Q&A: Jennifer Delligatti, Le Cordon Bleu-Trained Chef and In-Home Instructor

A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu and professional cook for the past eight years, Jennifer Delligatti recently started to teach in-home cooking classes for both groups and individuals.

How would you describe your cooking style?

I don't have a specific style. I was raised in Florida so I was definitely spoiled with fresh seafood and summery bright flavors. But I also grew up with down-home cooking like fried chicken and baked mac ‘n cheese. And I spent more than three years as a vegetarian and learned how to make American classics into healthy vegetarian versions.

Are the classes geared to everyday cooking or more special occasion?

They are designed to make people comfortable in their own kitchens. I bring my own equipment but I try to use as much of the client's cookware as I can so they'll truly be able to recreate what was made. I can set up a class for any caliber of cook: students to new moms to anyone looking to wow on a date night and pull out all the stops. And they are flexible in ingredient expense. If a client wants to make many meals from not many groceries, we can do that. Or if a client is wanting to impress at a dinner party we can go that route too.

What's a good go-to entertaining dish?

Risotto. Its something that can be made so many ways, is inexpensive, and can feed the masses.

Is it a hard sell, encouraging people to cook more at home?

I think people simply need to be reminded that they are able to create something better than what they are buying in boxes and jars. We've forgotten how easy and inexpensive it is to make things that taste better than that, and serve more people. I offer one whole session on stocks, sauces, and reductions, for example, and these recipes are meant to be used throughout the week or even longer if frozen. That's really my goal—to remind people that we are capable, that we can make great food with ease.

Do you remember beginning to cook?

I started experimenting with food when I was in middle school, making my own barbecue sauce from random pantry items and baking cakes. I remember adding rice crispies to a white cake batter and icing it as soon as it came out of the oven. It was a mushy, hot mess. There were quite a few fails, but also a lot of proud moments, like 7th grade, when I cooked the Thanksgiving meal on my own. My grandmother was definitely a part of my early cooking years. She was the one who taught me to make gravy, and who doesn't love gravy?

Who's your cooking idol?

Alton Brown. Knowing all the science behind why things need to be cooked the way they do and what happens to the molecules is so fascinating. I wish I knew as much as he does.

What foods will feature in your summer plans?

I'm looking forward to all the bright flavors you can add to cucumber salads and slaws. I love using herbs in my cooking and summer is great time for that.

For more information, e-mail jennyjocooks@yahoo.com or see the Facebook page for JennyJo's Cooking Class.