Today we’d like to introduce you to Jessica Alonzo.
Jessica, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I’m originally from Arlington, Texas which is a city that has a fairly large Hispanic and Vietnamese population so growing up these two cuisines had an impact on the food that I create today. One of my earliest memories in the kitchen was when I was about seven years old and I was helping my Dad grind up pig head meat so that he, my Mom, Grandma and I could make fresh tamales. And in high school, I often went to multiple Vietnamese restaurants with my friends. So, both Mexican and Vietnamese cuisines are very comforting to me.
The service industry is actually a second career for me. In January of 2015, I left my job in hospital administration and credentials to pursue a career in cooking. While I was still working at a Dallas hospital, I paid my way through culinary school, attended classes at night and on the weekends. I got my first cooking job here in Dallas at Wolfgang Puck Catering. I worked with them for a year and a half as a line/catering cook. Then, moved on to work at a Southern-inspired restaurant in Deep Ellum called Filament. Working at Filament was a good career change for me because the chefs there really pushed me to become a consistent and disciplined line cook. After six months, I moved on and started as a line cook at FT-33, one of the best fine dining restaurants in Dallas owned by Chef Matt McCallister. During my first seven months at FT-33, I worked all the stations on the line and was moved up to lead line cook then Sous Chef. In June of 2018, FT-33 closed so I took some time to travel and expand my culinary knowledge.
For the past six months, I have been working with Chef Joel Orsini at a Spanish tapas bar in Deep Ellum called Izkina and also helping out Chef Misti Norris at her restaurant called Petra and the Beast. Both chefs have taught me a lot over the past few months and have been great mentors. Currently, I am the Sous Chef and Head of Fermentation for Chef Matt McCallister’s newly anticipated restaurant called Homewood. It is set to open in March and I am extremely excited to be a part of it.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Changing careers later in life has definitely been challenging, especially in a predominately male industry. At times working in the kitchen has been physically and mentally exhausting but in my opinion totally worth it because it allows me to push myself creatively and constantly learn new things. As a woman, you need to be tough and confident. My advice to other women in the industry is pretty simple. Be passionate about what you do and strive to be the best you can be at it. Know that you are not perfect, but reach for perfection every day. Always be growing and learning as you move up the ladder.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into Homewood story. Tell us more about the business.
I specialize in whole utilization and fermentation. I was first introduced to pickling, preservation, and fermentation when I was a line cook at FT-33. Chef Matt was a big believer in the preservation and still is but really opened up a new world for me. There was this whole new mindset; save everything, turn food scraps into something useful… whole utilization. I love it. Chef Matt noticed my interest in fermentation and encouraged me to pursue it. So, I did a stage in California and later attended a fermentation workshop in New York and Austin to help further my education and get new perspectives on fermentation and best practices.
I continue to push myself and find new and inventive ways to preserve and create new flavors out of waste. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have worked and continue to work with such talented and dedicated chefs here in Dallas. I am really proud to be a part of chefs that truly believe in whole animal butchery, whole utilization, preservation and supporting our local farmers. It was really humbling to work on a number of local farms this summer because I really got a better understanding of the obstacles and stresses that our farmers experience.
Who do you look up to? How have they inspired you?
I think personally the women who have inspired me would be my Mom, Aunt, and my older sister. I have learned various characteristics and values from all of them at different times in my life. They have collectively taught me how to be patient, humble, persistent and hardworking.
- Address: Homewood
4002 Oak Lawn Ave
Dallas, TX 75219
- Phone: 817-217-1293
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @jalonzo76
Reed J. Kenney, Sydni Hebert