Claire Menck is an international award winning chef, educator, and scholar. She began her career at the ripe age of fourteen in the dish pit of a small café in her hometown of Barrington, Illinois. While attending the University of Wisconsin, Madison Claire worked in a variety of restaurants and bars, including a stint at the Ovens of Brittany. It was those experiences that built a sense of community for her while in school, and formed her later decision to forgo law school and attend New England Culinary Institute. That decision ultimately led to a career in the food service industry that has spanned three decades and has included work in the back, front, and top of house in a myriad of operations from hotels and cruise ships, to free standing, fine dining restaurants. In 2000 she started the own business she continues to run today, Girlchef.
Claire has been recognized for her work in the food service industry through a series of awards and accolades from the International Hotel and Restaurant Association, Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, the International Food Service Editorial Council, and the James Beard Foundation; as well as a host of other professional associations.
Her passion for food ultimately led her down an academic path, both as a student and teacher. She helped to develop the curriculum for the Bachelor of Arts programs at New England Culinary Institute, and was the founding Academic Director for Culinary Arts at the Art Institute of Wisconsin. She has also taught online for Keller Graduate School and DeVryUniversity for the past ten years.
Claire’s real passion lies in understanding how the food system operates. Her research in food systems focuses on leadership and change. Specifically, how communities use food to establish and maintain meaning and cohesion in times of critical change. Dr. Menck's doctoral dissertation, Recipes of Resolve: Food & Meaning in Post-Diluvian New Orleans, focuses on the role food played in recovery following the twin crises of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the subsequent BP Oil Spill of 2010.
The dissertation won the Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations Innovative Dissertation Award for 2011, and was been nominated for the Samuel Prince Dissertation Award (2011) and the Alvin H. Chapman Jr. Outstanding Dissertation Award (2013). She has presented this work at a variety of conferences, as well as publishing multiple articles and chapters on these topics. While in New Orleans she also worked on the documentary 'No One Ever Went Hungry,' which was honored as the Louisiana Endowment for the Arts 2012 Documentary of the Year.
Claire resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she is co-chair of Slow Foods WISE, and is a 2018-19 member of the Wisconsin Women's Network Policy Institute. She can regularly be found lifting heavy weights in her most passionate hobby of powerlifting, and ambling along with her four-legged "daughter" Ella (an Australian cattle dog). She’s also been known to haunt the used bookstores, museums, cafes, restaurants, and bars in whatever locale her travels take her.