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Cooking up a career: Whiting native's culinary skills featured on TV series

Cooking up a career: Whiting native's culinary skills featured on TV series


When Whiting native James Gray accepted a job at Goddess and Grocer in Chicago he had no idea it would land him a spot on a reality TV series.

“It's humbling when you do something like this and you get people congratulating you on each step of your career. I’m very lucky,” said Gray, a Whiting High School graduate.

Gray, operations manager for Goddess and Grocer, was featured Aug. 5 in a reality series on ABC Family called “Job or No Job.”

The series, from the producers of “Undercover Boss,” follow young adults on their journey to attain their dream job.

Goddess and Grocer is a gourmet deli, café and catering company in Chicago.

Gray’s journey with food began while attending University of Minnesota. Although he was pursuing an undergraduate degree in English, he found himself doing small-scale catering events for his friends in the theater department.

“People would say, 'Oh, you’re so good at this.' So after I graduated, I came back to Chicago and enrolled in Le Cordan Blue,” Gray said.

Halfway through the program, Gray left.

“I loved cooking, and I loved the social aspect of eating and cooking with people, but I didn’t find being on the savory line was right for me.”

After working for a few high-profile chefs in the city, Gray moved to Pittsburgh and in 2006, was the first to open a bakery that sold only cupcakes, as opposed to a typical bakery selling a myriad of treats.

“It was all the rage. People wanted something unique. At the time in Pittsburgh there were a lot of young chefs and restaurateurs starting out to change the food scene. I was lucky to be apart of that group and ultimately it solidified my career as a restaurateur," Gray said.

Gray spent more than six years in Pittsburgh, opening five bakery locations before coming back to Chicago.

"What happens tomorrow? I don't know. But all of that drives me to keep going and reach for new heights. At the end of the day, I learned that nothing lasts forever. What’s important is the journey in life: the learning, the changing of who you are along the way, that's what you look back on,” Gray said.

Gray’s mother, Patricia Ayres, of Whiting, said she couldn’t be prouder.

“I was right in front of that TV!” said Ayres, laughing. “The whole family is excited and everyone is completely supportive of him. He is well on his way and we’re very happy and proud of him.”


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