Pastry Chef Jenny McCoy
In the Kitchen
October 25, 2009
What is the main focus of your cooking?
The main focus of my cooking is to highlight the main ingredients and flavors I’m using in a dish. I don’t like to manipulate food too much, and I try to keep the dish focused by using just a few different flavors in a dessert, keeping the cooking techniques simple and straight forward, and creating something that is interesting, yet approachable.
How does your extensive travel background factor into your cooking?
Having spent a good amount of time traveling in Europe, Central and South America, I find that I tend to be inspired more globally when creating desserts. I don't just stick to the classic Italian favorites but try to find flavor combinations lesser known in Italy. For example, ginger is widely used in Venice due to the history of the city's involvement in the spice trade; or kiwi, which is widely produced in Italy, but is better known in Asian or New Zealand sweets.
What is your relationship with local farmers?
I visit the Union Square farmer’s market several times a week and hand-select much of the fruit, veggies, and honey that I work with at A Voce. I think it’s really important to work within the seasons and to support local farming. I also love starting my day by strolling through the market in the morning, coffee in hand. It’s a nice way to begin the day’s work.
Are you incorporating locally grown foods into your desserts? How?
I am currently using local Kabocha squash in a bread pudding, concord grapes in sorbet, honeycrisp apples in a crespella dessert, and local honey and butternut squash as a cheese garnish, among others. And I’m currently testing recipes for a new pear dessert, using local seckle pears. My menu always has a scattering of locally grown foods throughout.
What are the major concerns today of your patrons when it comes to dining out? And how are you addressing them?
I think patrons are concerned with getting a good value for their dollar by spending a little more conservatively and choosing dining experiences that offer something more "tried-and-true." A Voce has always aimed for value, and I think our patrons recognize and appreciate it even more now. I also think there is a trend towards menus offering more refined "comfort" food, and guests are sharing entrees more or eating lots of small plates, and casual, comfortable dining rooms seems to be packed. I think while most diners still want to eat out and have a good time, they are limiting themselves to their favorite establishments and less interested in taking big risks.
How important is sustainability?
Sustainability is very important, and I think restaurants have a large responsibility in helping encourage more sustainable farming practices by using sustainable ingredients and helping to expose consumers to better methods of growing. I think in this day of celebrity chefs, the average consumer looks for guidance from chefs when choosing ingredients, and if those chefs are supporting local farmers, then the average grocery shopper may follow in step.
How important is traceability?
Traceability is a pretty hot topic right now. While I do think traceability is important, and there have been several large outbreaks of food contamination recently, it really isn’t a big concern of mine on a daily level because at A Voce, we look to maintain relationships with farmers directly to cut back on the distance foods travel from farm to table. We also know our vendors very well and work closely with them to make sure that our ingredients are being sourced from producers that maintain the highest of standards. We use a lot of specialty ingredients on our menu, so it is very important that we are purchasing the best of the best.
What steps does your restaurant take toward conservation?
We recycle our waste, try our best to reuse containers that some might consider disposable (plastic fish tubs, for instance), use any “waste” foods we have for staff meals, use recycled paper products, etc. I think we do a fair amount of conserving atA Voce and we are always looking for more ways to improve.