Elite Spotlight: Jennifer Plemmons (@Thegirlthatgrills)
Married to a 4th generation farmer and currently living on a Black Angus cattle farm, it’s hard to imagine anyone who knows southern BBQ culture from farm to table better than Jennifer Plemmons, AKA @thegirlthatgrills. Raised by her Grandma Margie to value food as a love language, Jennifer found her husband’s smoker sitting in a box one day and never looked back. She sat down with us at Dalstrong to talk about culinary heroes, choosing the right grill, and why you should never, ever throw out your veggie scraps.
Tell me about your farm
So we have a Black Angus cattle farm, they are registered cows. It’s based in Appling, Georgia. My husband is a 4th generation farmer. If my daughter continues, it will be the 5th generation. We have taken it over after his Dad has kind of handed it over to us. It’s an exciting time in our lives, it’s a busy time in our lives
We actually had a new baby that was born yesterday. It’s a black baldie. It has a pure white face and the rest of its body is black. I’ll be posting that picture on its Instagram, but you’ll have to check that out.
What inspires you?
Growing up I was always exposed to my Grandma Margie, who was just the typical southern homemaker. She had a recipe for everything. Dinner was on the table every night, at the same time. Every Sunday she cooked for our entire family, and it was multiple dishes of food. Anything you could imagine, it was on the table, and if it wasn’t, you just requested it, and she’d whip it up really quick while you were standing there. Growing up I watched her, and I remember the first thing she ever let me do was start icing cakes. So I started icing cakes, which you know, as a southerner is a big deal because that’s presentation. So I iced the cakes and I learned and then I started to learn to make homemade chicken and dumplings and it just forged this passion for food.
And then moving into it, I understood that she was using food as a love language. She’s feeding people to show them that she loves them. And it just translated the same for me. I feed people because I want to show them that I love them and I care about them. And during the pandemic, you know, it just kind of bloomed the girl that grills. My husband had a smoker that was sitting in a box and we took it out of the box and that’s all she wrote.
I love that. I hear that from a lot of people that I talk to. The food and the technique is one thing but really it comes from this place of love and wanting to share, express yourself, and all that.
So tell me about your food. What are you most excited about now, a new recipe or a new discovery that you’re super into at the moment.
So right now, I’m super into 20-minute meals. That’s something that the working mom or the working dad, or even just the single person that’s coming home from work after a long day, can whip up a 20-minute meal that’s homemade, fresh ingredients, that are not complicated and that’s my new venture. I’m doing live cooks on Facebook, and I’ll be translating those to Instagram as well.
That’s my excitement right now, is doing those 20-minute meals, helping families feed their families, and helping people get back around the dinner table. That was something that was so important to me growing up, being around the table, having those conversations, being with my family. Knowing what’s going on in each other’s lives and having time to talk without smartphones and TVs and all the other nuisances that we have today.
Oh yeah, I totally get that. I know you’ve got the farm, I know you’re a busy mom. What are your hobbies and passions outside of that?
Outside of the farm, and outside of cooking, I am a legal assistant by day, so I work directly with an attorney to assist her with her daily functions. My husband and I are also real estate investors, so we purchase real estate properties and we try to find the right matches for our tenants and try to help them get into stable homes and be able to purchase homes from us as well.
We do work with a lot of underprivileged people. And we’ve successfully put a family into a home. And we have two families we’re working with to do that right now. And we’re working on getting a third involved in the program, and so that we can get them into a home and have them be homeowners.
I love that, that’s awesome. Let’s talk about food some more. Do you have a favorite shortcut or hack, anything that comes to mind as your go-to? It can be food, it can be prep, it can be any of those things.
So my favorite thing with prep, as soon as I get home from the grocery store (you know I usually bulk buy). I’ll go ahead and chop all my veggies, you know my fruit, like berries, throw em in the water and let ‘em sit with some vinegar water, just let it soak and kind of clean itself. And then you’re already prepped for the week. So you’re setting yourself up for success by taking 30 minutes to an hour depending on how much you buy out of your day to go ahead and get everything situated, prepped, cut, chopped, whatever.
Now as far as another thing is veggie scraps. Do not throw your veggie scraps away! Save your veggie scraps, put them in a ziplock bag or any type of container that you can stick in the freezer, and every time you have an onion peel, the bottom part of a stalk of asparagus, any kind of veggie scrap that you’re not going to use. The tops of carrots, throw it in your scrap bag, and then once it’s full you can make a stock out of it. You can freeze your stock and put it in your soups. Anything you’re making, it just makes your food so much more flavorful.
So tell me about your tools. The things that you rely on the most.
So definitely my Dalstrong knives are my number 1 tool in the kitchen. It’s so great to pick up a knife that’s ever sharp. And you can just chop away. It just reduces your prep time completely by having a nice, sharp, heavy, chef-grade knife. So I’m able to fly through prep, whereas when I had other competing brands before it would slow down my prep time — I would have to stop and sharpen the knife.
But these Dalstrongs I just fly through prep time. So Dalstrong is definitely my favorite tool to use in the kitchen, and I recommend it to everyone no matter where they are in their culinary journey, whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or you’re a trained chef, Dalstrong is where it’s at.
Tell me about your cooking heroes. I know we talked about your grandma, but I want to hear about anyone who has mentored you, anyone from your family, famous people, etc.
My personal hero in the culinary world would actually be my grandfather, other than my grandmother. My grandfather was a south of Georgia boy from Vidalia, Georgia, onion farmer through and through. His parents were the same, and their parents were from Ireland, so they come from a long line of workers.
But my grandfather also really loved to BBQ, and he was into making homemade pits. And there would be nothing to walking outside and have a whole hog on the grill, and it would be a homemade grill. You know and also he taught me so much about wild game and about self-processing meat.
He taught me how to process a chicken, how to scale a fish — I find that people in everyday life now don’t know how to do these things. So having these skills help me elevate my culinary ventures and you know having him to look back on and knowing how to make a homemade pit at 5 years old and now being able to translate that into my culinary ventures with the girl that grills, you know teaching people it’s like his legacy is still moving forward with me, so I like to think that he’d be proud too.
What’s the one dish that everybody seems to screw up unnecessarily?
Trimming a brisket is the biggest flaw I’ve seen. You know, not removing enough of the hard fat. Not knowing what to cut, what not to cut. And really, even just with the trimming, not reusing that beef tallow and rendering it down and you know, really making use of all the 100 dollar brisket that you just purchased. Trimming a brisket is my biggest pet peeve.
What’s your advice for any chef starting out, whether they’re home cooks or BBQers?
The best way to get in and get started is really to figure out how much you want to invest in this, especially if you’re moving into BBQ and you’re looking for a grill. Start with how much you want to invest, then start with the size, the space that you have to dedicate to it. If you’re in a small apartment with a balcony, you don’t want a large grill, you want something that is very small and manageable, and fire-safe, and easy to manage.
So that’s my biggest advice - knowing going in and doing your homework, knowing what you have space for, and then just having fun with it. You know, you can always watch youtube videos, there’s a lot of really good people out there that have created instructional videos.
If you follow someone on IG and you feel inspiration from them, reach out to them. I’ve had so many people reach out to me. And it’s fun to talk to people, and it’s fun to inspire people to get out there and cook. And cooking means so much to me, so I encourage people to cook all the time. Cook and be happy.
When you’re looking at partnerships, what do you loo for?
So In partnerships and ambassador programs, I look for: “is this going to be something that they’re going to treat me like a part of their family.” Because essentially, I look at it like “yeah, I might not be your brother or your sister, close to you, but I’m going to be like your distant cousin, I’m going to be representing your brand. So I’m going to find a brand that’s going to have similar values to me, and also have products that are easy to use and available to the general public. What I said about Dalstrong - that it’s wonderful for a novice or for a culinarily trained chef.
Is there a spice that you secretly hate?
There’s a brand but I won’t say it. Hahaha. A spice that I secretly hate is charcoal-infused spices. I have used them, they get everywhere, they’re very salty, I hate that.
Who’s the one person you’d love to cook a meal for?
If I could cook a meal for anyone today it would be my husband’s father, my father-in-law. He was so passionate about food like I am, he had that love for food - he knew food as a love language as I do. And he was just a good ole Georgia boy. And he inspired me, I’m going to tear up talking about him - just to be able to take the skills that I’ve generated over the last six months and be able to cook him a meal would just be wonderful.
What would your last meal be?
For protein, I would do some reverse-seared pork chops, some inch and a half pork chops that have been really well-seasoned, reverse-seared. I would do rice with stewed tomatoes. I would have collard greens, my grandmother’s cornbread, and for dessert, I would have my grandmother’s sour cream pound cake with some fresh strawberries. I think about that a lot.
Would you by any chance have a bourbon on the side? I don’t want to make the stereotype of all southerners having a bourbon, but…
Yeah no, I would have a bourbon on the side, for sure. I would have something really nice like a whistle pig or a widow jane or you know, if I had access to it, definitely a Pappy. But yeah we’d have a bourbon on the side, I’d go with that.
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Interviewed by Abby Slate
Written by Evelyn Dusey