It all started with a bowl of frozen mixed vegetables and a can of Kraft Parmesan cheese.

The routine begins with the pink Tupperware bowl, which my brother Daniel fills to the brim with frozen vegetables before topping it all off with a mound of the processed goodness that most of us food lovers have left behind in our childhood (or at best our college years). Daniel is 40 years old and was diagnosed with autism when he was three years old. He’s big on routines, and on food, and when it comes to food routines, he has a few mastered — from tossing back raw onions, to throwing BBQ sauce on…well, everything (not excluding Charoset — a rather beguiling Passover 2016 discovery).

As a freelance writer who predominantly covers food and who’s lucky enough to dine frequently (and thoroughly) at this city’s great restaurants, I naturally raise an eyebrow each time I see him take a handful of this daring composition. But it also got me thinking: “How could a chef make me want to eat what he’s eating?”

Thus was born the idea for Doors Open Dishes, an attempt to harmonize the joy individuals like Daniel find in food with the joy chefs experience in creating it. If we could do all of this while also supporting the programs of these individuals — the livelihood drivers, communities, and, in several cases, the only families they have — then there you have it: dreams can come true.

Cheers and (Kraft) cheese,

Nicole & Daniel

Meet Nicole

I’m a Chicago-based freelance writer who has covered food, drink, and travel for outlets like Chicago Magazine,, Hemispheres,, and Food Republic. When I’m not planning my next adventure (likely a trek out West), I’m most likely checking into cycling classes, sipping my way through new cafes, and spending far too much time picking out greeting cards. I’m most comfortable with a pen in one hand and a fork in the other. Drop a line or check out my work at