Four-Star Chef, Jennifer Brightman, an honors graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, began her career in the food service industry as a hostess for the Four Seasons Hotel in Las Colinas. However, she learned about catering to guest’s needs long before that, when she served as hostess and kitchen hand in her family home in Washington State. Her early training came from her father, a Naval Officer, and her mother, whose learning to cook was necessitated by the regular entertaining needs resulting from her husband’s naval position. It was the influence of this home, whose scenery changed from an old farmhouse, on which her family was afforded the luxury of growing their own vegetables, raising chickens and bees and producing their own apple cider, to countries like Guam, Japan and Spain that helped Jennifer begin to develop her own culinary abilities and tastes.
These abilities and tastes, which have earned Chef Jennifer rave reviews for her innovation and imagination, were further developed when she was dining room manager at the Deep Ellum Café in Dallas. Here, she developed managerial skills and a better understanding of the importance of guest satisfaction. She credits Master Chef Victor Gielisse of Actuelle, where she worked as Chef Tournant, with instilling in her an attention to detail and the importance of striving for perfection. From Randy Gehman, Executive Pastry Chef at the Four Seasons Resort and Club in Las Colinas, Chef Jennifer says she learned organization and speed, which she believes are essential skills for any successful chef. Working with Stephan Pyles of Star Canyon in Dallas, she learned about Southwestern Cuisine and how to remain focused in a high-volume establishment. However, the most profound influence came from her mother, Sarah, who not only taught her the true art of entertaining, but made her understand what cooking with love was all about. All of these influences prepared Chef Jennifer for the next stage in her career.
The next step occurred in late 1995 when Chef Jennifer made a leap of faith to the Classic Café in Roanoke as Sous Chef. Within six months she was promoted to Executive Chef and never regretted leaving the safety of a large corporation. The Classic Café allowed Chef Jennifer to hone her craft, especially in sauce making, in a creative environment and to learn what guest’s desire; thus appreciating the rewards of her artistry and hard work.
These rewards resulted largely from a philosophy about food. For Chef Jennifer, food is about comfort, fellowship and sharing the dining experience with people you care about. She likes to take old classics to new levels of unpretentious sophistication. She stays current with guests’ tastes, but insists that she does not always buy into new food trends. In fact, she often blends new concepts with her own classical training. She emphasizes, however, that she believes in being true to a country or cuisine and strives to combine foods in such a way to make a perfect marriage. One of her strongest convictions is that a chef should always respect a person’s palate. Among her favorites: Southern, Mediterranean and Mexican cuisines. It is this combination of “American” cuisine that earned her 27 out of 30 in the Zagat survey for two consecutive years and four stars in the Dallas Morning News for both locations of the Classic Café.
In addition, Chef Jennifer has been active in the training of young culinarians and has participated in the mentoring and recruiting programs in conjunction with the CIA. She is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier (served as secretary for the 2006-2007 board, PR 2013-2014, Ambassador of Caring 2015-2016, co-chair Philanthropy 2017-2018), previously a member of the American Institute of Wine and Food, The Texas Chef’s Association and the American Culinary Federation. Chef Jennifer co-chaired the Days of Taste in October 2002 sponsored by the AIWF. She is the 2001 recipient of the AIWF scholarship to the CIA Greystone in St. Helena, California; where she studied food writing. Chef Jennifer placed 2nd in the white wine category at the Dallas Wine and Food Festival Rising Star Chef Competition in 2002. She has appeared on several television morning shows including the Cookin’with Carol cable show. She currently judges for the State Fair of Texas and the High School ProStart culinary program. Chef Jennifer has also been recognized in print media including: Southern Living, D Magazine, D Home, Dallas Morning News, Dallas Observer, Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, the Grapevine Sun, the Grapevine, Colleyville and Southlake Courier, 360 Magazine and Indulge. For her, building enthusiasm among her staff or students, as well as gathering and sharing knowledge, provides the greatest rewards. Her advice: Trust your instincts, be adventurous, taste, and above all, enjoy cooking with and for others.