By Dani Moritz-Long
Professor of Culinary Management Jennifer Denlinger (more commonly known as Chef Jenn) knows nothing brings people together quite like food — which makes culinary arts the perfect profession for her.
She not only brings people together by creating Florida farm-to-table recipes, which she shares with others on her The Florida Chef website and in her book, “Berries of my Heart: A Collection of Florida Blueberry, Blackberry and Strawberry Recipes,” but she also creates a culinary community through a variety of other means.
The most obvious of these means, of course, is her work training Valencia students via Valencia’s culinary courses at the Poinciana Campus, where Chef Jenn says she deeply enjoys the opportunity to “teach students who wish to pursue a career in the culinary arts the knowledge and skills they need to be successful.” In particular, she explains, she’s proud to have joined the Poinciana Campus — a community and campus that so clearly embodies Valencia’s mission to serve and the College’s values like people, diversity and access.
In teaching our students, Jennifer calls upon her culinary training and experiences, as well as her bachelor’s degree in hospitality management, master’s degree in education and recently earned doctorate degree in educational leadership.
“Whenever you might be walking by the culinary kitchen at the Poinciana Campus, you will see Chef Jenn instructing our students in all types of savory dishes from appetizers to desserts,” said Jennifer Robertson, executive dean, Poinciana Campus. “She always has a smile on her face and loves to share what our students have cooked up with the entire campus. Chef Jenn recently earned her doctoral degree, and we are very proud of her! It was a lot of working finishing up her degree, opening up a new campus, engaging with local high schools and building a Culinary Arts and Hospitality program [at Poinciana Campus] from the ground-up, but she has done a tremendous job.”
Jennifer also contributes to community culinary events, promoting Florida farm-to-table recipes and bringing people together through culinary experiences. For example, Chef Jenn frequently contributes her talents as a culinary demonstrator at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. In fact, this past fall Chef Jenn made her third appearance as a Food & Wine Festival demonstrator. It’s an event she adores, particularly since she’s a Disney Culinary Academy alumna and former culinary cast member.
“I received my initial culinary training through an intense apprenticeship program that Disney offered at the time — Disney’s Culinary Academy,” Jennifer said. “I have many friends who are chefs who work at Disney, and I have always kept in touch with them. I love doing these demos. I like seeing my friends who work there. I like being back in the magic and the excitement of being on stage.”
If you’re interested in checking out Jennifer’s fourth appearance at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, save the dates, Saturday, September 14, 2019, at 2:30 p.m. and Sunday, October 27, 2019, at 2:30 p.m.
Yet another way Jennifer connects food to community building is by studying the history and cultural anthropology of food in Florida, which, she explains, has significant cultural and economic significance.
“Florida is the oldest state in the union,” she explained. “Settlers here helped shape what we eat today as a nation. The anthropology of food and uniqueness and variety of foods available is astonishing. I am a native Floridian (sometimes referred to as a Florida Cracker), and I know a lot about it. Native Florida foods encompass all foods that were and are currently originally grown in the state.”
Furthermore, she says, Florida’s agricultural industry and seafood production plays a key role in Florida’s economy.
When she isn’t in the kitchen, promoting cooking or educating tomorrow’s chefs, you’ll find Jennifer cooking for her own, personal enrichment and enjoying a unique hobby. It turns out Chef Jenn’s liking for history isn’t exclusive to studying Florida’s anthropology and history of food. She also enjoys classic literature and collects antique, early editions of classic stories. Among her collection is a German Baptist hymnal published in German from 1879, “Around the World in 89 Days” from 1888 and “The Jungle Book” from 1894.
Know of someone who embodies one of Valencia’s values (learning, people, diversity, access or integrity), who has been an employee for at least one year? Send the colleague’s name to us at The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu. He or she might be one of our featured colleagues, subject to supervisor’s approval.