somewhere I have been wanting to go with great company! Drinks and good food. That's all there is to it!

If you had friends in from out of town, where would you take them to eat? Fat Rice, Sepia, La Scarola, and of course Portillos.

Where are you from? Elmhurst, Illinois. 

What was your favorite vacation? It would have to be Italy. I was able to trael from north to south and it's cool to how the cuisine changes.

What are your hobbies? Besides cooking, I love yoga, playing guitar, going out with friends

What is your favorite band? That's very difficult to choose, but either Aphex Twin or Queen.

What is your favorite sports team? The Bulls

If you could have dinner with one person, who would it be? Maybe Grant Achatz, I'd love to pick his brain. 

What are your guilty pleasures? Deep fried foods.

Who is your favorite celebrity chef? Jamie Oliver and Anthony Bourdain.

What 5 tools should every new cook have in the kitchen?

  • Sharp Chef's knife
  • Good nonstick skillet
  • A Dutch oven
  • Tongs
  • Rubber spatula

What resources would you suggest for Chopping Block students? The app, ChefSteps.

List three of your favorite tips or techniques you use in the kitchen.

  • I love to Sous Vide anything and everything. It takes out all the guesswork and gives you consistent and perfect results every time.

  • Keep your knife sharp and never put it in the dishwasher.

  • Don't forget to mise en place for a smooth cooking experience. 

Rachel's Favorite Ingredient


My favorite item from The Chopping Block is vanilla bean paste. It is so much more versatile than extract, but also works perfectly in any recipe instead of extract.

It provides a more mild yet vibrant vanilla flavor. The best part is the flecks of vanilla bean that look amazing especially in whipped cream or ice cream!