An Old Friend and Gorgeous Fish
The first time I met Jennifer Kempin (executive chef of the new Mount Lookout restaurant, Muse) was purely by happenstance.
I was in my bachelor’s program at the Culinary Institute of America and doing some light catering jobs on the weekends outside of working for a Teaching Kitchen Pilot Study. I needed some additional hands for a barbeque gig and was asking around to see if anyone was willing to help. Luckily, one of my chefs, Chef Paul DelleRose, was extremely adamant that I save a spot for an extremely hardworking girl who was the fish fabrication teaching assistant at the time (spoiler: it was Jen).
Fast forward to that weekend and we were stationed in a kitchen built within a park and cooking for a social club’s Memorial Day get-together with minimal useable prep space and haphazard ovens that probably never held a consistent cooking temperature. Ultimately, the event went off well and we all had a great time. When you ask Jen how we met, she will more than likely tell you it “started with a chair” because there was a lounge chair in the kitchen space that looked exactly like it came straight out of the movie “Juno”.
(This makes far more sense in the context that I used to look at lot like the actress Ellen Page and have a very similar temperament to her, at least from how Ellen Page portrays many of her characters on film. If you’re wondering, yes, I have dressed up like her for Halloween.)
During that event, I learned to appreciate how much we could (and still do) goof off while knocking out some serious work while teaching and pushing each other to be better chefs and educators. The most notable thing for me was that even though Jen and I had never met before, within 10 minutes we could work side by side without needing to communicate through words.
Ultimately, we became close friends over the years. We almost opened our own catering company together while attending NYU Steinhardt for graduate school and traveled internationally to places like India and Ireland together doing research. Jen has so much passion for food policies and improving food environments for others. I have always admired her tenacity and drive both professionally and academically. When it comes to cooking though, she’s one little red head fireball that is very detailed oriented and happens to cook the most gorgeous fish. Her experience at the Culinary Institute of America in their educating culinary students and managing the fish fabrication and identification class is only a sliver of her experience with seafood.
That is why out of all the individuals I could have asked to teach a class, I am delighted to host Jen. She is so passionate about this topic and can offer helpful pointers on topics like checking a fish for freshness, identifying a fish, fabricating (i.e. cutting a fish into portions), and preparing fish in a variety of ways to create exciting dishes.
Join us both at the Turner Farm’s Teaching Kitchen for “Culinary Competencies: Fish Fabrication + Cookery” on January 23rd from 6:30 -8:30pm.