By KD Reep
Scroll through any social media feed and you will see photos of food, someone’s review of her dinner and another’s recipe for the latest food fad. While food is our sustenance, it is only recently that it has become our obsession. While prepared meals through restaurants and fast food outlets fit the lifestyles of frenetic Arkansans, home-cooked meals bring families and friends together, and Jennifer Lewis is helping make those connections.
“I started Jen’s Art of Cooking about six years ago, and I work mostly out of my home as an event and culinary consultant,” Jen says. “I teach cooking classes out of Whiteline Designs, and I do onsite cooking and team-building classes for people interested in learning everything from the basics of cooking to preparing a full meal. Other things my business does include food styling, recipe development, restaurant and menu consulting, custom cocktails for events and event planning. I’m also working on my first cooking and entertaining coffee-table book.”
If that weren’t enough to keep her busy, Jen raises her children Ella Kate, 14, and Ian Robert, 12, with her husband, John. Their goldendoodle dogs, Oliver and Hunter, work for their room and board by cleaning up any spills Jen may make in the kitchen.
“Being a professional and owning my own business while being a wife, mom and volunteer has definitely changed my life,” she says. “I had worked in human resources and public relations before starting this business. I have always loved cooking and entertaining. I grew up in Panama and did a lot of cooking with my mom growing up. When I started having kids, I stayed home for about seven years then decided to go back to work, but I wanted to do something that would allow me to have flexibility to be there for my kids and be able to pursue my passion of cooking and entertaining. When I moved to northwest Arkansas, it seemed I had so many friends that lived in beautiful homes and never really cooked or entertained at home. I wanted to help those who were interested in cooking, whether they were women, men or kids, and make them feel comfortable in their homes to make a meal that is easy and healthy. I wanted to make entertaining at home comfortable for those who would love to have friends over.”
Jen’s commitment to the community is a significant aspect of both her private and professional life.
“I am always looking to be creative and active in the community,” she says. “Keeping up with my Instagram account, blog and volunteering helps that. The work I do with the Girls Rock Program at junior high schools educates middle school girls about healthy eating and kitchen safety. I am also chairing a committee for Cobblestone Farms for the Harvest Party fundraiser. Cobblestone helps families in need and serves as an education program on farming and healthy eating for schools in the area.”
Helping people across every economic level enjoy cooking healthy meals at home for friends and family is what keeps Jen going. By cooking at home, families pursue a healthier lifestyle and make connections while sharing a meal. A common meal demonstrates that each person at the table is valued and welcome.
“I love watching people feel more comfortable in the kitchen and helping them change their lifestyle to eating more at home,” Jen says. “That’s the most rewarding thing. Food is such an important part of our lives that it is vital we understand healthy cooking techniques and educate our children on where food comes from. I would love to see more families sit down for dinner together, work together as a team in the kitchen and be appreciative of the food that fuels their bodies.
“Owning Jen’s Art of Cooking has opened my kids’ eyes on how hard it is to own your own business,” Jen says. “They also see how rewarding it can be. They see how hard I work to make clients happy, and that when you own your own business, everything falls on you. They see that life is about what you give and how hard you are willing to work. I am a big believer in not waiting for someone to give you an opportunity. You create your own opportunities and follow your passion.”
By prioritizing connection with the people she loves, Jen is able to balance the varying aspects of her life with help from her family and friends.
“I balance work, family, interests and friends as best as I can,” she says. “Sometimes my work requires me to be busy during the evenings, and that can be difficult to manage with kid activities. I am beyond thankful for my incredible husband because he is busy during the day with his job, but he’s always willing to help when I need to be gone during the evenings. It is a tag-team job and the only way to balance everything. I believe in good quality time and my life not being in a constant state of chaos so I take jobs that I believe in. It’s not easy, and I definitely have things that fall through the cracks. I know I can only do so much, and I hope that whatever I do decide to focus on, I try to give it 100 percent.”
Accepting that not everything will be done perfectly is what helps Jen maintain a healthy balance in her life.
“There can be a balance of work, kids, private interests and a happy marriage and family,” she says. “It takes work, and it never is perfect, but it is definitely doable.”