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Apple Rose. Quince Vanilla Bean. Blueberry Lavender. Blackberry Tarragon….Garden poetry?

It sure is—it’s also the line of local, organic, seasonal preserves from Jin’s Jams & Jellies out of Brooklyn, NY. Janelle “Jin” Galvez is the owner and chef behind these toothsome spreads. She is also the creator of Jin’s Journey Inc., a creative organization dedicated to empowering and educating the public about how to build an environmentally sustainable and healthy food system.

Jin has joined us this year to teach Oldways’ A Taste of African Heritage six-week cooking program in Brooklyn. A woman of many hats, she is a personal chef, urban farmer, certified health coach, and now the star of her own cooking show – “Cooking With Jin.”  We’re so very happy to be working with Jin and we can’t wait to try her spring season jams!



OLDWAYS:  Hello, Jin! Thank you so much for talking with us today and for bringing A Taste of African Heritage to Brooklyn audiences this year. Congratulations on your new cooking show! Can you tell us what Jin’s Journey is all about—when it started and where it’s taken you?
JIN:  Hello! Thank you so much for reaching out to me. I have enjoyed working with Oldways this year—it has been an absolute pleasure.

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In a nutshell, Jin’s Journey focuses on educating people on eating locally, seasonally and affordably. I started Jin’s Journey back in late 2008, by just doing small dinner parties for friends and the idea to start a food blog. With time it evolved into what it is today: Private chef services, cooking classes, youth mentorship program, cooking show on Public Access and line of Jams & Jellies.

“Cooking with Jin” is just one of the things I speak with my clients about. My private and group lessons go more in depth based on my clients diets and food focus and I basically want to make sure they understand the ease and joy of cooking and wipe out that rumor that eating healthy is super expensive.

OLDWAYS:  You’re obviously very passionate about cooking in your work. Why is cooking so important? What does it mean to someone to be able to cook?
JIN:  Yes, I am definitely passionate about cooking! For me cooking is therapeutic: I don’t feel stressed, I always have fun, and it feels so natural to me. At home I love to cook and have people over to enjoy a great meal, and share stories. Every evening at home my husband and I can unwind and  talk about our day and relax with no distractions. In my classes I like to emphasize the importance of this quality family time and making it at the very least one meal a day, whether it is breakfast or dinner, a time for the entire family to sit together (not in separate rooms or separate times), and enjoy each others’ company and catch up on the trials and tribulations of the day, offer support and make it a safe space for both the parents and children to speak freely.

Working with youth over the years I have learned that this simple gesture and time together is something that is lacking and it creates this emotional detachment in the home. People don’t realize that just cooking a meal together and/or eating together as a family can have such a huge impact on communication in the household. I think first and foremost it is a great start to a healthier home base.


OLDWAYS:  We think so too! The “old ways” cherish cooking, food, and family together as a top priority. You teach people how to cook through classes, products, writing, and film. Who first taught you how to cook?
JIN:  I have been cooking since I was 9 years old. Growing up with a single mom I had to help around the house and cooking was one thing I had to do. I wasn’t whipping up anything gourmet back then, but I was certainly getting my foundation and understanding of basic cooking skills. I learned a lot from my mother and grandmother—to this day I still call on them for recipes and culinary questions. My mother and grandmother are Jamaican, so a lot of my foundation started in traditional Jamaican dishes, like: Ackee & Saltfish; Stew Peas & Rice: Escovitch Fish; Curry Goat; Black Cake – these are my favorite dishes but I have a whole library of recipes my mother and grandma taught me.

OLDWAYS:  What are some key elements to a happy kitchen for you? What are your top five must-have ingredients and/or culinary tools?
JIN:  Well, for me a happy kitchen is a spotless kitchen, haha! My top five must haves are my cast-iron skillet, sharp knife, wooden spoon, fresh herbs and iPod. Then I just look in the pantry and fridge, pull out anything I see that jumps out at me, and I get to work.

OLDWAYS:  Love it! What artists would you put up there as your go-to cooking soundtracks?
JIN:  Music is actually my first passion. I originally went to college for music performance with dreams to be in the London Philharmonic, but that is a whole other story. Music plays in my home, at my office and in my classes 24/7. Iit really depends on my mood or theme of my class. If it’s just me, it can range from System of a Down to Radiohead to the soundtrack of Cabaret. If I am with my youth interns, I usually have them create a playlist that we will play while they are at work with me.

OLDWAYS:  How has the Taste of African Heritage series has been going for you and your participants?
JIN:  The classes have been going great. We always have so much fun and it usually turns out to be a great networking opportunity for the participants in

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the class. The participants usually have an understanding of eating healthy and that they themselves need to change their diets, but have not done much in exploring new dishes at home or trying new things. Each class the participants are fascinated by the common ingredients we use and how they are put together to make these simple, “stress free” meals at home. I always get a “my mother/grandmother/aunt used to cook with this ingredient” or “I grew up eating this” story. These stories seem to reawaken something and participants are motivated to go home and cook. When they return each week they are excited to share a photo or tell me how they tried the spice mixes on other foods at home or how they recreated the meals in class and added this or that. These stories make me so happy to know that they are gaining a great deal of information that they can use in their daily lives and help them make better choices in their eating habits.

OLDWAYS:  What’s next on the horizon? We’ve heard something about a Chef’s Battle … ?!?
JIN:  Oh yes. My company, Jin’s Journey, Inc. is organizing the very first Brooklyn Chef Battle on June 28th. Three teams of two (1 youth & 1 adult) will create three amazing dishing using secret ingredients. The judges will be attendees at the event. There will be music, cooking demos, local vendors and loads of activities.

OLDWAYS:  We’re always interested in hearing what chefs prepare for themselves at home. What’s one favorite dish you love to make on your downtime?
JIN:  Hmmm….at home, life is super simple. I usually make huge salads that contain some sort of fruit, nuts, goat cheese and homemade vinaigrette. If you asked my husband that question, the answer would be PIES! He loves for me to bake pies savory or sweet (this also includes pizza pies). Before we met he actually did not like any pie, but nowadays it is what he asks me for … but I only make them occasionally.

OLDWAYS:  We’d kick ourselves if we didn’t ask: Do you have a recipe you’d be willing to share with our readers?
JIN:  Well I will share a recipe with you from my cooking show using a jar of Jin’s Jams & Jellies, and you can take a look and watch me cook it here:

Jin’s Blueberry Lavender Oatmeal Cookie Bars

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Ingredients:
½ cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
⅛ teaspoon salt
1 cup rolled oats
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 jar Jin’s Blueberry Lavender Jam

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line a baking pan with parchment paper and grease with butter.

Combine the brown sugar, flour, baking soda, salt and rolled oats. Rub in the butter using your hands or a pastry blender to form a crumbly mixture.
Press ¾  of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Spread the jam to within ¼ inch of the edge. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture over the top, and lightly press into the jam.

Bake for approximately 35 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow to cool before cutting into bars.

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