Dan’s Taste of Summer Countdown: Jennilee Morris of Grace & Grit

Jennilee Morris, Photo: Doug Young
Jennilee Morris, Photo: Doug Young

Chef and co-owner Jennilee Morris of Grace & Grit catering is known for making custom menus for special events. Meet Morris at Dan’s Chefs of the North Fork on July 13, GrillHampton on July 19 and Taste of Two Forks on July 20.

First word (or words) that comes to mind when you hear “Taste of Summer.”
Delicate strawberries, juicy watermelons, field blossoms, ripe tomatoes, fresh-caught porgies and sparkling Blanc de Blancs.

You can invite three people, living or dead, to your dinner party. Who are they, and what would that meal be?
I would invite a young, aspiring chef, farmer and sea farmer and ask them each to bring me an ingredient. I would start a fire and teach them that the earth has given us everything we need. How shall we thank it?

What’s your favorite dish to prepare, and do you enjoy eating it as much as preparing it?
I don’t have a specifically favorite dish that I like to prepare. For me, the excitement in cooking is the versatility of letting the season dictate my meals. On a day-to-day basis, choosing the ingredients that are the most fresh out of the ground or sea is how I like to cook. Discovering new vegetables, leaf lettuces or herbs and creating new flavors that I didn’t know existed. I expect to be chasing that favorite dish for a lifetime and that excites me.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
“The rules don’t apply to you.”

Share your funniest/most unforgettable/oddest kitchen incident.
I had no idea Porta Potties came with seat lids. Also, why? I shall spare the details.

Who do you most admire in the food/wine world and why?
The way we all rely on each other. The chefs need the farmers and the farmers need the chefs and it’s beautiful love and respect that creates magic.

What are your hobbies/passions/interests outside the world of food, wine and work?
I enjoy boating and fishing.

Tell us a secret…
I don’t really like the taste of salmon.

What’s the ultimate cocktail?

What talent would you most like to have?
I would love to master a musical instrument, anything portable so I could create an atmosphere in any situation. Music is so powerful.

What’s your comfort food and why?
Pizza, in almost any form.

What recent travels have you taken that have inspired you?
We recently went to a catering conference in New Orleans and I always leave that place full of inspiration craving crawfish and jazz.

What is the most memorable thing you’ve ever tasted?
Pizza on the Amalfi Coast.

What’s a unique kitchen ritual you practice?
I prefer to cook when I can be alone in the kitchen, and for me, I get the most excitement doing multiple projects at a time. I enjoy setting up a few stations, putting on some music and then getting hyper-focused within myself. Paying attention to timing of multiple situations, like when the water will boil, or it’s time to flip the steaks or when the garlic is sizzling enough for the next step. It’s like an orchestra in my mind where all of these different vibrations require different timing and thought and frequency but it can all come together as one big productive movement. It’s challenging to do and I am careful to stay within my capacity, but it’s a source of excitement for me. I’m sure you could see why I only do that when I’m alone in the kitchen.

If you were not in the food or wine business, what would you be doing?
I can’t really imagine myself anywhere else. I think this is what I was meant to do.

What is your go-to karaoke song?
“These Boots Are Made for Walkin’.”

We just handed you a glass of bubbly. Now please make a toast to summer on the East End.
Here’s to moving all of our bad habits outdoors!

For more on Grace & Grit, visit graceandgritevents.com. For tickets and more information on all Dan’s Taste of Summer events, visit DansTaste.com.

Read more about Dan’s Taste of Summer 2019.

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