The Queue: Jen Yee

The Queue: Jen Yee

Discover what individuals from our craft community are into right now.

Published on Sunday, June 21, 2020.
Portrait of pastry chef Jen Yee

↑ Jen Yee is a pastry chef based in Atlanta and one of three artisanal food craftspeople featured in "From Passion to Plate" in the Kitchen Table issue of American Craft.
Portrait: Andrew Thomas Lee, courtesy of Jen Yee

 

The Queue: Kitchen Table Series

A weekly roundup for and by the craft community, the Kitchen Table series of The Queue introduces you to the makers, writers, curators, and more featured in the most recent issue of American Craft. We invite them to share their shortlist of exciting projects, people to follow, and content to consume to help you stay dialed into what's hot in the world of making.

Jen Yee on crafting "delicious" and shifting focus during the pandemic

Featured in "From Passion to Plate" in the June/July 2020 issue of American Craft, Jen Yee is the executive pastry chef for Atlanta-based hospitality group Hopkins and Company. Known for the artistry of her desserts, she has been named Outstanding Pastry Chef by the James Beard Foundation three times. @jenyeepastry

Jen Yee Pumpkin Pie

 

← A slice of pumpkin pie by Jen Yee.
Photo: Henry Hollis

How would you describe your work or practice in 50 words or less?
I try to focus my desserts around one word: delicious. The many factors that go into that – sourcing, handling, testing, caring, teaching, presentation, etc. – are all employed to reach that end goal.

Jen Yee adding final touches to ice cream cake

Jen's profile in the Kitchen Table issue explores the elements of craft that inform her pastry work.
Photo: Henry Hollis

How are you staying healthy and finding balance during the COVID-19 breakout, both personally and professionally?
I’ve been fortunate enough to have kept working throughout this entire period, and I’m grateful and feel very lucky for that. The work itself, of course, has changed slightly. I’ve gone from spending most of my time in the restaurant kitchens ensuring the quality of desserts across the company are of the highest standard to hunkering down in our commissary with a small team making thousands of reheatable meals per week for our out-of-work industry folks and underprivileged families. We've also been preparing lunches for our brave, frontline healthcare workers. Our daily work uniform includes masks and gloves at all times, with co-workers giving each other the now-standard 6 feet of distance. On weekends, the husband and I take drives to escape the city and enjoy the scenery from within the car. The new date night consists of a grocery store run, then a nice meal at home. Restaurant take-out options have really blossomed, and we love supporting our local jaunts while not having to do the dishes!

What are your thoughts on the relationship between craft and food?
For me, in my life and profession, they are intertwined. I only want to eat good food, made with care and love.

If you were stranded on a deserted island and only had one tool from your practice, what would it be?
I think I’d fall into the popular category of “KNIFE.” The tool that can help you make other tools is the best tool.

If you could purchase any artist's craft work for your home or studio, whose would it be and why?
I can’t say I know too many artists by name, but I love the local ceramics I find all over Atlanta and the South. My favorite art is that which is also useful, so our home is dotted with handmade finds from random studios and shops: a soap dish from Atlanta Clayworks, a plant pot from Sonia Rose, mugs from Asheville, etc. – all to help make daily life a little more beautiful.

Are you binge watching anything right now?
I’m very late to the Ozark camp (still on the first season), but I love it! So many twists and turns, it’s hard to keep up. I’ve also already seen Fleabag three times over, because it’s so hilarious and witty and surprising.

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