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Jenn Felmley works as a private chef. She began The Quarantined Kitchen group on Facebook. Courtesy photo
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Lick the Plate: Coming together over food in The Quarantined Kitchen

Our current homebound lives have brought out the creativeness that most culinary folks inherently possess and a prime example is the Facebook group called The Quarantined Kitchen put together by Chef Jenn Felmley. I was invited to join and soon found myself heading straight there when looking for meal inspirations. If you are even the slightest bit inclined to put even the slightest effort into a meal, I would suggest joining this group. Then I started reading more about Chef Jenn and was like, OK, she has a great story that I’d like to share, so here we are. The following are some highlights from our remote interview.

LTP: Where did you grow up? And tell me about some of your early culinary influences.

Chef Jenn: I was born and raised in San Diego, from a childhood in Pacific Beach to spending my high school years in Del Mar. My early culinary influences were very diverse.  My grandmother in Long Island, New York, had a classic French (she was my version of Julia Child) cooking style. She taught me about making your kitchen the center of a home. My friends’ moms are from all over the world, including Tina, who’s Persian and whose mother made the most incredibly bright and vibrant salads, stews and rice dishes. Kizzy’s mom owned a Mexican bakery and showed me the art of a family gatherings that all revolved around food and love. My first job was working in a bakery in a high-end grocery store Rancho Santa Fe.

LTP: Tell me about your culinary education experience at Johnson & Wales and the difference in the two campuses.

Chef Jenn: I started at the campus in North Miami that was filled with flavors of the Caribbean. I found my love for the plantain in Miami. I fell in the love with the flavors of Cuban, Haitian and Puerto Rican food. I worked in a traditional Spanish restaurant while in Miami where I learned so many wonderful dishes that are still with me to this day. The New England campus [in Providence, Rhode Island] was more about learning the classic techniques and a hard work ethic. I also got to explore a lot of local ingredients that New England does incredibly well, from the incredible oysters and various seafood to the Portuguese cuisine and the incredible diversity of flavors.

LTP: You spent time in Europe, what were some of the highlights of that and how did it shape your style?

Chef Jenn: I was incredibly lucky to live in Northern Italy in small town outside of Milan; this is really where I learned how wonderful a simple meal made from incredible ingredients can be. This is really the base of my cooking style to this day. I was also blessed to go to wine school in Germany. I lived in England as well and have some amazing British food memories.

LTP: You landed at the Chopra Center when you came to San Diego and became well versed in Ayurvedic cuisine. What was that experience like?

Chef Jenn: Ayurvedic cuisine is eating foods based on your body and what your body needs. These needs are determined by dosha or body type. This diet is supported by thousands of years of Indian medicine.  Principles that I have learned though Ayurveda still live in the way I cook to this day. The food that I cook has to be bright and exciting to the eye. Foods that are flat, dull and boring do not excite your mind. They do not help to start the dietary process. When food makes you salivate, it gets you excited to eat. Those foods start the digestive process, in your brain, allowing for your body to best process your food. This process is also referred to as “mindful eating.”

LTP: You have since transitioned into teaching and working as a private chef. How can folks get involved in those services you offer?

Chef Jenn: I have transitioned into offering my services online where people can have a chef in their kitchen to help with any  questions they might have. I have a wealth of knowledge to share. Folks can email me at [email protected] to set up a donation-based one on one. Follow me on Instagram @chefjenncooks to see my full list of offerings, including shopping services for of my clients looking for any specialty/hard to find ingredients.

LTP: The Quarantined Kitchen Facebook group you started has become wildly popular. How did that come to be and how do readers get involved?

Chef Jenn: When my work began to be affected by COVID-19, I started the FB group as a place for people to come find a community around food. It’s a place where you can ask any food question or just get inspired by what other people are cooking. This group is as necessary for me as it is for the people in the group. It allows me to care for people through food, something I did as a personal chef and need to do. It is a place for people to come together, share recipes, ask questions and feel a part of something. My goal is to make this an online kitchen, where everyone can gather. Anyone is welcome to join the group, they just have to ask to join.