Smile Spotlight: Chef Jen

How long have you been with Parkhurst Dining?

About 1 year! 

How long have you considered yourself a chef? (Even if it was before you formally had the title!) 

To me, working towards being respected as a chef in other peoples’ eyes is more important than a given title. It is earned. I started cooking for people when I was around 18 years old, but I didn’t take it seriously until a few years later. I realized I truly loved it when I was around 20 – I was doing catering for concerts and sports teams, and loved the hustle and bustle. That’s when I started seriously pursuing it.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job? 

Building a positive environment to ensure team member creativity, AND creating great dining experiences for guests. I love being able to positively impact others’ experiences both at work and in my personal life. 

If you were a food, what would you be?

 Filet – Surprisingly tender on the inside! 

In your opinion, what are the biggest lasting changes in the culinary world that will come out of 2020 & COVID-19?

We’re already seeing a huge shift to takeout, ghost kitchens, mobile ordering, of course. For higher education dining, it means moving quicker than ever. I’d argue that all of this has sparked a change in our niche of the food industry the most! It means even more planning than ever before, and extremely detail-oriented thinking. It means different challenges for every dining location, especially retail vs. board. 

The biggest and most positive change? More teamwork than ever. 

What’s your most requested dish, whether by your guests or your family & friends?

Mac’n cheese! 

What’s the secret to a great mac’n cheese?

The more cheese the better, and it’s gotta be slow melted! 

As Executive Chef at Chatham University, you serve plenty of bright, young minds! What’s one piece of advice you’d give to your college-aged self?

Follow your passions, and don’t worry about what other people think.

When do you feel most at home in your skin? 

Playing professional softball in my free time. My team is La Familigia, based out of Pittsburgh. We actually just won for our class & division for the third year in a row – that makes us a 3-time WORLD champion! I have teammates from all over the country, and everyone practices on their own, video-sharing to keep each other accountable. We’ve been doing it that way for years, so that means I was already a master at virtual hangouts by the time COVID came around! 

During stressful times, what do you do to comfort yourself and those around you? 

Dance parties, which probably happen at least once a day. 

What is your favorite guilty pleasure food? 

The Whopper!

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