Rathbun Chef Jennifer Newbold on the Rules of the Kitchen, Her Mussels and the Dallas Palate
Jennifer Newbold has been the chef at Rathbun's Blue Plate Kitchen for about six months now. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, she grew up eating food from her family farm and would like to see an easier way to bring the farm to the table here. She came to Dallas via St. Loius and San Diego, and she makes a strong case on why you should try her mussels.
We sat down with Newbold for this week's interview.
When did you first become interested in cooking?
My grandpa passed away before I was born, but he was a chef. My father cooked a lot too, and growing up in Tacoma, Washington, we would go hunting and fishing regularly. I remember always being in the kitchen with my dad. We'd go pick chanterelles and make a big batch of chanterelle soup. And we always had gardens. We didn't have a lot of money, so we grew a lot of our own foods.
And at a young age I remember going to the grocery store with my mother and she would read the labels on everything to see where it came from.
That was progressive of her. Is she a hippie?
Yeah, she's a hippie.
What made you decide to become a chef?
I really didn't know what I wanted to do until I fell in love with a military man at a young age and realized I needed to find a job. It just kind of fell in my lap, and I realized it was something I had a passion for. And it just kept going from there. I'm self-taught. I learned from the different chefs I've worked with.
What was your first job in a restaurant?
In a huge café and coffee shop in Spokane, Washington. Then I needed a second job, so I started working at Mizuna, which is an all-vegetarian, gourmet five-star restaurant that's been featured in Gourmet magazine. That was where I really got my true passion for cooking. I owe it all to the first chef I worked for there. She was amazing and taught me so much.
Where else did you work?
Well, we moved around a lot since my husband is in the military. I worked at the St. Louis Fish Market in St. Louis, then in San Diego for four years at Blue Point Coastal Cuisine. Then, we moved here and I worked at Jasper's in Plano before I moved over here (to Rathbun's Blue Plate Kitchen).
After moving around so much, what have you learned about gaining the respect of the kitchen staff at a new restaurant?
By coming in and not being a dictator right off. They know you're going to make changes, they expect that. But, you have to pick your battles. I may have 100 things I want to change, but I can't do that right off because everyone would freak out. And, I really just try to stay positive because this business can really bring you down.