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VOL. 129 | NO. 122 | Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Professional Foodie

Memphis chef Jennifer Chandler spins multiple plates

By Andy Meek

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Chef, writer and restaurant consultant Jennifer Chandler likes to say that, because of the career she’s chosen, she gets to play with food for a living.

Given the volume of work she does, it must seem like that to her – if not play, it’s certainly a labor of love. Already, her long career has included work consulting for restaurants, writing cookbooks and promoting healthy recipes – and she’s not slowing down.

Chef, writer and restaurant consultant Jennifer Chandler has several projects at the moment. In addition to working for Beale Street Blues Co. as manager of menu development and culinary support, she’s got a new book coming out in October, “The Southern Pantry Cookbook: 105 Recipes Already Hiding in Your Kitchen.”

(Submitted)

She’s got several projects on her plate, no pun intended, at the moment. Chandler is currently working for Beale Street Blues Co., for example, as a manager of menu development and culinary support, which involves working with all the company’s chefs around the country at its restaurants to develop recipes, source products and equipment and design menus.

Chandler said the company, which she joined in November, is in the midst of expanding and needed a person in the corporate office to help support the food side of the business. Among other things, the company is re-opening Lafayette’s Music Room in Overton Square, and, as part of her duties with the company, she’s helping design the kitchen, develop recipes with the chef and draft a menu.

The restaurant and music venue will be at 2119 Madison Ave., and Chandler said the hope is to have it open in September. Jack Phillips, director of retail operations for Beale Street Blues Co., told The Daily News late last year that the restaurant will serve lunch and dinner and wants to offer guests a place to come hang out for a few hours, as they eat and listen to music.

“I’m having a great time with it,” Chandler said. “It’s all the things I love to do – a lot of behind-the-scenes work. So many creative things can happen in a restaurant.”

Beale Street Blues Co. also is the parent company for B.B. King’s Blues Clubs, and Chandler said the hope is to open Lafayette’s in other cities where B.B. King’s venues exist. Her influence also is felt at B.B. King’s venues, where she’s working to help bring consistency to things like the plates and menu.

Meanwhile, Chandler also has another cookbook coming out later this year.

“The Southern Pantry Cookbook: 105 Recipes Already Hiding in Your Kitchen” comes out in October. Her previous books include titles like “Simply Salads,” “Simply Suppers” and “Simply Grilling,” and for her latest, she’s focused on “trying to show my readers they can cook great dinners with things they probably already have on hand.”

The latest book includes Southern-inspired fare, with recipes that include roasted sweet potato salad with dried cranberries and pecans; white bean and country ham soup; braised chicken with mushrooms and grits; and cheesy-jalapeno hushpuppies, among others.

It’s the latest in a long line of culinary endeavors from a woman who in the 1990s decided to move to Paris to learn to cook

Chandler enrolled at the Le Cordon Bleu academy – took a crash course in French, naturally – and a year later graduated at the top of her class. And the year she spent in the City of Light taught her to appreciate food as more than a diversion during the day – as, rather, something to savor.

That philosophy has influenced her many projects and creations since then, ranging from the books, to the writing she’s done for magazines, to her recipes and restaurant work.

“I’m really having fun,” she said about her latest projects. “I joke that I get to play with food for a living. Food is really something I have a passion for.”

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