Great Foodini | Renee
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About Renee

Renee Chodkowski (aka The Great Foodini) believes anyone can learn to prepare healthy, delicious meals. For nearly three decades, she’s taught people to do just that in the unique, highly entertaining style that has made her a much sought-after instructor and public speaker. Renee teaches classes large and small for aspiring cooks of all ages and skill levels. She’s a popular speaker for corporate meetings, businesses, associations, and conventions.

Gathered to celebrate the grand opening of the Cleary demonstration kitchen are Cleary President Jayson Boyers, Steven Bearden, Renee Chodkowski, Melody Maciak, Joanie Maciak, and Gwen Bearden.
Renee Chodkowski demonstrates one of her favorite cooking techniques during the grand opening celebration for the Von Voigtlander Community Demonstration Kitchen at Cleary University.

Cleary University’s culinary coach

Renee has taken on a new role as Cleary University’s culinary coach. Through a generous grant from the Ted and Jane Von Voigtlander Foundation, Cleary recently built the state-of-the-art Von Voigtlander Community Demonstration Kitchen in its 30,000-square-foot Community Recreation and Wellness Center, and brought on Renee to educate both students and the public on nutrition, as well as how to prepare healthy, nutritious meals.

It’s an exciting partnership, one that fits right in with Renee’s mission to help people conquer the challenges of everyday mealtime in a nutritious way, to make “great gourmet” into “deliciously doable.”

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Farm to table

From May through October, Renee spreads the word about the economic, health and social importance of preparing and eating healthful food grown close to home. She can often be found hanging out at local farmers’ markets, where her appearances cooking dishes with produce at the peak of its season are popular. Her Farm to Table cooking classes highlight her passion for fresh, locally sourced ingredients, including meats.

‘A recipe a day keeps the McTaco Fried Chickking away’

Renee’s been involved with food preparation her entire life. While just a toddler attached to Grandma’s hip, Renee learned the basics of cooking in her grandmother’s diner. Though that diner no longer exists, the lessons Renee absorbed there live on, and she shares them in her quest to teach people to prepare healthy, nutritious meals.

As part of her food evangelism, Renee developed a series of recipes that can be easily recreated in home kitchens with fresh, local ingredients, using everyday cooking utensils and equipment. But Renee doesn’t just share her recipes; she also teaches little-known tips and tricks that make time spent in the kitchen efficient, and the results affordable, nutritious and delicious.

National exposure, recognition

MasterChef-LogoRenee was a contestant in 2011 on FOX’s “MasterChef” reality series competition featuring celebrated chef Gordon Ramsay, and though she didn’t win, she lived to tell the tale!

Her “My, Oh, My Sweet Potato Pie” was selected from over 750,000 entries in the Pie of Emeril’s Eye Thanksgiving Pie contest on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” As a featured contestant on the Kraft Real Women of Philadelphia Cream Cheese cooking contest with Paula Deen, she won honorable mention. She was also a contributor to “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution,” a program to help combat obesity and help people live longer lives.

In 2012, Renee was selected by Red Gold Tomatoes as one of the top seven food writers/bloggers in the United States. She was flown to Indianapolis for the Super Bowl festivities that year, where she also attended the national “Taste of the NFL” food bank fundraiser. There, she rubbed elbows with celebrities like Ted Allen of Food Network, and Buddy, Mauro and Joe from “Cake Boss,” and other celebrities.

whmi FoodiniOn the air with The Great Foodini

Closer to home, Renee is a regular on Livingston County’s Own 93.5 WHMI FM radio station with her popular Foodini Friday show.

Supporting food issues

For the past three years, Renee’s helped judge Gleaner’s annual Iron Chef Competition. It’s one of the organization’s biggest and most-popular fund-raising events, and the money it raises supports Gleaners’ Shared Harvest Pantry, which provides emergency food to those in need.

Renee is also a supporter of the Michigan Good Food Charter, which began in 2009 when the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems, the Food Bank Council of Michigan, and the Michigan Food Policy Council joined forces to promote equity, sustainability and a thriving economy in Michigan’s food system. She often pays tribute to her Michigan roots with recipes featuring state specialties, like dried cherries, apples, and, of course, Sanders Hot Fudge.

Volunteer work

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Photo by Casey Haggerty

Renee is a tireless community volunteer, teaching cooking and food fun at local libraries and schools to people of all ages — from senior citizens to preschoolers. She is a long-time member of the Livingston Educational Service Agency’s Family and Consumer Sciences Advisory Board, which supports life skills education in schools, and she’s a board member of the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce.

Sales success

A successful Pampered Chef consultant for over 20 years, Renee is a popular presenter at its conferences, stressing the importance of ‘Edutainment’ and the 3 E’s — Engagement, Education, and Entertainment — to drive sales and retain customer loyalty. She was consistently in the top 2 percent of Pampered Chef sales.

Outside the kitchen

Renee has been married for over 34 years to Ed, and together they have two children. Their daughter, Kelly, is a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army. Their son, Eddie, is a graduate of Northwood University who works in Grand Rapids, Mich. Renee enjoys playing tennis, traveling, scuba diving, golfing, and, of course, cooking.

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