THE INTERVIEW: Jennifer Doan, Chef/Blogger August 9, 2012
We’re back with a new THE INTERVIEW! We were able to spend some time with Jennifer Doan, a true modern renaissance woman: a former investment banker turned chef turned startup entrepreneur for MyEatClub. While doing all of this, she has kept her own blog that chronicles her dining adventures that features a mix of hole-in-the-wall neighborhood gems, gourmet street food, and the nation’s top restaurants. Her background as a culinary chef allows her to share recipes that teach her readers how to recreate some of the most well known dishes from the most acclaimed restaurants (we recently tried her take on Momofuku‘s acclaimed Pork Buns and it was every bit as good!). Her knowledge of food and nutrition has also translated over into her skincare philosophy as she has transitioned over to clean, natural products. Read on for the full interview!
Jennifer plating a course
Tell the readers a little about yourself.
Born and raised in the Bay Area, I’m a California girl through and through. I attended UC Berkeley and graduated with a business degree. I always thought I would pursue a practical career with my degree, follow the normal finance career path, get an MBA and be set. After graduation, I began a financial analyst program with Houlihan Lokey, a boutique investment banking services firm, in San Francisco. After a year, I had the opportunity to move to New York within the same firm. I jumped on it, eager to experience living somewhere outside California. Moving to NY was quite the adjustment, but I quickly fell in love with the city and everything it has to offer–including the food! Food and dining is taken to a whole new level in New York. I became very absorbed in the dining scene and realized I spent a lot of my time, thinking about food, cooking and exploring the amazing restaurants. I finished up my analyst program and made the decision to make a career switch to follow my passion for food. I quit my job and attended the French Culinary Institute. Following the completion of the culinary arts program, I worked as a line cook in the Executive Dining Room at JP Morgan for two years. Last October, I decided to move back to California, take a break from cooking full-time and figure out the next step in my career. I wanted a job that bridged my passion for food with my deep-rooted interests in business and entrepreneurship. A food startup (MyEatClub) seemed like a natural progression–which is where I’m currently working now.
When/why did you start your food blog?
When I started the culinary program at FCI, I was completely overwhelmed, fascinated and excited all at once. The program is extremely fast paced and I remember thinking to myself that I didn’t want to miss a minute. I decided to start a “journal” in the form of a blog. I wanted to write about my experiences and months, years later, remember how I felt in those moments. And I wanted to share it with friends and family. During school, it was easy to write posts about my day. I also decided to make my blog entirely my own and not stick to any format. Sometimes I wrote about school, sometimes I wrote about trying new restaurants. When I started working as a line cook, I began cooking and experimenting a lot more outside of work. I loved discovering new local products or exotic produce and just playing in the kitchen. I also ate out constantly–NY is filled with amazing restaurants, it’s hard not to. My blog became less about learning (as it was during school) and more about experimenting. Somewhere along the line, blogging became less “fun” and felt more like “homework.” The whole process of taking “food porn” worthy pictures and documenting everything I ate, chopped, or touched became tedious. I realized it felt like work because I was trying to make my blog like the 50,000 other amazing food blogs out there. I was trying to make it fit a mold that just wasn’t natural for me. Once I stop trying so hard, it was much easier and more enjoyable. The blog became about sharing my dining adventures and recipes I loved. I blog when I have something I want to share and don’t force any kind of schedule on myself. I love hearing that friends have tried my recipes or that they enjoy reading my blog–that’s what motivates me to keep blogging. I’m able to bring some joy and happiness into the lives of others with food.
How would you describe your style of food?
I love all types of food. I’m a closet fatty, so my relationship with food is very conflicted. It’s a constant struggle between the comforting, rich foods and the healthy, good for me foods. Because I love so many cuisines, my cooking is very diverse and inspired. I love combining classic French technique with interesting, Asian ingredients.
What is a ‘holy grail’ ingredient everyone should have at home?
Kosher salt. Not the common Morton’s table salt but the slightly course, sea salt. Salt brings out the flavor in every ingredient. It provides balance to sweet, sour, spicy, bitter and just everything else. It takes food to the next level. Not properly seasoning food is the biggest mistake I see in the kitchen.
Bone Marrow from Blue Ribbon Sushi
What is the best meal you’ve ever had?
It’s hard to choose just one. I regularly daydream about the lamb burger from The Breslin in NY and the bone marrow and fried chicken from Blue Ribbon Sushi. I will always opt for comfort foods over fancy multi-course meals.
Fried Chicken from Blue Ribbon Sushi
How would you describe the difference between East Coast and West Coast food?
East Coast food has so much cultural influence. Every dish has history. Every up and coming chef has a diverse multi-cultural background. There is soul and life in the food, from cheap dumplings in Flushing to the ultimate dining experience at four-star Michelin rated restaurants. The energy and buzz that you feel when in New York is reflected in the food.
West Coast food is simple and clean. Since we have access to an abundance of fresh, local ingredients, the focus is on showcasing ingredients in their natural glory.
Who is your favorite celebrity chef?
Thomas Keller is a god.
If you had your own restaurant, what kind of food would you serve?
The menu would be simple with only a handful of dishes available each day. The food would be comforting, easy to eat, and fun to share. I would use seasonal ingredients in conjunction with exotic spices and flavors from various cuisines.
Has your knowledge of food caused you to pay attention to nutrition and overall health?
Absolutely. When your life revolves around food, health and nutrition is extremely important. I make it a point to balance unhealthy days/meals with lots of exercise and healthy foods. My current job requires me to try a lot of food and also as a chef, I’m naturally curious about most foods. I firmly believe what you consume directly impacts your appearance. I make it a point to know the nutrients and vitamins in the foods I eat and how it helps nourish my body.
Have you noticed that certain diets can affect your skin?
I don’t really diet. I do believe in making manageable life style changes that helps me stay healthy. I’ve noticed when I make an effort to drink lots of water, get a lot of sleep, exercise, and eat well balanced meals that are low in carbs, I feel and look a lot better. Nothing drastic and no deprivation of any kind. Taking care of myself is a long distance race. I believe little changes like eating more nutrient packed fruits and vegetables and cutting back on processed foods and preservatives now will ultimately be advantageous.
Describe your skincare regimen
Morning: lightly wash my face with warm water, followed by a light spritz of Cocoon Elixir
Mid-morning (after gym): wash face with Cetaphil, spritz of Cocoon Elixir, Liquid Courage Antioxidant Serum, Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer with SPF 20 or Jack Black Performance Remedy Oil-Free Sunguard SPF 45 for really sunny days
Night: wash with Cetaphil, spritz generously with Cocoon Elixir, finish with ME Skin Fuel
Jennifer’s Must-Have Product: the Cocoon Elixir
Tell us about your experience with the YULI products
I’ve been blessed with genetically clear skin so I didn’t have a strict regimen before I started using YULI products. I assumed that if I wasn’t breaking out, then the products I was using were fine. When I started using YULI products, I loved how simplified my daily regimen was. The products felt great on my face and I started noticing changes immediately. My new must-have is the Cocoon Elixir–it instantly refreshes me and feels great. It also makes me feel better knowing that the products are all-natural, fresh, and actually expire. I never really thought about it, but using products that last forever is probably equivalent to eating a Twinkie.
How has your skin improved or changed since using the products?
I have my share of skin issues: breakouts, large pores, redness, oily T-zone, etc. When I started using only YULI products, I noticed changes immediately. My skin still isn’t perfect but my pores are non existent and much of the irritation and redness are gone. I always assumed my skincare regimen was decent since I never had acne or breakouts–I never realized the non-clean products were actually causing my skin issues. I can’t imagine not using all-natural products now when I’ve seen how well my skin responds to them.
Has your knowledge of nutrition changed how you look at skincare?
Yes! I’ve always been conscious of eating natural foods with little preservatives but I never thought to apply the same rules to my skincare. Similar to how eating natural foods makes me feel better, using natural skincare products makes my skin look better. I’m sold. No more Twinkies for my face.
If you could take a culinary trip around the world, what cities are musts?
Barcelona, San Sebastian, Paris, Bordeaux, Florence, Tuscany, Santorini
Can you list a few of your favorite restaurants?
Momofuku Ssam Bar
What would you like to have accomplished within the next 5 years?
Start my own culinary consulting business that allows me to help people plan and cook for events involving food such as dinner parties and romantic dates. I want to be able to share my expertise and recipes to create fun, delicious memories.