Born in Madison, Wisconsin, and raised on the island of Taiwan, Chef Jessica brings not only knowledge but a passion for international cuisine. While traveling throughout Asia, Jessica has picked up flavors and techniques that reflect culture and tradition. Fluent in both English and Mandarin, Jessica came from a supportive family that allowed her to pursue her passions. While working towards her Bachelor of Science in Culinary Management, Jessica was given the opportunity to teach culinary arts in a variety of settings. Jessica’s career has given her the chance to cook for Hollywood Stars, consult for big firms, and ultimately provided her with endless opportunities to excel in her profession. Before working at the University of California Irvine, Jessica wrapped up a six-year gig as an executive chef for a hedge fund firm in Orange County. Today, Jessica is the Director of Culinary Education at the University Of California Irvine, where she teaches culinary classes to students, staff, and other corporate clients. Jessica is also spearheading the discussion of food on the UCI campus through “Conversation Kitchen,” as well as Illuminations “Cooking with the Professors,” programs. Recently Jessica has also helped develop the Culinary Medicine Curriculum on UCI campus that is taught to medical students. The curriculum is so popular on campus that an advanced course is now being developed as well as a potential offering to the public. Another niche that Jessica carries in her back pocket is her ability to teach children. From being able to show a four-year-old how to correctly hold and use a knife to making pasta from scratch, Jessica prides herself on her ability to connect with children on an instructional level. When it comes to food, there is nobody more eager to teach, showcase, and share her knowledge with the rest of the world. Jessica VanRoo’s passion for the culinary arts and nutrition are unrivaled, and her versatility in the cooking world gives her a skill set that is second to none.
How long have you been working with Big City Chefs?
Since December 2012
If I were a spice, I would be…
If I were a spice, I would be turmeric; subtle in flavor, but rich with benefits. Turmeric’s bright color reflects my personality; the delicate flavor echos my teaching and cooking style, letting the food speak for itself, and yet hidden in it all is the knowledge that I have been able to gather throughout my life.
My favorite local purveyors, artisans, and farmers:
Ingardia brothers, sweet tree farms, the butchery, hi times wine
What I love about cooking and hospitality…
I love food because it is the one thing we all have in common. Food brings people together in ways that no other thing can. Through my career I have seen food break down barriers, and teach in ways that surprise even the brightest minds.
What are your top three go-to pantry items?
Farro, sesame oil, miso