Executive Pastry Chef Jennifer Kopp, CEPC, adds her own special touches to the acclaimed culinary excellence of The Metropolitan Club of Washington (D.C.).
Since its founding in 1863, The Metropolitan Club of The City of Washington (D.C.) has been a destination for almost every U.S. President since Abraham Lincoln, and many other distinguished visitors from around the world. The Metropolitan Club is one of our nation’s capital’s most valued institutions, dedicated to social civility and offering members a haven from the bustle of Washington’s professional and political worlds.
After thirteen and a half years at the Chevy Chase (Md.) Club, Executive Pastry Chef Jennifer Kopp, CEPC, joined renowned Chef Vincent Horville at The Metropolitan Club in 2015. Together with the rest of the Metropolitan Club culinary team, they are providing members with the best food in the city.
Besides her club experience, Chef Kopp has competed for the last 15 years at every level, including a spot on the 2012 U.S. Culinary Olympic Team, which captured Silver in both hot and cold food.
This is a busy time at The Metropolitan Club, so we are grateful to Jennifer for taking the time to share with us how she strives to add her own special touches to such an acclaimed dining venue.
C&RB Jennifer, you’re very involved with the American Culinary Federation and always have been since you ﬁnished school at Johnson & Wales University. How has your association with the ACF and your certiﬁcation helped your professional development?
Kopp As I’ve progressed in my career and moved along the ACF certiﬁcation path from Certiﬁed Pastry Cook to Executive Pastry Chef, I’ve found that the goals necessary for achievement are landmarks on the route to overall competency in the ﬁeld. Mastering excellent sanitation, organization, and the fundamentals of basic baking techniques and solid flavors are skills that any pastry professional needs, at any level.
Having the ACF reinforce those skills is helpful to professional development. Additionally, the contacts I have made through the ACF, and various competition teams, have been invaluable for networking, as well as for helping me find mentors and peers who can provide feedback on my creations. They can also show me new ideas and techniques for items that they are preparing in their own places of work.
C&RB Along the same lines, how has your participation in culinary competition at the chapter, regional and international level helped you become a better chef?
Kopp I have always enjoyed a challenge, and there is no better challenge than pushing yourself to do more, to do it better than before, to come up with something innovative, to prepare it consistently—and all within a specific timeframe. You can come up with a plan, and three backup plans, and you will still have to make last-minute adjustments when your freezer fails, when the power goes out, or when your rack of pre-scaled ingredients falls down the stairs (yes, all of those have happened).
Competitions teach you how to work in a clean, organized manner and plan to the best of your ability, but still be able to be flexible enough to adjust when the unforeseen occurs.
C&RB You do all of your wedding cakes. You meet with and consult the wedding hosts, as well as prepare tastings. How does this one-stop shopping help the client and the club? Also, where do you find the time for the detail work, with everything else you have going on?
Kopp Meeting with a bride and groom and their loved ones for a wedding cake tasting is always interesting. You have a variety of personalities and design/flavor preferences, and you get to experience family dynamics first hand!
The personal nature of these meetings ultimately benefit the happy couple by providing them with exactly what they are looking for, and benefit the club by creating a direct line between the couple and the cake, thus eliminating potential communication issues that could arise from going through an outside bakery. Additionally, the cake is prepared, placed, and cut on-site, so there is much less chance of something going wrong in the trip from bakery to ballroom.
As far as finding time to give full attention to extremely detailed wedding cakes during the busy banquet season, I can offer you one word: organization. Organize the production so the items that can be done early are completed, and then you have time for the cake decoration.
C&RB The big cake-display era has been over for a while. What are you doing at The Metropolitan Club and what trends are you seeing throughout the industry?
Kopp We do a lot of mini-pastry displays. People enjoy sampling a variety of items, from classical French macarons to fruit tarts, to trendier items like mini-tuile cones filled with passion fruit mousse. The variations of colors and shapes, placed on risers to add variations of height as well, make for an eye-catching display.
C&RB What are some of the things you are doing on your menu as far as dietary restrictions and food allergies?
Kopp I have found that the best gluten-free desserts are items that are naturally produced that way to begin with, as opposed to trying to recreate a recipe by substituting various starch blends for the flour. Sometimes you can’t get around using a starch substitute, but I offer a variety of popular items to those with celiac: crème brulee, crème caramel, ice cream, sorbet, almond macaroons, chocolate-dipped strawberries, and flourless chocolate cake (eggs, butter, sugar and chocolate). We also keep bowls of mixed berries on hand, for those last-minute requests for people who have multiple allergies.
C&RB Pastry chefs get the most bizarre requests. What’s the craziest creation someone has asked you for?
Kopp Probably the most bizarre request I’ve received was for an angel food cake without a hole in the center. They weren’t aware of the intricacies of egg-white structure, but that was the guest of honor’s favorite cake flavor—and they insisted it needed to look like a round 10-inch birthday cake with confectioner’s glaze drizzled over the top. I cautioned them that it might sink a little in the center, and it did, but they loved it. In retrospect, I could have made multiple cakes, and cut a cylinder from one and placed it in the hole of another. I now have a plan for the next time I get this request!
View Executive Pastry Chef Jennifer Kopp’s recipes for:
Know someone you’d like to have Jerry Schreck interview for a future “Chef to Chef” conversation? Send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.