photo by Hannah Burton for Bustle
Hello! I'm Jenny. I'm a professional chef, food writer, speaker and social entrepreneur based in Los Angeles. I use food to express the full range of human emotions and social commentary about the world around us. I believe food has a special way of exposing the banal routine and social norms we find ourselves in. It can be a powerful medium for storytelling and create a place for genuine interaction -- if we choose to use it as such.
My mission is to use culinary arts as a platform to evoke introspection, empathy and real emotion. Sometimes my food or the environments I create make people uncomfortable, and that's the point. I don't plan on being complicit with the way things are; I want to change the world with my art, even if it's just one honest conversation at a time.
Before I started my journey in food, I was addicted to social acceptance (I still am, just less so). I started my career as a very (literally) hungry management consultant in the fashion industry before moving on to become the youngest MBA candidate at Columbia Business School. Shockingly, resume accolades do not make us truly happy and I found myself depressed and lost. I decided to take a sabbatical and go "find myself" -- which led me to culinary school, various fancy-schmancy starred restaurants and a bizarre set of jobs (ironic highlight: selling cold-pressed juice door-to-door to Silicon Valley VC firms). Through these twists and turns, I parlayed my abilities into a culinary consulting business, which I feel lucky to say has been successful and rewarding while forcing me to grow up and be a professional.
But I wanted more. At the beginning of 2017, I had an epiphany (at acupuncture) that I should use augmented & virtual reality to make my work more impactful. My experiments with these emerging technologies in the 'immersive' world has helped me narrow in on which social issues I'm particularly passionate about, and with that has birthed Studio ATAO. The Studio is my nonprofit baby that keeps me up at night as I rack my brain of ways to keep pushing people's boundaries with food & art and make them feel something. Where does this road lead? I'm still not sure. It's been a hell of a ride so far, but there's no saying what excitements and failures it still has in store. What I do know, however, is that I'll never wake up and wonder "what if?".
And yes, that's a photo of me being doused in honey mustard, because life is about living and the internet is forever.
My company Studio ATAO (pronounced ah-tao, stands for all together at once) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit community think tank that is reimagining the way think tanks interact with organizational change and public policy. Our mission is to create the spaces, tools, and resources that empower individuals, organizations, and policy centers to implement change actually developed by ordinary community members from the ground-up.
We know that social change happens one relationship at a time. For individuals, we develop educational content and brave spaces to support everyone in utilizing their own influence to become change agents in their communities. We use vulnerable dialogue as a way to engage critically with social movements and the world around us.
For organizations and policy centers, we synthesize insights from the communities most impacted by social, organizational, and political challenges into publicly available toolkits and resources that can be used to implement process-based change. Most recently, we worked with food media professionals to create a toolkit on implementing systematic changes towards equitable representation in food media companies as well as the Asian Americans community to develop a toolkit on unlearning scarcity and cultivating solidarity.
You can learn more about Studio ATAO's mission, vision for the future, and work at our official site www.studioatao.org. If you love what we do, please consider supporting us by via Patreon (monthly patrons) or GiveLively (one-time donation). If you're also a thoughtful, mission-driven individual, come join our digital FB community Social Impact Professionals where we discuss current news and cross-pollinate learnings across industries to grow and learn together.
bylines & appearances
Drink Cocktails in Outer Space with this VR Experience -- Thrillist Supercall
Sommelier Chad Walsh on Why All-American Wine Menus Matter -- Michelin Guide USA
How One Chef Is Rising to Obama’s Call for Action -- Taste.Company
Chef Tatsu and the Art of Edomae Sushi -- Michelin Guide USA
Naem: The Art of Fermentation with Sticky Rice -- Life & Thyme
A Chef Uncovers the Secrets of Umami -- The Takeout
The Best Ramen Restaurants in America -- Thrillist
The Two Signs of a Great Recipe -- The Kitchn
What Will Happen to Food Influencers Post-COVID? -- Food & Wine
Yes, This Meal Is Supposed to Make You Feel Uncomfortable -- Narratively
Sitting at the Table with Shame -- Sumac Magazine
I Left My MBA To Become A Chef... And This Is What Happened -- The Huffington Post
Asian in America: A Symbolic 3 Course Meal -- Hyphen Magazine & Goldthread
Khao Piak Sen Is Lao-Style Chicken Noodle Soup With Soul -- Serious Eats
Kanuchi and the Search for a Native American Soup for Thanksgiving --- Serious Eats
This Mochi Soup Is How Japan Welcomes the New Year -- Serious Eats
Obe Ata Is Saucy, Spicy, and It's Good With Anything -- Serious Eats
How to Make Nem Chua (Vietnamese Cured Pork with Garlic & Chile) -- Serious Eats
Ditch the Can and Make Mussels Escabeche at Home -- Serious Eats
A Week of Meals -- LA Times
Kodawari -- Omakase Room by Tatsu Restaurant, 2018
One Pot Meals -- Dash, 2018
Air Frying for Everyone -- Dash, 2018
Mastering the Instant Pot -- SkyHorse Publishing, 2019
Joie de Vivre -- Boucherie Restaurant, 2019
Healthy Cocktails -- SkyHorse Publishing, 2019
The Infrared Grill Master - Ulysses Press, 2020
Avatar the Last Airbender Cookbook - Insight Editions, 2021
4 Unexpected Foods to Pair with Sake -- Eater
Alt Baking Bootcamp -- Well+Good
Made by Hand: Ceramics -- ChefsFeed
Her Stories -- NowTHIS
See complete food & styling & photography portfolio.
If you are interested in my custom ceramics that are often paired with my food, click here.
I've been fortunate to work with a wide range of interesting companies, from Fortune 500 brands to nonprofits to local chains. My background in finance, management consulting, and global R&D has given me a unique perspective on what makes for a successful food-based venture, and I enjoy tackling age-old problems in creative new ways. I've launched new restaurant and culinary concepts (nationally and internationally); developed recipes and wrote cookbooks; planned and executed custom events large and small; made experimental content (branded and non) for audiences from social media to editorial. I love projects where I have the freedom to take big, abstract ideas and turn them into culinary content or experiential events. If you have an interesting concept you'd like to make even more delicious, please contact me below.
Fair Trade USA
Panda Restaurant Group
Hill's Pet Nutrition
Blue Marble Dreams: Bel Rev
Food Arts Center
BCBG Max Azria
Milk Money Kitchens
National Honey Board
Food Loves Tech
Well + Good
Charleston Wine + Food
Everyday with Rachael Ray
awards & speaking engagements
2021 "Other Notable Food Writing" Mention in Best American Food Writing 2021
2020 IACP Best Personal/Editorial Photograph
2019 Regional Finalist (North America), San Pellegrino Young Chefs
2019 The Art of Plating "On the Rise" Honoree
2019 James Beard House Featured Chef
2018 Finalist, Future of Storytelling "Bridging the Divide" Award
2017 Les Dames D'Escoffier Legacy Awards
2016 Winner, Beat Bobby Flay on Food Network
2016 James Beard Foundation Jean Louis Palladin Professional Work/Study Grant
2015 Bocuse d'or Ment'or Continuing Education Grant
2012 Les Dames D'Escoffier New York Culinary Arts Scholarship
I've been fortunate to share my story in front of a wide variety of audiences these last few years. In everything from keynotes and workshops to moderating panels or judging, I pride myself in being authentic and honest about all parts of my journey, even the ugly, scary, and disappointing moments. I've had the great pleasure of speaking at many companies, organizations and conferences I respect, and just gave my very first TEDx talk in March 2020.
National Museum of Women in the Arts
Future of Storytelling Summit
Culinary Institute of America
Tech Inclusion Conference
Charleston Wine + Food Festival
Crushing the Myth
Yellow Creative Summit
Happy Family Night Market
Union Square Hospitality Group
Tiffany & Co.
Boston Consulting Group
Institute of Culinary Education
Museum of Food & Drink
International Association of Culinary Professionals
If you're looking for a culinary voice for an event, please contact me below.
Knives & Ink (Bloomsbury, 2016)
Adventures of Women Entrepreneurs (Radius, 2017)
Dark Horse (HarperOne, 2018)