Transitions always make for exciting and dynamic times. Nowhere is this truer than in the heart of a kitchen. With restaurants presenting tight quarters for cooks and chefs to move around in, even the smallest of changes can make a big difference. Over the past few months at Townsman Restaurant, a big - and exciting - transition has been in process. With Pastry Chef Meghan Thompson taking on new adventures at SRV, Kate Jennings, former pastry guru at Farmstead in Providence, RI has stepped up to the plate.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Kate, have a taste of some of her menu items and speak with her about her transition. Following her career in the kitchen at Farmstead with partner and husband Matt Jennings (Owner and Executive Chef at Townsman) Kate left to pursue some focused time with their children, taking on a part-time position as a florist as well. In late fall, when the team found themselves in need of a new leader in the pastry department, the timing all seemed to align.
The oft expected turbulence of a kitchen transition in a restaurant did not shake Townsman. A testament to the strong sense of community throughout the establishment, Kate spent a few weeks working alongside Meghan. Their main goals were to devise a plan that would allow for the most seamless menu transition, paying homage to a few tried and true Townsman staples, while also allowing for a clear path to be drawn under new reigns.
Perhaps the biggest challenge, was incorporating seasonal ingredients in the middle of a New England January. Kate says she quickly ran through some of the more interesting, but still delicious, ingredients used in winter-centric desserts. These inspired dishes like their ‘signature scoop’ of pomegranate and molasses ice cream topped with tahini caramel sauce. This scoop is bright and grounded, creamy and with a slight tang. It is contradictory in all of the most extraordinary ways. Served in a bowl made by the talented Boston Potter, Ogusky Ceramics, the presentation is simple and strong.
Other menu items that remain on the first round of menu changes are the banana bread with malted chocolate, peanut butter semi-freddo and vanilla whip. This breakfast for dessert dish is delectable, decadent and delicious.
A creamy and zesty meyer lemon tart is presented on a black/gray slate with rosemary crust and white chocolate – a lighter option and refreshing splash of color for the winter season.
Looking ahead, Kate is especially excited to get her hands on more fruits and, surprisingly, vegetables. Though not in her usual arsenal, Kate is very happy to empower her team to explore their own areas of creativity, especially if that incorporates some of the greener ingredients into the dessert menu offerings.
At this point, the transition has been so seamless as to present diners with a shift that is more attuned to seasonal changes than a dramatic stray away from dessert menus past. The support of the rest of the team and Kate’s eye for true leadership in the kitchen can be thanked for this. Time will tell how the dessert menu will continue to change – I would recommend heading in multiple times to check out new additions. And, please, save room for dessert!