photo by Hannah Burton for Bustle
Hello! I'm Jenny. I'm a professional chef and creative person based between New York City and Los Angeles. I make food to express the full range of human emotions - even those not well-suited for Instagram. 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.
Studio ATAO is a nonprofit culinary production studio that creates interdisciplinary, impact-driven content & experiences. Our flagship series, Asian in America is an award-nominated experience fusing food & drink, virtual reality & poetry and has been touring across the U.S. since 2018. Our piece, a VR and immersive dance journey titled HIDDEN, debuted in 2019 and will be traveling globally in 2020. We are in pre-production for our newest series, Glass Through Skin, a therapeutic exhibition & culinary experience on the normalization of female pain through the axes of sexuality and the 'female' body.
Khao Piak Sen Is Lao-Style Chicken Noodle Soup With Soul -- Serious Eats
Drink Cocktails in Outer Space with this VR Experience -- Thrillist Supercall
Kanuchi and the Search for a Native American Soup for Thanksgiving --- Serious Eats
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
This Mochi Soup Is How Japan Welcomes the New Year -- Serious Eats
The Best Ramen Restaurants in America -- Thrillist
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
4 Life Lessons I Learned From Being On Reality TV -- Thought Catalog
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
4 Unexpected Foods to Pair with Sake -- Eater
See complete food & styling & photography portfolio.
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
Milk Money Kitchens
National Honey Board
Food Loves Tech
Everyday with Rachel Ray
Well + Good
awards & speaking engagements
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 I'm very excited to be giving my first TEDx talk in March 2020.
Future of Storytelling Summit
ReThink Conference, Culinary Institute of America
Charleston Wine + Food Festival
Crushing the Myth
Happy Family Night Market
Red Dot Annual Art Show
When to Jump: NYC
Union Square Hospitality Group
Apex for Youth
Institute of Culinary Education
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)