When the pandemic began and interrupted the successful events and catering company of Jen and her husband Jamey, they turned lemons into a lucrative virtual cooking class – you’ll even learn to cook with lemongrass!
Like many other businesses, Chef’s Garden Catering & Events in the South was forced to reinvent itself – let’s just say that an idea born out of desperation has led to some very delectable dishes which you can learn to cook at home. With a variety of classes, from New Orleans Gumbo to Sushi Rolling, you can enjoy scrumptious plates over the screen. While this might be a diversion from catering in-person events, jenandjamey.com serves up the same personalized service and of course, palatable plates, just a bit more homemade this time.
“When this happened almost a year ago, we were gearing up for our busiest spring season to date,” explains Jen. “We’re a fully off premises event and catering firm and had just done a 300-person gala with multiple courses and dozens of staff members. Our notion as a company was that we served great food and beverage but with a shared space. Then Covid hit and we watched over a million dollars in business disappear in a short period of time. We were scared like everyone else around the country, the world and our industry. I was scrolling on Facebook and in a moment of panic said we’ll just take a deep breath. That’s when I saw somebody saying something about hosting a happy hour and I said to myself, we don’t need physical space to make this happen. We can connect with people online with a cocktail party vibe. I reached out to ten friends to get feedback and sent them ingredients on St. Patrick’s Day with Irish ingredients to make it fun. Things grew organically from there.”
Before long, Jen and Jamey’s had a law firm out of New York asking if they could ship ingredients to all of their summer interns since they normally host in-person events. According to Jen, this is where they learned the world of perishable shipping. “The first thing we shipped was paella. My family probably ate paella kits for a long time while we were figuring everything out!”
While Jen takes care of the hosting and connecting elements in the class, the culinary direction is spearheaded by Chef Jamey who runs the step-by-step instructions to ensure everyone ends up enjoying an edible (deliciousJ) dish. The idea for a virtual cooking class was cooked up to do more than just teach people how to cook. According to Jen, what really makes the classes so special is how they allow people to discover the joy of cooking, and to make it more accessible. “Cooking can be intimidating, so we’re trying to bring in an approachability aspect. None of our meals require fancy appliances or devices – you can use what you already have in the kitchen. We’ll even show you how to make sushi using a pot and a stovetop, no rice cooker needed! Everything is delivered right to your doorstep, so you don’t have to hunt and gather your ingredients. It’s super easy and interactive. People are very engaged and even show us what their dishes look like. It really feels like they have a support system. When we make it fun, people are likely to do it again. Our goal is to get America cooking.”
Chef’s Garden Catering & Events, which was started by Jen’s mom in 2001, became a palatable passion for both Jen and her husband. When she joined the family business for what was supposed to be a short-lived internship before starting a research position, Jen soon realized that she really enjoyed connecting people with food. Her husband, meanwhile, was studying finance in college when he also fell in love with the business. They now bring that same dynamic balance to their virtual classes. While the company is slowly getting back to in-person events after losing millions of dollars of revenue (they didn’t lay off their employees, the virtual cooking classes were one of the ways in which they were able to keep their team intact) the virtual world isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
“We realize now that we have other ways to connect with people both personally and professionally. We have clients booking into the summer because they can connect offices that are not in the same space. This is the same for families spread across the country. One of my favorite things is when clients start signing up parents or siblings who live in another city or state.”
The success of this newly launched virtual venture, which has grown mostly through word of mouth, has been a savory silver lining. From public classes to corporate team building events, you can cook creatively in the comfort of your own home. They have already coordinated classes for companies across the United States and Canada, with clients including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, Pinterest and TikTok.
From date night to private classes, plus cultural and classic cuisine, you can enjoy high-quality plates without leaving your house. Just sign up at jenandjamey.com and get cooking today!