We had the good fortune of connecting with Jeanette Fletcher and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jeanette, why did you pursue a creative career?
I pursued a creative career mostly by chance actually, as bizarre as that sounds! I had already completed two hopeless years at a local university, miserably I might add. Every semester wondering when I would feel excited about what I was learning or when I would feel a pull in a certain direction. My current career is pastry, an activity I would say I enjoyed in high school but never something I could dream of making my job. I begged my parents to let me drop out of university to try culinary school. They begrudgingly agreed if I would finish two years strongly. That’s all I needed to hear. I studied hard and when I completed my last semester, my father and I went to check out the Institute of Culinary Education the next month. I was signed up for that September to start my pastry & baking education. 10 months later, with a 2 month externship working for free in a local bakery and my career was off and running.
Ten years later I look back on that young girl very proudly. I was lucky to fall in love with pastry while in school, and to still be in love with it today. If it wasn’t for her bravery to listen to her guts I wouldn’t be making people smile with my art. So to her I say thank you.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
So I work in pastry. When people hear that they immediately have some form of a similar reaction. “OMG cool! You get to create art all day! And play with food! And eat delicious treats all day! You’re so lucky!” or.. if they are also a service industry person it’s usually some form of a defeated camaraderie. Honestly both reactions make me laugh.
I currently work as a pastry chef at a restaurant in Jersey City while perfecting my side business of making beautiful cakes/pastries for events of all kinds. I think what personally sets me apart is how thoughtfully I consider each pastry I make and each interaction I have with someone. I want each person who orders from me or who has a dessert made by my hands to have a truly unique experience. Whether it takes them back to a memory they had long forgotten or a completely new flavor profile they have never even thought of before. I want people to feel happy and without a doubt know they’re consuming something entirely made with love.
I’m always proud when someone says to me “I’ve never had anything like that before” or from a more artistic perspective when they tell me “I’ve never seen something so beautiful”. Both reactions make my heart sing and let me know I’m doing the right things with the right people.
I got here today mostly by showing up everyday. I really believe no matter what your career is, showing up is half the battle. When I first started working in bakeries I’d have start times of 4/5 AM. I was 21 years old, everyone I knew was out partying until that time and I was going to work. The sun would greet me and I’d complete more by 10 AM than most people I knew. It was absolutely not easy to get here.
There’s absolutely nothing easy about working in the service industry. There’s no other way to put it. If you know, you know. If you don’t, you’re probably close to someone who does. I think to want to be successful you have to be a certain kind of stubborn honestly. Quitting the industry was not an option to me, ever. Even in my most insecure moments (my whole 20s have been spent working in kitchens) I was always willing to show up the next day and master whatever was making me feel low as best I could.
I’ve been fortunate to work with such encouraging people. People that see you much more clearly than you see yourself. It’s always been people that have gotten me through the challenges of the kitchen life. I could do the work all day long and not blink but in the moments when I truly doubt myself and my capabilities it’s always been the people around me that push me forward.
I want people to know that no matter what industry you find yourself working in, it could always use more kindness. Be kind to everyone you meet along the way and offer a helping hand if you’ve got one. It never goes unnoticed
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m fortunate enough to live 20 minutes from Manhattan and an hour from the beach (we call it down the shore in northern new jersey FYI). So if you’re here for a whole week we are doing and seeing and EATING a lot.
First off nice dinner out, my current home Corto in Jersey City. Italian BYO. All pasta made in house with a seasonal menu that changes almost every other day. what more could you ask for.
Next we’re headed to Pizzatown USA in Elmwood Park. Yes that’s the real name. You can get a slice and a grape drink (yes grape drink). And yes they will be mean to you. And yes you will like it.
What’s that? You have an affinity for 70s tiki culture? No problem! Next up is Lee’s Hawaiian Islander in Lyndhurst where the tiki cocktails are strong and karaoke happens every Saturday night. They straight up have not changed a single decoration since the 70s and yes you will love it.
Oh? You’re actually in the mood for seafood dive bar? Say no more. Next we’re off to DP’s Pub in Garfield. The lobster sliders are insane and can be washed down with your favorite draft.
Now you need a sweet treat and a strong coffee after all those tiki drinks? Heard that. Erie Coffeeshop & Bakery in Rutherford has all that. And yes I used to work there too. Shout out Erie crew
There’s an amazing brewery in Clifton called Ghosthawk Brewing Co which is right across the street from Rutt’s Hutt which makes the most insane hot dogs. You could spend a whole day just going back and forth between the two honestly.
Are there other things to do in New Jersey besides drink and eat you might ask? Sure I guess..
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I dedicate this shout out to my number one fan and sous chef, my sister Lauren. Who always believed in not only the dream, but in me.
Mike Zawadzki Photography Lex Christie Photography Andrea Altamura Photography