When traveling around Europe as a young girl, her grandpa thought it was fun to to make her order for herself, regardless of the county’s native language. Chef Jessica Dahlgren’s passion and curiosity for food only grew from there.
She’s passionate about being in the kitchen and knowing exactly what’s in a dish. She moved to West Palm Beach from Nebraska to attend the Florida Culinary Institute where she would receive her formal training -- leaving the farmland of Nebraska for West Palm Beach was a very eye opening experience to say the least.
Learning French helped when she had the opportunity to work in the kitchen of Chef Lea Linster ,a Luxembourg woman who owns her own restaurant and is the only woman to win the Bocuse d'Or (1989). Chef Jessica is always one that is not only open to new experiences but eager to absorb as much knowledge as possible to broaden and sharpen her own skillset.
Needless to say, Chef Jessica is a rockstar in the kitchen. She leverages her worldly experience from her past, her formal training, and her down to Earth personality to create a unique yet familiar food experience for the women of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority at the University of Nebraska.
According to College Chefs' Regional Director, Chef Kevin Page, "Chef Jessica has been a wonderful addition to our team in Lincoln. She has excelled in every area of the position and is a wonderful Chef both on a technical level and as a person. She has a natural passion for food and it shows in her performance... It's not a surprise that she's developed a wonderful connection with the chapter [and it's not a surprise] they claim to have the best food on campus."
According to Jessica, the culture of College Chefs is “innovative and cool. [Chefs] can do their own thing and make their own menus.” The company is young enough to think on its feet and change what needs to be changed, she described. For Jessica, it’s all about getting the women (in her house) to eat food that’s a little bit healthier and a little bit more unique than they usually would choose.
Growing up on a farm gave Jessica a unique perspective on the “farm to table” concept. When she was five years old she got her first pet pig and even got to name him peanut. When Peanut grew to the point that he was no longer cute, her dad gave her two choices: sell her pet and use the money for savings or send it to the butcher and have bacon all winter. Her uncle, who was not attune to the farm lifestyle, visited for dinner and Jessica was so proud to feed him HER bacon. “That’s peanut!” she said to him, laughing at her innocence while telling the story.
Aside from her passion for cooking, she has a little yarn dyeing company. “I do a lot of knitting. [...] I think when you have a hobby, you want to know more about it.” Her personal company grew organically from experimenting with yarn dyeing and ending up with excess yarn to learning how to sell it.
Just as selling yarn seems very natural in context, so do her favorite foods. In the summertime she loves a Mediterranean style diet with lemon flavors, cheeses, fruit. When she wants to reach for comfort food, on the other hand, she prefers heavier dishes with elements like sausage or cream sauces.
Update May 2017: Chef Jessica was promoted from her position as the Head Chef of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority at the University of Nebraska. Now Jessica is a Trainer for College Chefs, travelling the country helping to provide support to Chefs and chapters around the country.
Pictured on the Right -- Chef Jessica's submission to the Mystery Basket Challenge:House made chicken, kale and fresh fennel sausage, country style mashed ginger pear winter squash and sage roasted sunset fingerling potatoes garnished with radish micro greens, finished with a sea salt and sumac dusted poultry chicharrone:
Written by College Chefs' Danielle Gadus