Check out our interview with Southern Belle and mother of 6, Jennifer Maune, who is the most recent runner-up on FOX’s MasterChef “Tastes of America”!
In addition to her current screen time impressing Gordon Ramsay, Aarón Sánchez, and Joe Bastianich on the hit FOX cooking competition series, Maune is already a well-known Chef with an Associated Degree in both Culinary and Pastry Arts from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris (+ Advanced Certification from the world-renowned program) as well as a Bronze medal from the American Culinary Federation. She has been a featured Chef on the Today Show (All Day Program), has been selected as a Better Homes and Gardens Stylemaker in 2021, 2022 and 2023 and selected as a High Point Market Design Influencer for 2022 and 2023.
She currently has a beautiful comfort mat line sold to Williams Sonoma and plans to open up her own restaurant in the future.
Follow Jennifer @jennifermaune
Hi Jennifer, please tell us little about you?
I’m a small town girl with big dreams. I’m married to Brian, for 17 years, and we have six amazing kids, ages 13 to three. We live in Little Rock, Arkansas, and love to travel the US and beyond. I own a lifestyle blog (jennifermaune.com) where I share recipes, entertaining, home design, and inspiration for the holidays. I offer food and interior photography services and I’m a licensed REALTOR. I recently graduated with highest honors from culinary school with the A.A.S. in Pastry Arts and A.A.S. in Culinary Arts. I was accepted into Le Cordon Bleu Paris and completed their advanced certification for pastry last summer.
Describe yourself in 3 words?
Goal oriented, a dreamer, tender hearted
How did you get started as a Chef?
My grandmother was an amazing southern cook. I spent summers with her and she inspired me to start learning to cook at an early age. As a home cook for my family, I loved teaching myself various cooking methods and techniques. Then as I started sharing family recipes on my blog, I realized it was a passion so I enrolled in culinary school.
How would you describe your cooking style?
My cooking style is elevated, French southern fusion.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
My first boss told me I was talented and had great work ethic, but I needed to drink the kool-aid, which meant to immerse myself in what I was doing and become an expert on the subject. I’ve carried that through my career and through culinary school, and it’s always brought success.
Who is your role model?
My grandmother was/is my role model. She was talented, she raised a wonderful family, she took time to volunteer for various causes, and she was known for treating people with kindness and love.
Tell us about your experience in super popular FOX’s MasterChef “Tastes of America?”
I loved being apart of the show. I met some amazing, talented people. I loved working with the cast, the crew, and the judges. I grew so much as a chef, and now have so much more confidence in and out of the kitchen.
How was the feeling to be in the finals after a long competition with so many great chefs?
It was an honor. I was surrounded by extremely talented cooks with different backgrounds and skills. It was an exhilarating feeling to make it to the finale and get to create my three course fine dining menu.
How was the process for casting and what was the feeling when you got accepted?
Casting was a three month process where we had to submit various videos, photos, and information. We were given a set of tasks, and then would be notified that we had made it to the next level of casting. I can vividly remember the day I got the email. We were supposed to be notified on a Friday. I checked my email all day and night. I woke up on Saturday so disappointed that I didn’t get an email. My husband took me to brunch, and while there I got the email and squealed. We ordered champagne to celebrate making it through that tough process.
How was working in the show and also to be judge by some of the most popular chefs in the world like Chef Gordon Ramsay, Aaron Sanchez and Joe Bastianich?
I am thankful to have been mentored by these culinary giants for 8 weeks. I learned about building flavor, how to work in a kitchen like Hell’s Kitchen, how to feed large groups, and how to work well in a high pressure environments. After the finale, Gordon was kind to offer to help me if I need anything in the future.
What was the most challenging part of the show?
The most challenging part was the challenges that involved two people. I was faced with some tough circumstances during both of those challenges. The Hell’s Kitchen takeover was also very tough but I found it to be exhilarating to be cooking at that level for a large restaurant full of guests.
Looking back to this season. Do you regret doing or not doing something that could have changed the ending and possible winning the competition?
I did my best and I was really proud of my three dishes, and I’m very happy for who won. I was disappointed I didn’t win, but between my cookbook plans and restaurant investors, I’m able to pursue exactly what I wanted to do initially through MasterChef. I feel like I came out on top without the title.
Now that the show ended, what are your plans as a chef?
I have a seasonings brand coming out in a few weeks. I am offering limited speaking engagements and private chef dinners each month. I have a cookbook coming in fall of 2024. I’m very excited that I have investors for two restaurant locations and we are already formulating plans. I want to open an elevated, farm-to-table breakfast, brunch and lunch restaurant, along with a pastry shop featuring craft coffee, fresh breads, pastries, confectioneries, and more.
How do you manage such a busy career and also a big family with 6 kids? That’s impressive!
We have a village of support and my husband is very hands on. We are a partnership and try our best to be intentional with our time so our kids are getting the best of us. I never want to miss the milestones and memories, especially when my kids are young.
Do you have any tips for parents to cook with kids or for a small party with friends?
I learned in culinary school to always start with a plan, then mise en place (measure ingredients), then start cooking. I’m all for pivoting during a cook when necessary, but this practice helps stay organized and ensure you haven’t forgotten an important component. I do this whether cooking at home, or planning for a dinner party.
Have you ever been asked to cook anything crazy or very different?
Not yet, but I would love to cook with rare ingredients and proteins, like octopus and Uni, that I haven’t gotten exposure to yet.
Do you have any regrets professionally?
I wish I would’ve gone to culinary school earlier. Otherwise, I believe I built the right career experience to get me where I am today and where I want to go in the future.
If you weren’t a chef, or in the food business, what would you be?
An interior designer. Thankfully I get to do both through my blog and content creation business.
If you could prepare only one meal, what would it be?
It would be my MasterChef Finale dish: Rack of Venison Persillade, Roasted vegetables, Parsnip Purée, Bordelaise Sauce.
What is next for Jennifer Maune in the last months of 2023 and for 2024?
I have my seasonings brand coming soon. I’m releasing four new designs for my comfort mat line with GelPro Mats, which are now available in Williams Sonoma. I’m writing a cookbook, and have a full schedule of private chef dinners that have been cooked. I’m meeting with investors and looking at real estate options for my two restaurant locations. It’s a very busy season but I’m watching everything I’ve worked so hard for come to fruition!
How would your best friend describe you?
Loyal, achiever, and compassionate.
Where do you see yourself and your career in 5 years from now?
My plan is to own multiple restaurants, pastry shops, and a home decor store. I want to have written multiple cookbooks and design books, and to have created my own line of home decor and kitchen products. I also hope to one day have my own show where I can share inspiration for home, entertaining, and recipes.
If you could cook a meal for anyone, who would it be and what would you cook?
I would love to cook at the White House for the first Woman President of the United States. I would curate a beautiful menu depending on her wishes.
What is the best restaurant that no one’s ever heard of?
The restaurant I’m going to open. 🙂
What is your favorite healthy food?
A salmon salad.
And your favorite cheat food?
What do you like to watch on tv?
Period drama, and cooking and home design shows.
Any future plans you want to share with us?
Besides opening a restaurant and pastry shop, I also want to curate a line of home decor products and open a home goods store.
Idea of a perfect Sunday?
A perfect Sunday means spending the day with my family, going to church, a lovely brunch, and lots of quality time. I love to make a big dinner on Sunday nights.
Do you support any charity?
I supporting a lot of charities, but I intentionally support Potluck (which focuses on food insecurity), CARTI (which focuses on cancer care), and The CALL (which focuses on supporting kids in foster care). I have also worked to support our public schools for the past 9 years.
What do you think of Social Media?
I love that it connects people, inspires people, and can be a good tool for community.
Where we can follow you?
Quote: “Success is often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.” -Coco Chanel
Favorite Singer/Artist: Adele and Carrie Underwood
Movie: Pride and Prejudice
Travel Destination: Paris and Florence
Sports Team: Arkansas Razorbacks
Tv Show: Downton Abbey
Book: The Life You Long For by Christy Nockels
MasterChef on FOX