Meet Felicia Mayden, the Ace Hotel Chicago’s new executive pastry chef. During an incredibly tumultuous year, she’s been a steadfast leader and optimist, running the hotel’s entire food and beverage program for nine months during COVID-19, when nearly all of the kitchen staff were let go. During that time, she went from overseeing a team of four to only having one other cook working alongside her.

In May 2021, as Chicago’s pandemic restrictions fell away, she was promoted from pastry chef to executive pastry chef — a well-deserved recognition for her work keeping morale high and putting Ace Hotel on Chicago’s pastry map since she joined the team in 2018.  

Some of you may recognize Mayden when you stop into Lovage at Ace Hotel Chicago for pastries and coffee. She recently appeared on the 2021 season of Food Network’s hit show Best Baker in America.

“Lovage is a place where people can come and work, meet friends, just hang out all day,” Chef Felicia Mayden says. “It's a home away from home.” Photo by ANF Chicago // The TRiiBE

Or maybe you’ve seen her around town. Mayden grew up on Chicago’s West Side in Austin. She first began baking with her grandmother as a little girl.

“My favorites as a kid were lemon bars or lemon pies, anything with a tang,” she says. She honed her baking skills with fundraising bake sales at Trinity High School in suburban River Forest. She went on to graduate from Kendall College with an associate degree in baking and pastry, and bachelor degree in hospitality management. Over the years, Mayden has whipped up desserts at The Bristol in Bucktown, GT Fish & Oyster in River North and Formento’s in the Fulton Market District.

But nothing could have prepared her for 2020. As a single mom with a 4-year-old son, juggling personal and professional responsibilities had never been so difficult. 

“Ace as a brand has been very supportive of me as a single parent,” she says. “They understand that there is a balance for me and everyone is willing to help. [General manager] Jesse was even willing to put on an apron and help out in the kitchen.” 

Life became even more complicated when heartbreaking acts of police violence triggered nationwide protests that fought the deep-rooted systemic racism and violence embedded in our country’s past.


“After George Floyd, I felt like I needed to do more,” Mayden says. She helped rally fellow pastry chefs, leading the Bakers Against Racism movement in Chicago. The grassroots movement calls itself the “world’s largest bake sale” and independent bakers across the country have collectively raised more than $2 million for social justice causes. Additionally, she has a charitable component to her work at Ace. Right now, she is donating loaves of bread to Breakthrough Fresh Market in Austin through a Neighbor Loaves program. 

Lovage, Ace Hotel Chicago’s all-day cafe, opened in November 2020. On her brunch menu, Mayden is currently serving housemade English muffins and decadent cinnamon rolls with orange cream cheese frosting.

“Lovage is a place where people can come and work, meet friends, just hang out all day,” Mayden says. “It’s a home away from home.”

Photo by ANF Chicago // The TRiiBE
Photo by ANF Chicago // The TRiiBE

Chef Mayden took us in the kitchen with her while she made white chocolate mousse and fruit tarts. This dessert will be on the Lovage menu soon, she says. 

The sunny space — along with Mayden’s excellent viennoiserie and brioche bun egg sandwiches  — attracts locals as much as hotel guests. She even makes custom protein bars filled with a hearty blend of grains, nuts and seeds as a post-workout snack for guests who wander over from Bold, a private modular gym across the street.

There’s more on the horizon for Mayden, too. She’s currently pursuing her master’s in organizational leadership at National Louis University and dreams of owning her own coffee shop one day. In June, when we met at Lovage for this interview, I couldn’t resist ordering a chocolate chip cookie to go. 

When Mayden mentions that she doesn’t care for chocolate, I’m surprised. Her chocolate chip cookie is excellent, with crisp edges and soft chewy chunks of chocolate. It’s the kind of cookie I expected only a chocolate lover could make.

“When I don’t like something, I invest in it more so I can develop an appreciation,” she says. 

It’s a wise and measured perspective that I’ve pondered often since meeting Mayden. I think it’s certainly been a key to her success. She’s always striving to do more, embracing new challenges and leading her life with an open heart. Her next project? Vegan croissants, made with plant-based ForA:Butter.

is a freelance writer for The TRiiBE.