(ˈgrāt-fəl / ˈplāt)

1. appreciation for life’s many gifts, especially good food and great friends.

2. full-hearted, full-bellied, and full-service culinary experiences.

3. filling one’s plate with heaping portions of love and laughter.

We’re a husband-and-wife team based in the northwest suburbs of Chicago with a shared passion for making unforgettable food, new friends, and lasting memories. We have 30+ years of hospitality industry experience between us and nothing brings us more joy than delighting clients with one-of-a-kind, five-star, restaurant-quality culinary experiences in their own homes.

We’re also a registered LLC, fully insured through the Food Liability Insurance Program (FLIP), and certified by ServSafe and the National Restaurant Association. We take the food business seriously – but we have a lot of fun in the process!

Our Story

We launched Great Full Plate in the winter of 2020 with a dream of combining our superpowers to create boutique, culinary experiences for groups to gather and enjoy quality time together from the comfort of their own homes. Chris is a classically trained chef with over 18 years of restaurant industry experience, and Ashley is a veteran waitress and enthusiastic party planner with a heart for hospitality. Originally, our concept was inspired by us both enduring the industry grind for too many years and imagining another model. We hoped to re-create the experience of dining out in a more personally fulfilling and sustainable way that would center on human connection and wellbeing instead of the pressure-cooker environment of so many restaurant kitchens. Together, we set out to chase down our dream of re-imagining a more human restaurant experience at home…And then came the pandemic.

While the world was shutting down, our vision was just coming to life. After months of planning and prepping, we held our first test kitchen event at a friend’s house on March 13, 2020 – which we now affectionately refer to as our “End of the World” party. We’ll never forget shopping for lobster, Halibut, morel mushrooms, and microgreens while others were stocking up on canned goods and toilet paper in a completely overrun grocery store. It was a truly humbling and humanizing moment, and a reminder to approach every day with a spirit of gratitude – which is how Great Full Plate came to be.

For us, good food and shared experiences are a way of showing love. Great Full Plate is all about creating time and space for friends and families to connect, celebrate, and make the most of time spent together. We provide full-service, start-to-finish culinary experiences so hosts can focus on entertaining and actually enjoy quality time with their guests. As we like to say, bellies, glasses, and hearts should always be full!

Since our launch last year, we’ve served up lively, engaging chef’s dinners and group cooking classes in homes all over the city and suburbs – and even virtually on screen. We’ve celebrated every possible special occasion: anniversaries, baby showers, baptisms, bachelor and bachelorette parties, birthdays, a ballet gala, and a beautiful wedding – plus so many other celebrations big and small, or for no real reason at all. We’ve also partnered with local schools and human service organizations in our community to create inspired, foodie-themed events that support their missions.

Being able to share in your life’s festivities and contribute to our local community has truly been our greatest source of pride and happiness. Reach out to let us know what we can take off your plate, how we can rally around your cause, or what we can help you celebrate!

Chris Blackburn

Executive Chef

Chris is a classically trained chef with over 18 years of restaurant industry experience. He was first inspired to cook by his Grandma Viola, watching Food Network together and attempting to re-create celebrity chef recipes for family dinner. As an Eagle Scout and a Junior ROTC cadet in high school, Chris gained the discipline and drive that would propel him to success in the culinary field. He pursued every possible cooking-related merit badge and took his first job on the line learning to craft handmade pasta at a family-owned Italian restaurant. He went on to graduate at the top of his class in culinary school and earned a bachelor’s degree in Culinary Arts. After college, Chris spent 8 years as a seasonal chef alternating summers and winters at high-end beach and ski resorts, from Lake George to Key Largo, Nantucket to Park City, and all the way to Southern Vermont to expand his foodie imagination and horizons. Chris has been mentored by some truly incredible chefs and worked on Michelin-star kitchen teams, but you’d never know it from his down-to-earth attitude and heartfelt approach to cooking.

Ashley Blackburn

Event Coordinator

Ashley proudly serves as Great Full Plate’s event coordinator, head dishwasher, potato-peeler-in-chief, and hostess-with-the-mostess, as well as Chef Blackburn’s “sous chef” for life. Ashley brings our events and classes to life as a veteran waitress and craft brewery tour guide – and as a professional educator with a background in leadership development, curriculum design, and experiential learning. Like Chris, Ashley grew up in the restaurant industry and has hospitality in her blood. She waitressed her way through high school, college, and a master’s degree in education, and then spent 12 years of her career on a mission to create more hands-on, applied learning opportunities for students, faculty, and community partners from K-12 to higher education. Ashley believes every day is a theme party waiting to happen and will work with you to make your most imaginative event ideas a reality.

“Great Full Plate rolls into your house with all food and plating well thought out and crafted. I only had to put some candles and flowers on my table and enjoy the night. Not only did I get to host in my house, but I actually got to enjoy the party.”

Kelly Trapp, Wonderful Friend & Repeat Client