Success Stories | Chuy Valencia

Chef Chuy Valencia dream of a culinary arts profession and reached his goal with Le Cordon Bleu's help.

Graduated: 1995, California Culinary Academy
Degree: Associate of Occupational Studies in Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts
Current Position: Owner/Chef: Chilam Balam, Chicago, Illinois

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Chef Chuy Valencia was born and raised in Sonoma, California. From a family of ranchers and farmers, his parents grew their own food in the backyard and always had a pot of something delicious simmering on the stove. Growing up, he spent his summers and holiday seasons in his parents' native Colima, Mexico on the family orchard. It was here that Chuy at the age of 8 decided he wanted be a chef for the rest of his life. Chuy’s love for ingredients, and the philosophy of "letting nature do the work" was inspired in part by his grandfather who grew fruits and vegetables and butchered his own meat. When Chef Chuy began working in California's renowned wine country as a cook, he started to see the similarities between his family's way of cooking and the California Cuisine movement.

Chef Chuy graduated from the Le Cordon Bleu program at California Culinary Academy and landed an externship at Frontera Grill and the Adobo Grill in Chicago, Illinois. At the age of 23, Chuy started making a name for himself as chef and co-owner at Chilam Balam, a restaurant in Chicago’s fashionable Lakeview neighborhood. The restaurant follows his sustainable farm-to-table mantra, sourcing local produce and meat when possible, and stands out for well-prepared handmade Mexican food elevated to a high level. Chilam Balam has received rave reviews in the Chicago Tribune, ABC TV’s Hungry Hound, Time Out, Chicago, not only for its fresh food but also for its imaginative culinary creations from the mind and kitchen of Chef Chuy Valencia.

Follow Chef Chuy on Twitter @ChuyValencia. Visit Chilam Balam’s web site at Read reviews of Chilam Balam from Chicago Tribune, ABC TV, Time Out, Chicago and more online at

Career success will depend largely on the effort put into studies, job search efforts, experience and attitude. The experience of this alumnus is not representative of all students. This graduate story is unique and may not represent typical experiences or outcomes for our graduates. Graduates should expect to pursue entry-level opportunities in their chosen fields.