Not My Day Job — Chefs Showcase Their Talents Beyond the Kitchen

not my day job nyc meghan kennally
not my day job nyc meghan kennally
Jenna Lee Barber, a server at L’Apicio, brought the house down with her Broadway-worthy rendition of “Maybe This Time” from Cabaret.

The restaurant business in Manhattan is notoriously cutthroat, but Not My Day Job showed the camaraderie and community that exist when the knives are laid aside. The event was held on Sunday at the Prince George Ballroom, and it was a showcase of both musical and culinary talent.

As chefs and servers took turns on stage, others handed out their signature dishes to the guests. The polenta topped with braised short rib from L’Apicio and the beef stew with poached egg and country biscuits from meat purveyor Pat LaFrieda were among the heartier options, while the vegan mushroom and barley soup from dell’anima and the honey and apple salad from Monument Lane were the lighter complements. Carnivores had the best options, as both Lugo and Willow Road had meatball-based offerings and Khe-Yo plated up some particularly flavorful and fresh beef jerky.

For the sweet tooths in the crowd, Evelyn’s Kitchen covered their table with a host of baked goods, from carrot cake sliders to their signature toffee blondies. Shake Shack also put their best foot forward, scooping up a specialty flavor of their frozen custard, as the servers told us that their bourbon pumpkin pie was specially made for the event and has never been sold before. For the public’s sake, I hope that they change their minds and add that to the roster!

not my day job nyc meghan keanally
L’Apicio served up portions of polenta with braised short ribs topped with Parmesan.

While the culinary offerings would easily keep any attendee entertained, the food and drinks were not the star of this particular show. The event was developed four years ago by the Epicurean Group, the restaurant group behind hotspots like L’Artusi and dell’anima, as a way to highlight their staff’s talents outside of the kitchen.

“The driving force was our CEO August Cardona when he was talking to some of our talented servers one day in the restaurants. [He] wanted to give them a platform to show off those skills,” said spokesperson Alex Moskovitz.

One such star was Jenna Lee Barber, a server at L’Apicio, who gave a Broadway-worthy performance of such songs like “Maybe This Time” from Cabaret to Pink’s “Glitter in the Air.” A spoken-word poet, an operatic soprano and a jazzy brass band were among the other acts, all of whom were met by cheers from the audience. Since so many of the people involved with the event were clearly friends and colleagues, the family atmosphere was filled with actual families as well, with little children lining the seats by the stage while watching their moms and dads show their skills to the audience.

Julia Sherman

Julia Sherman is creative director at Chopt, and the creator of Salad for President, a website turned cookbook that draws a meaningful connection between food, art and everyday obsessions.

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