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5 Questions with Jennie Kelley from MasterChef/Polyphonic Spree

Chef JimAs someone who is passionate about both food and music, finding someone else who resides near that same intersection is always fun. But it’s even more fun when that someone is someone like Jennie Kelley, who was one of the last remaining contestants on Season 2 of Fox’s hit reality show, “Masterchef.” Jennie is also a choral member of the 21-person symphonic group Polyphonic Spree, who released a holiday song, “It’s Christmas,” on their own Good Records Recordings label. We had the opportunity to chat with Jennie about–what else? Food and music.

Mikey’s Kitchen: So how often do people make the connection between Jennie Kelley from the Spree and Jennie Kelley from “Masterchef,” and are you surprised either way?

Jennie Kelley: More often than not, if I am recognized it’s for “MasterChef.” Not so much with the Spree. There’s a lovely level of anonymity that comes from being in a 20-person ensemble! Oh and yes, I’m always a little surprised when it happens because it’s usually when the show is the last thing on my mind. But it’s always cool… people usually want to know how much drama was really going on and if we stay in touch. Which, by the way, we do. We all have this food boot camp connection and a bond that’s unbreakable.

MK: How has your life changed since the show, and what projects are you working on food-related?

JK: My life is totally different. Ya know, I actually went on the show as a way to segue out of a job that was creatively unfulfilling and to get my food critiqued by true chefs. After being gone for a couple of months for filming I realized there was no way I could ever go back to doing something that wasn’t inspiring. I’d had this notion for a while that I’d like to try to get into food styling. So when I got back I did just that. I assisted for free sometimes, just to learn, as it’s a very unique field. The fact that I did the show and got as far I did also helped. A lot of clients took a chance on me because they knew I must be pretty passionate about food to have gone through the wringer that is “MasterChef.”

MK: Your favorite thing to cook, and your favorite thing for someone else to cook for you?

JK: I am savory all the way. So I don’t really do a lot of sweets at home. My favorite thing to cook is always changing, but right now I’m really into homemade pastas and braised meat of any kind. My favorite thing for someone else to cook? Dessert, yep, definitely dessert.

MK: Are any of the other members of the Spree foodies and if so, in what capacity?

JK: For sure. Tim (DeLaughter) and Julie (Doyle) are definitely passionate about food and are great eaters/diners. They’re very open to trying what’s current and modern. Although, sometimes if Tim finds something he really loves, it’ll hinder him breaking out. We were in Sweden once and he got on a Swedish meatball kick. He couldn’t get enough of it and ordered it almost everywhere we went. Jenny Kirtland’s brother is a chef, so she’s pretty in-the-know and has a great palate. And they’ve all been incredibly encouraging of my culinary journey and more supportive than I can describe here.

MK: Have you been to any of the restaurants of the “Masterchef” judges?

JK: Yes, I’ve been to Osteria Mozza, Joe Bastianich’s place in Los Angeles. I’ve been there twice, actually, once when Joe was there. He’s an unbelievable host, has great front-of-house skills and you could tell he knew what was going on everywhere. The food there is killer. The other time the service wasn’t so great, but it was close to kitchen closing time. And even though there were some major service hiccups, the food was still stellar. I am also mad for Eataly in NYC. I was there for the first time last weekend and had two great dishes (lobster spaghetti and orecchiette with sausage and pesto). The entire space is a culinary dream.

MK: Lastly, if you have holiday recipe to share or link to one, that would rock…..

JK: Yeah, I like to do a few appetizers… something for people to nibble on while the big meal is being made. You can prep them the night before and just pop them in the oven the next day. I’ve got a “devils on horseback” link here: (http://www.theperfectlastbite.com/2011/05/devils-on-horseback.html) or shortened here: (http://bit.ly/pVgpxB). The trick is the taleggio cheese-simply delicious. You can also use prosciutto instead of bacon to change it up a bit.

For more information about Polyphonic Spree, please visit here.
For more information about Jennie Kelley, please visit www.theperfectlastbite.com

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