KITCHEN / GARDEN TEAM
PHILLIP SLAUGHTAIRE - COOK (Central campus)
I'd like to start by saying it's a pleasure to be working with Little Inspirations. My name is Phillip and not only am I the chef but I am also a parent with Little Inspirations. I've been cooking my entire life and it brings a certain peace and balance to my day. In the recent few years, I've trained under Michelin Star chefs in Chicago, honing my craft to perfection. Cooking allows me to make people happy the best way I know how. My culinary journey began at Majani Vegan cuisine. Initially I picked up the job to earn some extra cash and realized that I could actually turn a hobby into a craft. Chef Tsadakeeyah Emmanuel recognized my knowledge and skill and quickly promoted me to chef assistant to gain real line experience. I soon moved on to be Sous Chef at Loyola University where I served hundreds of students a day. That journey came to a halt due to the Covid pandemic, but it didn't stop me. It's important to remember that a diamond is merely a lump of coal that did well under pressure, so during the pandemic I started a business. And thus Black Kitchen Catering was born. Outside of cooking I enjoy making people laugh. I've been a Chicago comic / radio personality since 2017 and I still host hip hop shows every Thursday. The only thing that brings me more pleasure than cooking is spending time with and teaching my son to be a responsible, respectful young man.
MELISSA WINFREY - COOK (East campus)
My name is Melissa Winfrey. I was born in Chicago in 1973. I’m the youngest of three. I’m getting married in June. I have a 23-year-old daughter who goes to SIU in Carbondale. I’ve been cooking for over 25 years. I love music, cooking and entertaining, going to the lakefront in the summertime, and a little bar-be-que is fine with me!
GARDEN / NATURE PLAY
KIRSTEN AKRE - GARDEN MANAGER / NATURE PLAY COORDINATOR
Over the past 20 years, I have developed public gardens to connect people of all ages to growing organic food and to the abundant web of life that supports these gardens. As Garden Manager at Little Inspirations, I seek to connect students to nature and the food we eat. The garden is central to our program, but only one part of our play. We grow, water, pick, smell, taste, feel, and explore the garden and our natural play spaces through hands-on student-initiated activities and art.
We tend our worms and use their castings to fertilize our garden. We plant flowers and herbs for butterflies and bring a few caterpillars inside to witness the transformation from caterpillar, chrysalis, to butterfly, and then let them go. We search and observe squirrels, rabbits, insects, birds, and the wildlife in our garden. We play with mud, sand, and play dough. We pretend to cook in our outdoor kitchen. We make music, read stories, and build towers, bridges, and go wherever their imagination takes us. This is Nature Play. This is my goal, my challenge, and my passion.