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  • Tina Brand

Three Questions: California chef and baker Jennifer Garcia Barrs


Jennifer and I bonded over food in Toronto more than ten years ago. This warm and bright woman could cook like a fiend: always fresh and honest food. We had some fun culinary adventures together including a girls night out in a snow storm where we ended up at an Iraqi vodka bar with snacks that included sheep's testicles. Ouch - yes, we did. We formed a supper club with other lovely expatriate friends which we've revived during this time of isolation; all of us now in different countries.


Jennifer Garcia Barrs trained at the Southern California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena after a degree in art history from UCLA. She worked in various positions from personal chef in Manhattan Beach, to a specialty coffee buyer and catering chef at Whole Foods Toronto. Some of Jen's cooking highlights include stints as worker-owner at the much beloved Arizmendi Co-op Bakery in Oakland, CA, and more recently, cooking at Balkan Treat Box, nominated in 2019 by Bon Appétit magazine's list of Best Bites of the Year.

I talk to Jennifer often; she's living with her family in St. Louis, MO, cooking enviable meals with her sons and husband, all of whom have a highly developed palate. I asked her if she'd answer my three questions:


1. Secret naughty food obsession?

Onion rings; beer battered and not too greasy please.


2. Best thing you ate most recently?

Thai stuffed tapioca dumplings, or 'Sakoo Sai Kai' which I prepared for our virtual Toronto Supper Club. The filling included ground pork, shallots, coriander, garlic and preserved radish- and that was all enveloped in this lovely chewy tapioca pearl casing. After steaming, a drizzle of garlic oil on top. Yum!


3. Never fail pantry ingredients?

Duke's mayonnaise. There is always a jar in my fridge and a back up in my pantry. Also jarred crushed Calabrian chilli peppers.