Jenny Dorsey’s Pantry
By Pineapple Collaborative
We team up with Pineapple Collaborative on our Women-Powered collection and digital programming to highlight women who are redefining the food industry. The Pantry is a series produced by Pineapple that lets readers peek into the kitchen of these incredible women while sharing their favorite products, current must-orders from women-led restaurants and even their favorite tunes to jam out while cooking/eating. Check out Jenny Dorsey’s interview below.
When we toured Chef Jenny Dorsey’s pantry with Caviar, she made three things abundantly clear: 1.) The best white pepper comes from Asian grocery stores, 2.) Coriander seeds improve most things, and 3.) Absolutely no hand-torn tape in her kitchen — all labels are to be neatly trimmed with scissors, per her meticulously organized (and alphabetized!) spice drawer. With Highland Park, Los Angeles as our backdrop, we discussed Jenny’s produce essentials (pea tendrils, chrysanthemum greens, celtuce, and their ilk) and the work she and her team do at Studio ATAO, a community-based think tank making publicly available equity toolkits and screening films focused on queerness, migration, and diaspora.
- Which item in your pantry do you most identify with? Hmm, this is tough! Probably coriander seeds — I basically put them in all my spice mixes because it adds this beautiful, aromatic note that just makes everything better.
- How do you find inspiration in the kitchen? I like to find new (to me) ingredients and go down a little rabbithole experimenting with it in different ways. Recently I became very enamored with plum vinegar and have been using it all over the place!
- What’s the first thing you remember cooking? I remember attempting to help my mom making liang fen, but pretty sure I just messed it up! I also remember folding wontons with my grandma, as well as making zongzi with her!
- If a stranger looked in your pantry, what would it say about you? I would hope they are super impressed by my very organized spice cabinet, which is labeled neatly with tape that has been trimmed at the edges with scissors. NO RIPPED TAPE IN MY KITCHEN!
- What’s your favorite dish to order from Pineapple Collaborative’s Women-Powered Collection on Caviar in Los Angeles? Buna is awesome. They have an excellent whole fish!
How do you like to shop for food? (Ex: what excites you when you’re shopping for groceries? What aisle of the grocery store do you gravitate towards?)
I’m in Los Angeles, which is a delightful place to grocery shop! Closest to my house is El Super, which carries everything from general staples like oil and flour to prickly pears, epazote, guajillo chilies, and blue corn tortillas. I grew up going to 99 Ranch, and luckily there’s an outpost (somewhat) near me so I go there weekly as well to get my supply of Chinese vegetables like pea tendrils, chrysanthemum, and celtuce. There, I love to wander down the TCM aisle to learn new ingredients I haven’t used before. TCM is Traditional Chinese Medicine, and there are so many herbs and medicinal extracts I am still learning about. I have a recipe using some of my favorites here! When I can drive to Koreatown, I go to California Market for beautiful persimmons, kimchi, perilla leaves, and their glistening oxtail.
Which items do you covet in your fridge?
Jenny’s Top Picks
What are some of your pantry staples?
Fish sauce! I like to use Red Boat or Son. I’m also a die-hard white pepper fan, but always point out that white pepper from Asian grocery stores are fermented 2–3 weeks longer than ones from Western grocery stores, so make sure you know what you’re getting. It’s so funky and flavorful. I also love a white balsamic vinegar — so versatile, and goes great with basically everything.
Pineapple’s Pantry Staples
You’re perhaps best known for your food-related work, but your nonprofit Studio ATAO just launched a new Queer Migrations film series exploring the relationship between queerness and cinema, diaspora, and migration. Can you share a bit more about this project and how it fits into the ecosystem of your work?
- Totally! This initiative has been spearheaded by our wonderful Head of Programming, Edric. He’s selected 13 films exploring complex themes like asylum, diaspora, citizenship, migration, and liberation, all through the lens of queerness. There are 6 sessions across the next 4 months, and the group will be seeing each other every few weeks for 2-hour discussions. I’m so amazed at how a simple movie club has grown into a program as thoughtful and detailed as this, and am really excited to participate in the upcoming conversations!
- As far as fitting it into the ecosystem of our work, we encourage everyone to engage with this new information practically — be it via grassroots organizations, their professional work, or even dedicated political activation. (The short version of what we do is: we are a community-based think tank that gathers insights from the communities most impacted by social, organizational, and political challenges. From these, we create publicly available toolkits and resources for implementing change.)
Studio ATAO’s mission — “to inspire socially conscious individuals toward action through empathetic, vulnerable conversations” — emphasizes the importance of relationships as a vehicle for social change, yet our food system is often divorced of its own relationships with labor, culture, and provenance. How do you and your team bridge that divide?
- Oh, very much so. I think this is a challenge all of us in food are grappling with. Much of this starts with transparency. In our first toolkit, for example, many of our suggestions revolved around removing the barriers to transparency in food media — be it transparency around rates, pitch guidelines, publication expectations, etc. When it comes to restaurants, transparency needs to come from chefs and owners, which is challenging when restaurants are already struggling to survive. Collectively as consumers, we need to be demanding more transparency when it comes to who and where we put our dollars. These are all pretty surface level suggestions, though. We bridge this gap by creating toolkits based on the insights and ideas of the people who are actually affected, rather than by bringing “leaders” and major “change agents” to the table. Our whole ethos is really around making social justice applicable to ordinary people, not just a select few.
To Sum It Up
PANTRY ITEM YOU SNEAK INTO EVERYTHING:
YOUR MOST TRUSTED KITCHEN TOOL:
COOKBOOK(S) YOU ACTUALLY USE:
On Food & Cooking by Harold McGee and The Noma Guide to Fermentation by David Zilber and René Redzepi
5 ADJECTIVES THAT DESCRIBE YOUR PANTRY STYLE:
Organized, comprehensive, slightly absurd
YOUR ALL-TIME FAVORITE MARKET:
Santa Monica Farmer’s Market for LA is always a delight
MOST SATISFYING FLAVOR PAIRING:
Salt and vinegar, all the way
WOMEN-MADE PANTRY PRODUCTS YOU PINE FOR:
Fly by Jing, who is also in LA
YOUR FAVORITE MUSIC TO JAM OUT TO IN THE KITCHEN:
I love 80’s love ballads!!!
Check out the Pantry series by Pineapple Collaborative, brought to you by Caviar, here.