About Chef Stef

Growing up, Chef Stef always had a passion for cooking: whether it was baking brownies with mom after school or preparing an entire meal for friends and family. While she desired to follow her love of all things food, she pursued a career in Education and became a High School English teacher in 1993. After nearly ten years of teaching in Boston, she traded the extreme seasons of the Northeast for the warm and welcoming sunny days of Southern California where she became newly revived and pursued her passion of food with more intent; still teaching during the day, she spent evenings attending classes at The Epicurean School of Culinary Arts in Los Angeles. She thrived and began to incorporate her new-found gastronomic knowledge both into small, intimate dinners with friends, as well as neighborhood and community gatherings she helped host.

In 2005, Chef Stef’s boyfriend (now husband!!), Ron, suggested a stroll and lunch on Second Street in Belmont Shore, Long Beach. That afternoon was all it took for the little Long Beach nook to become “Their Community.” A dog-friendly, open-minded, artistic and homey beachfront neighborhood; Belmont Shore has zero pretention and 100% community involvement. Chef Stef’s epicurean gusto meeting with such an interactive surrounding was all it took for her to enter her first food contest in 2007: Belmont Shore’s 3rd Annual Chocolate Festival. She created a candy that had it all: a salty, sweet, smooth and crunchy candy-bar-like dessert she named Shmookie. The Shmookies were left on the competition table to be judged by Local Community Organizers and Chefs, as wells as Press and passersby. Hopeful, but a realist by nature, she left the competition even before the results were announced. Thursday of that week, the local newspaper, The Grunion Gazette, arrived at her doorstep. She quickly scooped it up with hopes of reading the outcome and highlights of the chocolate festival, however, the life of a high-school-teacher-moonlighting-as-an-up-and-coming-chef kept her from reading the article. It wasn’t until Sunday when Chef Stef realized that not only hadn’t she had a chance to read the paper, but that she had sadly left it on her desk at work. Curious to see how the Shmookies weighed in with her favorite community, Chef Stef checked the newspaper’s website; “Stefanie Kelly for Best Tasting in the Unique Category for her Shmookies” were the words a flabbergasted, future chocolatier read!

The response from the chocolate festival became the cornerstone of a small business that has become a treasured Belmont Shore favorite. Chef Stef began giving Shmookies as gifts, then selling them to coworkers, friends of friends, and soon enough the network grew to strangers of friends! Today, Shmookies are an old favorite, leading the way for the variety of unique treats from Chef Stef’s pantry that we have today.