by Kristi Willis • Photography by Kate LeSueur
Chef Janelle Reynolds might be the winner of Food Network’s “Chopped,” but back at home, she’s a champion at teaching her son, Jace, to eat well. “A lot of my favorite things to cook at home are vegetables,” she says. “I’m really trying to get Jace set up for a lifetime of healthy eating.” It appears to be working, because Jace requires zero prodding to eagerly dive into two salads placed before him at lunch. “We never fight over vegetables,” Reynolds says. “We’ve been feeding Jace kale since he had teeth.”
Of course, teaching a child to eat well is easier if both parents are chefs. Janelle and husband Jay met at culinary school where Jayson was teaching one of Janelle's classes. Six weeks after the class ended, she mustered up the courage to ask him out. “I caught him off guard and just knew he was going to say no, but we went and shot pool the next day. We celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary at the end of July,” says Janelle, standing in front of the fridge with the note “Jay loves Janelle” stuck to it.
When Janelle was pregnant, the couple decided that the daily grind of their respective restaurant kitchen jobs would be difficult with a young child. Instead, Janelle and Jay started @t Large, a boutique personal chef and catering service, so that they could set their own schedules and work from home several days each week. “I’ll never be able to park in my garage because it’s full of catering gear,” says Janelle. “That’s a small sacrifice, though.”
Janelle also joined Dinner Lab, a supper club with locations across the country. She began as the Austin location’s chef de cuisine—helping visiting chefs organize their dinners—and now serves as a guest chef at dinners in Austin and around the country. “What’s special about Dinner Lab,” says Janelle, “is that this moment isn’t going to happen again—not with this chef, this food, in this space. This dinner is a special moment. We’re bringing it back to what’s important: the community, and celebrating the passion of the chef for their craft, and appreciating good food. It’s not about how fancy your linens or wine glasses are.”
Today, Janelle is preparing two of her family’s favorite salads—making the dishes colorful and fun for Jace by cutting the cucumbers with a star-shaped cookie cutter, for example. She’s also cooking a dish she loved as a kid. “My grandmother always made fried chicken hearts for me,” says Janelle. “We would show up at her house and she’d have hearts and gizzards simmering away on the stove. It was simple food, but it was so flavorful. I loved it.” Of course, her grandmother probably didn’t have a commercial fryer in her kitchen, but like the containers in the pantry clearly labeled with blue tape and the menu for the day taped to the wall, that probably comes with the territory of a two-chef household.
When lunch is served, Jace bounds up to the table and digs in. Some kids, or even adults, might turn up their noses at chicken hearts, but Jace approaches the plate—also loaded with broccoli and Romanesco—with the gusto other kids might save for chicken nuggets and french fries. Janelle looks at Jace fondly, then silently adds another notch to the belt of eating well.