When it comes to being in the kitchen, there are usually two types of producers—those who wing it and those who prefer precise measurements and exacting methods. You know which one you are. Jennifer Lyne—one-half of the dynamic duo behind Tasting TBL and the forthcoming Frenchie concept in Five Points (slated to open September 2023) is decidedly the latter. As a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef, Jennifer is simply more comfortable in the kitchen when the dish at hand requires precision. Her passion is dessert, and her tools of choice include a scale for measuring dry ingredients, bowl scrapers, offset spatulas, and her ever-present trusty red Kitchen-Aid stand mixer. The opening of Frenchie early this fall will at last provide the showcase for her pastry art talent, with dedicated space to the confections that are her culinary hallmark.
Can you give us a little backstory?
My husband, Tyler (also a CIA-trained chef), and I moved to Birmingham early in the pandemic in order to be closer to family. Tasting TBL came about when a neighbor, now friend, asked us to do a dinner for her and 10 friends. We started by just cooking for friends and neighbors here in Ross Bridge, but word of mouth spread. We made a website and an Instagram page and started selling tickets to dinners we do here in our home every Friday and Saturday night.
Your Instagram feed is stunning! Tell us about a dessert you’ve created that really wowed guests.
Thank you! So, I am kind of an introvert by nature, and when I worked in a traditional restaurant setting, I did not get to interact with guests when they enjoyed dessert. But being in our home changes all that. I get to be myself, be creative, and make people happy—with every single dessert. A favorite was a little play on a broken egg. The shell was made of spun sugar, and the yolk was a passion fruit gel with a coconut mousse. It looked just like an egg had been dropped on the plate and broken open! I loved seeing everyone’s expressions.
Tell us what to expect from Frenchie.
It will be in the historic Rucker Place, a charming three-story home with a wraparound porch. The bottom level will have a patisserie with pastries, croissants, and desserts. We’ll also have grab-and-go sandwiches and coffee. At night, that space will turn into a bistro, serving things like steak frites and burgers. The main floor will be more of the Tasting TBL concept with some à la carte fine-dining items. The top floor will be a members-only space for private dinners. Guests can enjoy the cigar room and also store their bourbon collections.
Driving Jennifer’s Passion
With a curious streak and a penchant for trying new techniques, Jennifer turns to these sources for inspiration and hard-to-find ingredients:
- Books like Tarte by Garuharu, Bachour Gastro by Antonio Bachour, and Fruit: The Art of Pastry by Cedric Grolet inspire Jennifer to create the most whimsical of confections and challenge her to grow in her skills.
- AUI Fine Foods is Jennifer’s online source for hard-to-find ingredients.
- Jennifer still leans into the guidance of her mentor, Ghaya Oliveira, with whom she worked at Daniel Boulud’s award-winning restaurants in New York City.