Woman stand in front of kitchen counter

IELI graduate achieves her dreams as chef and wins Food Network’s Julia Child Challenge

September 22, 2023
By: Guest Contributor

Jaíne Mackievicz’s fascination with Julia Child began at an early age. In fact, she was a young girl living in the Amazon area of Brazil when she saw Julia for the first time on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Jaíne’s love for cooking blossomed as she cooked by her father’s side until his untimely death at a young age. These two pieces of her childhood would eventually lead Jaíne further than she could have ever imagined.

Even though she was a successful practicing lawyer in Brazil, Jaíne found she could not let go of the idea of coming to the United States to attend Boston University’s gastronomy program—specifically, the program her hero, Julia Child, helped create in 1991. She knew she needed to first improve her limited English, and so she found the Intensive English Language Institute (IELI) at Worcester State University and applied.

Jaíne recalls arriving at her IELI orientation in 2018 feeling shy and afraid of everything ahead because she was “unable to speak a full sentence in English.” She quickly established herself as a hardworking learner. IELI instructors encouraged her to enroll in IELI’s Bridge to University program, which allowed her to take some credit-bearing classes such as graduate-level classes in organizational behavior and leadership theory along with her English-language classes.  

As she gained confidence in her language ability, Jaíne took off, heading toward her dream. She took watercolor courses through IELI’s Bridge program to illustrate the cookbook she had been working on. In her free time, she also took food-related classes at both Harvard and Boston universities. While she did not yet have the financial means to attend the gastronomy program as originally planned, she wasn’t ready to give up. Jaíne says she had fallen “in love with the country, the language, and all possibilities,” so she decided to change strategies.   

Through her research for her cookbook, Jaíne realized that she enjoyed writing about food, not just making it. She pitched her ideas to several magazines both in Brazil and the U.S. and soon found not only was she good at writing about food but also she had the opportunity and talent to develop recipes and write about those as well. 

In 2022, Jaíne tried out for the first season of the Food Network’s Julia Child Challenge  and was accepted as one of eight contestants. She won the challenge and got her chance to train for three months as a pastry chef at Le Cordon Bleu in France.

Since then, she has been featured on the podcast Radio Cherry Bombe and has a recipe in its published cookbook. She was featured in The San Diego Union Tribune, continues to work as a food writer, and has been sponsored to stay permanently in the U.S. Jaíne is nearing completion of her first cookbook with a publisher lined up and also works for a Parisian company that flies her to Paris to visit and write about restaurants, boulangeries, pastry shops, cafés, and chocolate shops.  

Jaíne says that her cookbook is her love letter to her home country, which makes her incredibly proud to be an immigrant in this country, always improving her English. She advises others to follow Julia Child’s motto: “Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.

Story contributed by Leah Guzman, IELI program coordinator.

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