Restaurant Eugene pastry chef Jen Yee carefully crafts three courses of dessert
STORY: Carly Cooper
Linton Hopkin’s Buckhead fine dining establishment Restaurant Eugene launched a dessert tasting menu in the spring. The mastermind behind it is executive pastry chef Jen Yee. An Atlantan by way of New York, London and San Francisco, the multiple James Beard Award nominee oversees the dessert programs at C. Ellet’s, Holeman and Finch Public House, Hop’s Chicken and H&F Burger, but her main focus is on Restaurant Eugene.
She created a three-course dessert tasting menu, offered at the bar and adjacent Salon, that consists of a sweet amuse bouche with a glass of bubbles, choice of five “mains” (including a cheese option) and a selection of petit fours. Wine pairings are also available. “We take pride in our desserts,” says Yee. “The bar is a very convivial place, and we thought it would be fun to offer more than just the regular dessert menu there.” The $22-per-person menu officially changes seasonally, but Yee says it’s “constantly morphing.”
Why’d you decide to create a dessert tasting menu?
I haven’t seen any dessert bars or dessert-focused menus anywhere in town. A lot of the restaurants in New York have dessert tastings. We thought it would be fun to offer something similar here. It’s a fun way to hang out at a bar, have some cocktails and enjoy dessert. Restaurant Eugene has this reputation of being a special occasion place. We’re trying to erase the stigma of having this long, drawn out, stuffy experience. This is a way to have a Restaurant Eugene experience without the big price tag. You can complete it in 30 to 45 minutes.
What appeals to you about pastry?
So many things. Pastry is something you can get immediate satisfaction from. It’s an experience you can share with someone. I would make my own birthday cakes as a kid. My uncle and I used to watch old PBS cooking shows and I would get inspired to replicate some of those dishes at home. I wanted to go to culinary school after high school, but my parents wanted me to get a “real” degree. I studied interior architecture and cooked and baked for college friends. Eventually, I got a restaurant job plating dessert in San Francisco. Then I went to Le Cordon Bleu in London.
Where do you like to eat in town?
On the weekends [my husband and I] get ramen, rice bowls and a pastry at Momonoki. I would like to see more bakeries down here. I love The Little Tart Bakeshop and Momo Café (attached to Momonoki).
What’s your goal, career-wise?
I really want my own cake shop— not a wedding cake business, but a cake cafe or market. I’m obsessed with Chinatown-style cakes. They’re super light, airy, creamy cakes with a lot of fresh fruit. That’s mostly what I make at home. I’ve made them for C. Ellet’s as well.
What do you do for fun?
I like to bake at home even though I do pastry for a living. My husband and I like to eat out. This is our first time owning a car together, so we take a lot of road trips, exploring other parts of Georgia. We went to Macon for the Cherry Blossom Festival, have been to Birmingham and visited Asheville.