Jenny Dorsey has heard “no” more than once in her life.
But what’s so special about Jenny is that she’s ignored those no’s. After some time as a management consultant, Jenny dove head first into food and hasn’t looked back. Currently a chef and culinary consultant in New York City, Jenny is pursuing her dreams. She runs an underground restaurant with her husband and has even recently appeared on The Food Network.
We talked to Jenny about where and when her love of food started and got her three tips for any aspiring food entrepreneurs. Check out Jenny’s page and visit her website to discover more about her world of food.
Hi! I’m Jenny. I’m a professional chef & culinary consultant based in NYC. I started my career in management consulting, but decided to leave that and my MBA to pursue the wonderful and crazy world that is food.
I run my own culinary consulting firm, Jenny Dorsey Consulting, where I specialize in menu R&D, operations, and strategic planning for restaurants, food startups, and other food businesses. As a passion project, I run an underground restaurant / supperclub named I Forgot It’s Wednesday with my husband, where we combine fine-dining caliber food & drink with a comfortable atmosphere and engaging conversation. I recently started making my own ceramics for the supperclub with the hopes one day I’ll be able to serve all my food on my own pottery! My two main hobbies are eating and petting my two doggies (one is a pitbull and one is a miniature rat terrier, ha!).
When did you first fall in love with food?
I fell in love with food when I studied abroad in Rome during college. I loved going to the markets, buying fresh produce, and making what I thought then was “hella bomb” food. When I came back to States I realized the Italians have a special food culture very different from us and have been intrigued and semi-obsessed about recreating that love of food for my guests through my own cooking.
Tell us about I Forgot It’s Wednesday. Why did you start it?
I started I Forgot It’s Wednesday January of 2014 after my husband and I realized we were constantly having the same, dull conversations with our peers at Columbia. We wanted to create an atmosphere where people could really bond with each other and engage in intellectually stimulating conversation – of course over good food & drink!
What started as a casual get-together between friends grew into a regular dinner series that attracted the attention of a lot of New Yorkers we’ve never met, in addition in a lot of press! After 6 months we decided to host our first ever 1-night pop up restaurant for 100 people (insanity!!!) and after that the enthusiasm for our concept has truly blown us away. We spent a year over in SF as well, hosting dinners and pop ups, and was named the #1 Supperclub in SF by 7×7 Magazine – over 1-Michelin-starred Lazy Bear!
When we returned to NYC last year, UrbanDaddy profiled us as one of the best East Coast underground dining experience and we were recently highlighted in Business Insider too. It’s been so uplifting for us to see how many people really are looking for something different and meaningful. IFIW is a passion project for us, with a lot of late nights, but seeing how genuinely happy and excited people are at our events makes all the hard work worthwhile.
What has been your favorite culinary experience to date?
I was on a Food Network competition show a few months ago where one of the judges who ate my food is a big-name female, Chinese chef (can’t say who as it hasn’t aired yet). I was so nervous about her trying my dish and was sweating myself silly. She said she loved it! To have someone I admired in the industry – and with a similar background – love my work was so rewarding for me.
3 tips for aspiring chefs or food entrepreneurs?
The biggest thing I believe in is that you have to ignore all the “no’s”. I’ve heard so many “no’s” in my life and it’s easy to become very demoralized, but at the end of the day you report to yourself and no one else – so go do what you want!
A good quote I read a few years ago that has stuck with me was “You only see other people’s highlights reel”. We often compare ourselves in our entirety to only the best parts of other people. No one is perfect and no one has achieved greatness without failures, setbacks and letdowns. I make sure to be honest about the obstacles I experience when talking about my path in hopes that others can take comfort that change and challenge part of the journey.
You can never stop learning. There’s always more food cultures you don’t know about, flavor pairings you haven’t tried, ingredients you’ve never tasted, techniques you haven’t experienced…don’t be complacent because your food will then quickly become outdated. Strive to always improve!
What’s the hardest part about running your own business?
Running your own business is an emotional rollercoaster. It takes a lot of perseverance to stay calm and sure when everything sometimes (feels like) it’s imploding at once. You also have to do every task, all the time; for the supperclub, I’m the chef, server, busser, hostess, dishwasher and porter. It’s exhausting. But at the end of the day, it’s very rewarding to call something your own and know you built it from the ground up.
*Header image via Robin Lam