Represent Austin

After watching a No Reservations episode on the food scene in Austin, TX, we added the city to the top of our list of places to visit in the near future. With each Chopped episode we watch that includes creative and talented chefs from the city, we want to pack up our bags and go ASAP! Add Chef Janelle Reynolds to the list of chefs from Austin that represented their city well on the show. We recently caught up with the Chopped Champion to learn more about her.

Chef Janelle Reynolds. Photo by Lauren Lesley.
Chef Janelle Reynolds. Photo by Lauren Lesley.

FP: How did you get your start with cooking? 

JR: I’ve loved to cook since I was a little girl. Deciding to become a chef didn’t happen until I was in my mid-20’s. While having dinner with two long time friends, Therin & Shanna, I was complaining about being miserable with my classes at Texas Tech. They said, “Janelle, why don’t you do what you love to do?” I scoffed, “Oh please tell me what it is that I love to do!” Therin replied, “You love to cook. Why not become a chef?” That was it. I knew in that moment that was exactly what I wanted to do. It made perfect sense.

FP: We’re glad to hear you followed your heart and pursued your passion!

Name some chefs that have inspired you.

JR: My husband, Jayson Reynolds. David Bull, Alice Waters, Thomas Keller, Grant Achatz, Sean Brock, Sue Zemanick

FP: Tell us about your experience on Chopped. What was the hardest ingredient to work with? Which round was the most difficult?

JR: For me, the toughest ingredient was the livers. I know how to make pate, but couldn’t pull that off in twenty minutes. I was so nervous that I had difficulty thinking clearly and creatively. I wasn’t thrilled with my first dish, but I knew my flavors at least tasted good. The “dirty bird” salad was a term the producers coached me into coming up with- I wasn’t thrilled with it. So, the first round was definitely the most difficult for me.

FP When you’re not operating your catering service @t Large, what are some of your favorite meals to cook at home for yourself and/or for guests?

JR: I like a perfectly roasted chicken, grilled steaks or pork ribs. And to pair with those- I love grilled vegetables. Right now, I’m on a grilled broccoli or Brussels sprouts kick. Grilling them gives such a nice distinct flavor and texture.

Oh, I also LOVE a good salad.

FP: Can’t go wrong with a good salad!

When you go out to eat, name some of your favorite places in Austin or other cities you’ve visited?

JR: Okay….get ready!

In Austin: Swifts Attic, Congress & Second Bar + Kitchen, Pho Thai Son, La Condesa, Uchi & Uchiko, Noble Pig, Barley Swine, Contigo, and Ramen Tatsuya

In New Orleans: Mahony’s, Gautreau’s, Butcher and Deanie’s Seafood.

In Las Vegas: Jaleo and Comme Ca.

FP: Sounds like a delicious list!

What are some of your guilty pleasures? We like to call them foodie pleasures, hence the name 🙂

JR: Good cheese (especially from Antonellis), charcuterie, foie gras, oysters & champagne, all things pork. 🙂

FP: Oh my…what a tempting list!

We read that you’ll be working at Mighty Bird, a rotisserie chicken restaurant. We love the idea! How did the concept come about?

JR: Owners, Kaleb & Brendan are the creators of Mighty Bird. The concept came from Kaleb’s love of rotisserie chicken and passion for a simple menu, simple process, craveable food, fresh ingredients and a brand attitude that reflects their good natured philosophies.

The restaurant will sell both street tacos made to order and throw tacos made in advance and meant to be eaten on the go or warmed up later for a snack.

I was hired by their executive chef, Camden Sturzenberger, a good friend of mine. I will be working alongside her and kitchen manager, Ever Islas to produce all of the fresh food for Mighty Bird.

FP: If you weren’t a chef, what would you be doing? What are your non-cooking hobbies?

JR: If I weren’t a chef I think I would be lost. It’s what I love to do. I can’t think of anything else that I would truly enjoy doing. Well, I guess I could be happy running a small bed and breakfast on a beach somewhere. 🙂

My non-cooking hobbies are snow skiing, reading, gardening, poker playing.  I don’t get to any of those as much as I’d like to anymore- I spend most of my time away from work chasing my precious toddler around.

FP: If you ever open that bed and breakfast on the beach, please let us know. We’ll be first in line to stop by! Thank you so much for your time. We wish you the best of luck at Mighty Bird!

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