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Military family background influences Chef Jan Parker's cuisine

European and Philippine fusion

Chef Jan Z. Parker presents a class for the Lewis Community Spouses’ Club cooking subclub. Photo credit: Jennifer Bowen

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Jan Z. Parker, owner of Jan Parker Cookery, is not your average private chef. Her experiences as both a military brat and a military spouse have allowed her to travel extensively around the world and gain exposure to a wide variety of culinary experiences.

Parker is beginning to have success conducting pop-ups at local restaurants.

"A pop-up in the restaurant world is when the owner of the restaurant allows a guest chef to occupy the dining room and use (his or her) kitchen for one evening or an extended amount of time," Parker said. "It's a great way for the guest chef to test out ideas and gauge a response from customers. The restaurant owner can also sell products during the event as a partnership and great marketing.  The dining community wins by being able to try something new.  Some establishments are only open for breakfast, brunch or lunch, and it's a great way to utilize a space while the business is finished for the day.

"For example, on April 9, I'm doing a pop-up macaron class at Alegre Bakery.  They are allowing me to use their space (and) equipment, and at the same time, they will provide the beverages.  Another one in the books is April 20 in Seattle, where I will prepare Filipino food on banana leaves and diners will eat with their hands.  Cafe Barjot and I have partnered up.  The beverage manager has created the drink menu to complement my menu.  Everyone involved comes out with an advantage."

Parker's family heritage and living in Europe for three years are the two major influences that developed her cooking style.

"My father was from Pampanga in the Philippines.  People that come from that province have a reputation for being amazing cooks," she said. "My mother is known for her cooking.  She was my first teacher, and I would just watch everything she did in the kitchen when I was a kid.  Her talent was making large amounts of food for parties and hosting dinners.  Seeing people excited while eating her food brought her joy.

"Living in Europe while my husband was stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany, allowed me to taste different preparations of food in many countries," she continued. "Naturally, food was the main highlight when we visited other countries, such as France, Poland, Italy, Switzerland and Belgium to name a few.  Traveling gave me a good idea of the regional ingredients being used.  

The chef has some great advice for military spouses wanting to try their hand at a culinary career.

"One of the first steps is doing a litmus test to see if being in the hospitality industry is a good fit," she said. "In order to do that, I would recommend reaching out to restaurants that are inspiring to them and asking if they can stage.  Being a stage is when you work for free but get hands-on experience and learn the way things are done in a kitchen.  This can be done temporarily or for an extended amount of time.  If the chef really likes you, there's a potential to get hired.  Find a chef mentor who can answer questions regarding the industry.  If you are still excited from what you have gathered and are ready to dive in, then I recommend going to culinary school.  My alma mater is The Art Institute of Seattle, and they accepted the GI Bill. This came in handy because my husband transferred his benefits over for my education.  Another option is a culinary program at a community college. I've worked with cooks from Seattle Community College and they were as capable as any graduate coming from a private culinary school."   

Jan Parker Cookery, 206.751.5318,,, Facebook: @janparkercookery, Instagram: @janparkercookery

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