In a recent photoshoot, Chef Jenna Kinard leans back in her chair, kicks the table, and gives the camera a smile as wide as Texas itself.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been so happy,” she said a few days later at a Starbucks in Willow Park, near where she and her husband have lived for the past few years. “It feels good to feel so good again. ”
For all intents and purposes, Jenna Kinard is back. Former chef of Max’s Wine Dive and winner of Fort Worth Magazine The 2019 Top Chef competition will soon be running the kitchen at Jellico’s, a hot new restaurant inside a hot new hotel, the Westin Dallas Southlake. There, she will serve her version of upscale American cuisine, the style of food that is most important to her.
Lunch and dinner dishes will include grilled shrimp tacos with sesame lime salad, seared halibut in a garlic white wine sauce and braised Brussels sprouts, butternut squash ravioli in butter toasted walnuts, enoki mushroom confit, fried sage and local honey. Interestingly, Kinard adds, she is training as a master beekeeper, which will allow her to make her own honey.
Its lunch menu will focus a bit more on sandwiches, like a fried chicken sandwich with chili mayonnaise, a veggie burger, and bowls.
Named after Jellico, the original 19th-century settlement at the current location of Southlake, the restaurant will also be open for breakfast and weekend brunch, with dishes such as tarts s’ mores pop, served with homemade horchata ice cream; blueberry pancakes; and, what she says is her signature dish, chicken and donuts. It’s a mix of fried chicken, a glazed donut, jalapeño and orange jams, and fried sage.
“It’s a menu that really illustrates who I am as a person and as a chef,” she says. “A lot of the recipes are based on my grandmother’s recipes or dishes that I loved growing up and that we all made as a family. I think more than any other menu I’ve developed, this one has the most of me.
It’s definitely a déjà vu moment for the Texas-born chef, who grew up in the small southeastern town of Waller. Two years ago, Kinard was about to begin a new career as Executive Chef at 97 West, the upscale Southern-themed restaurant inside Hotel Drover, which will soon open. , the centerpiece of a new development in the Fort Worth Stockyards called Mule Alley. The Drover was by far the most anticipated hotel to open in Fort Worth in recent memory, and Kinard was its Michelin-starred chef.
Midway through 2020, in the midst of construction of the Drover, Kinard was laid off, the victim of a growing pandemic that would soon wipe out the restaurant and hospitality industries.
“As you can imagine, I was devastated,” she says. “And shocked. I remember being so shocked. No one had a clue of the destruction COVID would cause – millions of people are losing their jobs. To think that this would affect restaurants the way it did was unfathomable to me. It’s always like that.
Kinard has turned in on herself and, with the exception of one singular Instagram post in which she announced her departure from the Drover, she has virtually shut out the rest of the world. She spent time with her husband, reconnected with her family, and ultimately took advantage of the free time to recharge her batteries.
“It took me a while to figure out what I was going to do,” she says. “I didn’t know if I wanted to go back to restaurants or do something completely different. ”
A friend told her about the Westin’s opening, and soon she met – and instantly clicked, she says – the owners. She would have full cooking reign, they promised, free to prepare any food she wanted to make. Kinard was there.
“It’s an opportunity for me to finally be myself,” she says. “My grandmother had a huge influence on me and my life. She was a wonderful cook and the warmest person. So what I’m trying to do with Jellico’s is recreate those parts of his life – great home style food served in a cozy atmosphere. This is my goal now – or my new goal now. ”
Jellico’s and its accompanying Curve Lounge will open from mid-November to the end of November; 1200 E. State Highway 114, Southlake; Marriott.com