A CHEF IN YOUR CORNER
Whatever Jenni Benerofe Is Having, You’ll Want to Have Too
By Robin Jovanovich
Lots of people say they love to cook and want to make more home-cooked weekday dinners and Sunday family meals, but there is always a ready excuse — their kitchen has an awkward prep area, they forgot to buy a few of the ingredients, they ran out of time.
Jenni Benerofe is having none of it. “Cooking is a muscle. If you do it regularly, you’ll get stronger. As far as kitchen ‘real estate’, no kitchen is too small. There are no barriers to cooking. I encourage clients to work with what they have in every way. And the best part is that it’s social and fun.” (She’s fun by the way.)
Kale Salad with roasted squash and honey-roasted cashews Cauliflower stuffing
In 2014, Benerofe, founded The Balaboosta Chef, offering private, personalized cooking classes. “My goal is to give you a win. You may learn more if you take an individual class. If it’s a 12-person group class, you will pick up entertaining and cooking tips but may not learn how to whip up a recipe to perfection,” she explained in an interview in our office. She added that she has done demos for 40 and everyone had a good time.
After graduating from the University of Michigan, she went straight to Manhattan and into the buying program at Bloomingdale’s. She had a knack for it but was routinely dreaming about becoming a food writer. In short order, she interned at Food & Wine magazine and went to culinary school.
Jenni comes by her talent honestly. “My mom doesn’t consider herself a good cook, but she is, and I got my passion from her. She is a skilled and seemingly effortless entertainer who puts stickies on the platters. She’s that organized.”
Whatever the secret sauce is, chef Jenni possesses it in large quantities. Her culinary donations to PTO events are always the first to be consumed. Every time she donated a cooking class to a school auction, there were multiple bids. She said to her husband, “I think there is a customer for my classes.”
When her husband Jory, who is creative director at Vineyard Vines, started taking his lunch to work, he had ten co-workers who gathered round for a look. So many asked if they could have what he was having, that Jenni recognized that she had another customer base.
“It took nine months — like having a baby — to come up with a successful business plan,” she related. A year in, she was asked to do a menu for a burger restaurant. Her business unfolded organically. In the past few years, The Balaboosta Chef has offered holiday, Valentine’s Day, and couples’ classes. “A few husbands have taken classes and surprised their wives with special meals.”
Jenni Benerofe was intent on teaching her own children, now 9 and 12, to cook. “I never allow them to watch TV during the school week, other than a cooking show during dinner. They’ve caught the bug and are watching kids’ cooking competitions.” She added, “They’ve also developed opinions about what they should eat. They go in phases. This week my daughter is only eating soup dumplings and cucumber rolls; my son prefers bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches.”
The best part of her day is often the end of the day, especially on those nights Jory calls to say, “Why don’t I make dinner tonight?”
A husband who cooks? “Where do I sign up?” asked this homemaker/publisher.
“Jory cooked me coq au vin on our third date,” she added.
We give thanks that she shared her recipes for Cauliflower Stuffing and Kale Squash Cashew Salad, which will be gracing our Thanksgiving table.