Jenny Dorsey: From Columbia Dropout to Culinary Connoisseur

Jenny Dorsey:

From Columbia Dropout

To Culinary Connoisseur

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Jenny Dorsey was accepted as an early admissions student to the prestigious Columbia’s Business School’s Class of 2014 when she decided to take an abrupt turn on her career path. Dorsey ditched Columbia to pursue a Diploma in Culinary Arts at the Institute of Culinary Education, also located in New York City. Jenny, who was working at Accenture at the time, recalls this “overnight decision” as a pivotal moment in her career.

Fast forward a few years and Jenny now runs her own culinary consulting firm Jenny Dorsey Consulting. Dorsey’s business is centralized on all tenants a restaurant entrepreneur should know; including business strategy, menu research & development, and concept development for culinary businesses. She is also the Co-Founder & Executive Chef of an underground supper club I Forgot It’s Wednesday based in New York and San Francisco.

Dorsey is certainly a go-getter. Before rolling out her own busienss, Jenny led international menu R&D for Le Pain Quotidien. She has also been awarded grants from Bocuse d’Or and James Beard Foundation to further her culinary consulting practice.

Her recent achievements read like a lifetime worth of work. Among them; launching Pop & Pour, an upscale wine bar in the up-and-coming neighborhood around Dyckman Street, helping start Noodelove, a new Asian noodle concept akin to Sweetgreen here in NYC. She  is currently revamping a Nineties-era Thai chain restaurant in NYC called Spice to give them a refreshed menu for the new generation of eaters; ; writing the first cookbook for a well-known chef and his restaurant in West Village.

Regardless of how impressive Dorsey’s resume may seem now, she explains that the beginning of her journey in the male dominated culinary industry wasn’t always so admirable.

“The consulting business has been tough because I am 1. young 2. female 3. have limited cooking-only experience 4. seen as an ‘elite outsider’ given my background. Breaking down a lot of pre-conceived notions takes time, patience, and the strength of goodwill. I can’t tell you how many times I came home crying because I was dismissed or condescended.”

test kitchen and incubator focused on food, beverage, hospitality and business-minded professionals. Eat up entrepreneurs.

Even IFIW, the supper club which offers a uniquely stimulating dining experience faced scrutiny of it’s own. Dorsey started the self-funded IFIW three years ago with her husband Matt and she explains, “At the beginning, everyone laughed at us. No one would come to our dinners, no matter what price point, because we were “nobody” on the NYC scene.

The press ignored us. But we hit the pavement, hustling hard to get people to give us a chance and dine at our establishment so they could fall in love. We believe in our concept and that we are addressing a real, emotional need in the people of New York City.

Dorsey is prime example of combining passion and work ethic to beat the odds and break into a new industry. These days, she uses her experience combined with her business background to help others do the same.

“Many owners and operators are willing to listen to your ideas if you approach them the right way,” she says. “No one likes being told what to do, which is the traditional ‘consultant’ approach. Instead, I try to spend time within the organization itself, listening to the people who are working from the ground-up, and taking in their suggestions to my final suggestions so we can implement changes together, the right way.”

An unconventional start to what has become a successful culinary career can be accredited to Dorsey’s raw passion for food, and not just in the “my whole newsfeed is foodporn” way. Real, raw, passion for food and the dining experience.

“It’s funny, because when I look back all the signs were there,” she recalls, “I studied abroad in Rome and all I did was buy food at the markets and make (crappy) pasta dishes and eat them. I spent hundreds of dollars on recreational cooking classes and random specialty food.”

“I think one day I woke up and realized I spend more than 80 percent of my life thinking about 1 topic, maybe I should work in that industry.”

It goes without saying that Dorsey’s career revolves around sharing her passion for the entire culinary experience, and helping to lift up other budding chefs.  When asked about the future, Dorsey explains she is working on starting a new business called 10X (coming soon work10x.com), is a co-working space,

THE FAST FIVE

1. What app do you most use?

Probably Instagram, just to look at #foodporn.

2. Name a business mogul you admire.

JK Rowling. She’s always been a hero of mine.

3. What product do you wish you had invented?

Freaking Pill Pockets!

4. What is your life motto?

It’s your life. Own up.

5. Desert Island. Three things, go.

Water filter in large bottle. Tazer with rechargeable batteries. One of those laser shooters to denote asking for help.

Kelsi Zimmerman

Kelsi is a digital beauty, fashion and lifestyle writer who resides in New York City. In addition to SWAAY, she also contributes to Teen Vogue, Women's Health and New Beauty.

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