The Couple Bringing Stunning Food and Gorgeous Design To The Table
- S’ABLE LABS talked with Eric Adjepong last month, before the police killing of George Floyd and the ensuing global protests.
If you are not familiar with Chef Adjepong’s impressive pedigree or Janell Adjepong’s talent for aesthetics, perhaps you will recognize them for their strikingly good looks. After all, Eric was featured as one of People Magazine’s Sexiest Men Alive.
*Spoiler alert* Chef Adjepong did not take home the title of this season’s Top Chef All-stars, however, we at S’ABLE LABS maintain that he is our winner. After being a finalist on his rookie season of Top Chef, fans fell in love with Eric for his passion for pan African cuisine and his overall undeniable talent. Fans felt strongly he was robbed – insisting that he was eliminated due to the lack of the judging panel’s understanding of West African textures and flavours. Needless to say that he remains a fan and industry favourite.
With less than ideal timing, the Adjpongs were set to open their first solo restaurant in March of 2020. On the Double, now set to open in July 2020 in DC’s trendy Union Market Hall, serves up variations of Trinidadian favorites. Since 2015, Janell and Eric Adjepong have owned and operated Pinch and Plate, a luxurious dining experience serving primarily New York and Washington DC partygoers. Pinch and Plate events are entirely customizable, featuring exquisite cuisines from around the world, from French and Italian to Chef Eric’s famous West African cuisine.
Fresh off his time competing on Bravo’s Top Chef All-Stars, we sat down with chef Adjepong to talk shop and find out how he, Janelle, and baby Lennox are navigating their ever-changing circumstances.
With businesses looking to open back up, I imagine that means getting back to on the double?
It’s funny because I announced that the restaurant would be opening soon? With everything that’s just happened. I’ve had to close twice. Hopefully, by early summer, we’ll be opened back up. I’m still very excited and ready to serve our food. I want to get back into the swing of things but do it as safely as possible as well, which is very important to me.
Eric explained that while the circumstances for lockdown are deeply saddening, he has used the time to ensure that he is double prepared to open his doors.
Having this time has been so useful for us just to be, I can’t be mad. It’s funny how everything plays out and manifests itself.
So the question on everybody’s mind is: how has life been since leaving Top Chef All-Stars?
I feel good! We wrapped up right around November of 2019; no one knew that this would be around the corner. I have been preparing and planning for 2020. I was able to put my feet on the ground and start 2020 off well. I was doing events with Pinch and Plate getting everything ready for On the Double.
I’ve just been pivoting to help bring awareness to the restaurant industry to make sure we come back with better and safer practices. I have been speaking with my colleagues and friends, and they are definitely hurting. Some form of relief and attention from the government would go a long way.
How does your background as a Master of Public Health graduate help inform how you navigate during the pandemic?
I’ve always been fascinated by how food affects our bodies and our communities.
When it comes to food, I’ve been able to help out with organizations like World Central Kitchen. They reach out to chefs and restaurants that have shut down their operations due to COVID-19 to help support their staff. World Central Kitchen also works together with chefs to provide meals for first responders.
I’ve also teamed up with Territory, a meal delivery service in D.C. They focus on helping those with restrictive diets like vegans and vegetarians. I have a jollof rice meal that I’m excited about. These meals are also going out to first responders in the D.C area.
Changing gears, we wanted to talk about your partnership with you and your beautiful wife and business partner. First of all, how did you meet?
I had just moved back to New York after getting my masters at the University of Westminster in London. I am originally from New York. Janelle had just moved from DC and a group of friends of mine decided to throw a party, and Janelle was invited, so the legend goes.
We met at the party, but I don’t remember it at all. I met a photographer at that same party that I wanted to start working with. I went on Facebook and started typing out his name. As I’m typing out J-A, the first two letters of the photographer’s name, I see Janelle’s name populate.
I remember doing this modern family/ the office “look in the camera”; she was just so gorgeous! I reached out to my friend; he was like “ She just moved up to New York not too long ago, I introduced you to her at the party!” I just thought I would have remembered meeting someone like her.
With all due respect Eric, how can you forget such a beautiful woman? She’s stunning!
My friends remind me of that every day!
We started talking on Facebook. I asked for her number, we spoke on the phone. We had a first date not too long after that. I made up for not remembering her by asking her to be my wife.
We can confirm that it was the only option.
Was Pinch and Plate (the couples customizable dinner party service) your first collaboration?
It is! We started it not too long after we became an official couple. She wanted me to do a dinner party for her and her home; she wanted to show off her boyfriend’s cooking skills. So I made the food and set everything else up. I had no idea she had these incredible decorating skills! She created this beautiful tablescape. I remember prepping for dinner and then leaving the, —– seeing the,— I was floored; I was so impressed. Janell and I working together just happened organically. We had a Eureka moment; hey, we can put together events and take this on the road.” It started as a passion project, and then everything just got bigger from there.
Janell is the attention to detail person; she is meticulous. She makes sure everything is beautiful. I handle what goes on the plates.
What are some of the challenges of working together? Is it hard to establish a work-life balance?
The biggest challenge, honestly, is not separating work and life. When issues come into our lives, we just have to learn to adjust.
Since going into business with your wife, have you learned something new about her?
I don’t think so. It’s always refreshing to watch what Janell creates, every single time. And watching her brain work to build these fantastic spaces is incredible. So, it’s not that she doesn’t do anything to surprise me; I just know what she can do.
Seeing that you’ve been working together for some time now (since 2015), what advice would you give to partners considering looking to collaborate?
Come up with a timeline! Come up with a timeline with goals and things that you want to do as individuals, but then also as a business. Find a way to separate the work from the personal. You always have to remember why you guys became a couple in the first place and enjoy that.
Every time that I’m talking about work is time that I’m not spending talking about and listening to my wife. I would also say just have fun; if it’s not fun for you, it won’t benefit anybody else. Enjoy yourself! It’s refreshing to be able to do something with someone that you love and respect and to know you’ve created something together.
In 2018, the couple welcomed their baby girl Lennox, making them a family of three. It is important to note that Lennox is perhaps the cutest baby we’ve ever seen.
How has parenthood changed your life?
It took some adjusting. It’s been good; it hasn’t been hard, to be honest. That’s a huge testament to your relationship if you can just progress no matter what. Having a child is fantastic, but in doing so, you can put pressure on your relationship. When you have a strong foundation, you can stand there, roll with the punches and keep on going.