There are people you meet in life that you just know are going to be friends for life. There are also people you meet in life that are so cool you think they must have been Fonzie in a former life or something. Then there are people who are so inexplicably nice you have to pinch yourself to be lucky enough to be their friend. When the stars align you get all of these things in one person. Then you realize it gets even better because not only are you friends with a Fonzie-like, uber nice person you find out they are so incredibly talented you almost want to stop being friends with them. But then you realize that would be wrong and jealousy gets you a big old seat at the mean girls table and you don't want to sit there. You want to sit with Jenni, the coolest, smartest, funniest, most talented chick I know. So what if I want to kick her in the shins from time to time for being so wickedly superior in baking abilities than I am. What's a little bruising and ankle kicking between friends. Okay so I'd never kick her. I would however like to take classes from her one day. I think I'd learn so much from this lady. She knows the in's and out's of baking like no one I've ever come across. I find it fascinating, endearing and somewhat annoying to be quite honest.
Jenni blogs at Pastry Chef Online. She is a whiz in the kitchen, youtubing her way to stardom and making me jealous how good she looks when she cooks. I think it's her magical bandana. It makes me want to pull up a chair and watch her all day. She is at ease in the kitchen as she is in life. I was lucky enough to meet Jenni at Mixed.
I knew Jenni from her blog and Facebook, we chatted here and there. Little did I know I would instantly adore her upon meeting her. Jenni is many things but the thing that made me connect with her so much is how funny she is. She's sharp and can verbal spar with the best of them. I like that in a friend and in a chef. I don't want to just learn, I want to be entertained while I learn. This is Jenni's forte. She is that girl you meet that you want to be best friends with immediately. Then you want her to invite you for dinner. Often! I had asked Jenni prior to going to the conference if she would like to be interviewed and if so could we do it in person at the conference. This was my first in person interview so I was pretty nervous. Jenni made it easy as we settled into comfy chairs outside the movie room. We sat and chatted while the others watched Dirty Dancing. I think we talked for more than a couple of hours. Getting a peek into Jenni's world was so much fun and I hope you all enjoy what she had to say as much as I did.
What or who inspires you?
People who want to understand how baking works. I'm inspired every day by the questions from people who want to learn. How did you fall in love with baking? I watched my mom bake which started it. Then in college I tried to make a dish for a friend and I didn't understand the idea of "recipes". From there I started to become interested in how different techniques affected the outcome of a dish. I experimented with the cream method and 2 step, the taste was so different and I thought that was so cool. I like how results are predictable if you know how to do things.
Do you have any foods you will not eat?
I do not like shrimp. It's like a thick rubber band. I don't like the boingy idea of that in my mouth. Oysters too.
You have a great relationship with your fans, how do you balance being so open but maintain your privacy?
You want to let people in enough without over-sharing. If you can't tell someone in line at the store something then it shouldn't be shared in casual conversation.
What is your favourite meal?
As a kid it was Beef Shoulder Roast with mashed potatoes and peas. Now I liked good Pizza, or Vodka Sauce. What's your favourite dessert? English Trifle like my aunt used to make. I also like chocolate but it has to be good quality chocolate.
Do you have a favourite chef?
Anthony Bourdain because he's passionate, to the point and he just doesn't care. He appreciates the food, work and history. I cooked for him at the Orlando Film Festival, I served him desserts and I was impressed when he went back to the kitchen. what I really love about him is that, no matter how snarky or obnoxious he can get, he is always humble and gracious when being served. He understands what goes into cooking and appreciates when his food is cooked with honesty and integrity.
Tell us about the kitties. (For those new to Jenni and her site, she fosters cats and helps raise money to support a local organization)
I had never had pets and we lived in the area for about 5 weeks when the neighbours cat had kittens. We kitten-sat for them and ended keeping all 3 of them. Then I started volunteering to foster cats. I help the Johnston County Animal Protection League and have helped raise money to help support their efforts.
Take us through a typical day in the life of Jenni.
I'm up early, at 6 am with the beloved to help him get ready for work. Then it's feeding kitties and coffee. I check my emails and facebook. Then I cook and bake. Then I take care of the cats. I write for myself, and am also a ghost writer for another site. Then I bounce around on social media, blog, promote then I'm making dinner. I tend to be a last-minute cook.
What's your favourite kitchen tool?
My whisk. Your dream kitchen would have... An induction like we used at school. It kicks gas's ass. My kitchen would have lots of counters, no cook top, 3 or 4 portable burner induction. It would have an oven in the wall. And a wood grain butcher block.
What's your dream job?
I have it. I like working from home. I like the flexibility of it. What's your best practical advice for new cooks? Learn the fundamentals like mixing methods, learn the roles things play. You will be a better baker if you do this.
What do you do when you're not baking or blogging?
I spend time with the cats, I like to read, visit friends, hang out with neighbours and talk to my mom.
Coke or Pepsi?
Milk, Dark or White Chocolate?
White is NOT chocolate!
Sweet or savoury snacks?
Alternating ending with savoury!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Is blogging still a big part of the picture?
I'd like to be teaching, possibly in a culinary program or cooking school. Not sure about blogging.
Dare Portion of Burning Down The Kitchen:
Take a photo of you in your fave foodie shopping store pretending to run off with the goods. Okay the last part is a joke, please don't get arrested on my account. But a pic of you shopping in your fave store (grocery, williams sonoma, chef store, wherever) doing something silly like sitting on top of the carrots and taking a nap by a pile of pots would be fun. No pressure.
So hilarious. I love the first shot how Jenni looks about to bolt off. The second one makes me think she may have actually bought all that stuff. And the third had me feeling a little less guilty about my butter hoarding habits at Costco. She is such a good sport and Jenni I love that you did this one. Not many people would go into a store and do this. The fact that you did made me wildly happy.
I knew I wanted to mix things up for Jenni when it came to dares. Mini-me thought I should do a "chopped" type challenge from now on. But I think berating people with questions and making them take silly photos is torture enough. I told Jenni about mini-me's plot. "Now this next one is all mini-me's idea so this is just completely optional but she said I should start daring people to make stuff with random ingredients like they do on cooking shows and on the chew and stuff.
So what could you whip up with these 5 ingredients: puff pastry cream cheese honey chocolate lavender K go... Feel free to ditch this last dare. It was going out on a limb for me and I am unsure I want you baking something you won't eat."
Jenni's response: " Easy! I'd mix the honey and cream cheese w/a little vanilla and a wee pinch of salt. Maybe a little cream, too, because I want a Pipeable Texture. Then, I'd bake the puff pastry into shells 3" in diameter that could hold the honey cream (because this is what we're calling it now). *Then,* I'd infuse some of the lavender into just-brought-to-a-boil-cream for about 30 min or so. Then, I'd make a ganache with the chocolate and lavender cream. *And THEN* I'd let it chill and then pipe a little swirl of ganache on the honey cream. Tada!! We shall call this dessert Mini-me''s Dare."
See folks, this is why I adore her. Not only is she up for any challenge, she meets and exceeds it. I laughed how she took seemingly silly ingredients and made something you would pay $40 for in a restaurant. I may try it and see how it turns out just for fun. Mini'me will be thrilled.
If all of this has not convinced you to go visit Pastry Chef Online then let me entice you with a few of Jenni's talents from her recipe index. I guarantee you are over at her site in 5 seconds flat, quite likely with your face pressed up against the screen hoping some kind of magic occurs and you can snag a few bites of everything on the screen.
Spiced Fudge- can you say yes please I'll take 5 dozen batches!
Pate de Fruits- this one made me squee a little bit...okay a lot!
Pepperoni Bread- okay honestly this should be illegal!
Vodka Sauce- I am totally making this on the weekend. I've been dying to find a good recipe for it. Bingo!
General Faux's Chicken- the name of this makes me howl with laughter, the look of it makes me want to show up on her doorstep!
Fish n Chips- this is one of my fave meals of all time. I can't wait to try Jenni's version. She even wrapped it in newspaper like my mom used to!
Chocolate Stout Cake- this is a very good thing indeed!
Miss Patsy's Van Halen Pound Cake- okay seriously, this is a criminal offence, I'm sure of it. Nothing can be this good.
Pretty Woman Cookies- not only gorgeous and fabulous but hilarious as well!
Topless Tarte Tatin- 'nuff said!
I told you all you would be pressed up against the screen begging for food. This woman is a dynamo in the kitchen. And I'm not just saying that. If you need proof go check out her YouTube channel. This lady has tons of videos to make you all better cooks and bakers. She knows the in's and out's of cooking and baking. It's so important, particularly with baking to know why things need to go in a certain order or why you can't combine this with that. Jenni can teach you all the things to do and make you understand WHY you are doing them. That information is priceless. Knowledge is power baby. Jenni has it, in spades.
I chose to make Jenni's Butterscotch Candy. The reason why is candy is my nemesis.For me going up against my enemy with a friend who has my back gave me piece of mind. I felt like I could conquer it, and my fears when it comes some candy making. I make candy quite often but it's not something I excel at. My results are not always the same. I figured if I was armed with Jenni's tips I could make this work. It worked perfectly. So perfectly in fact that I'm just going to direct you over to her blog for the Butterscotch Candy recipe since I did not change a thing. I usually tweak things, make subtle changes. Sometimes big changes. But in this case I wanted to try this candy as it was something I had not made and I followed Jenni's directions to the letter. So head on over to Pastry Chef Online to check the recipe. You will love this candy.
Thanks so much to Jenni for allowing me the privilege of interviewing her. Also for skipping watching Dirty Dancing in our jammies so we could gab for hours on end. I so enjoyed every moment of our time together at Mixed.
I encourage you all to stalk this lady. You can find her blogging at Pastry Chef Online. You can also follow her on Facebook which I absolutely love to do. She posts photos as she cooks things which is a fun thing to see. She also posts photos her fans send in of things they have made. I think that is one of the coolest things about Jenni, she just welcomes every body to the table. She is also on Twitter, G+, and YouTube. I suggest you stalk her everywhere. She is totally worth a good stalking.
Toodles and smoochies! xx