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Exploring Life & Business with Chef JRodi (Jen Rodriguez) of 3 Small Plates

Today we’d like to introduce you to Chef JRodi (Jen Rodriguez).

Hi Chef JRodi, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
Nine years ago, I created 3 small plates catering to introduce people to European travel through foods. While serving in the Department of Defense, I was thankfully blessed to reside and work in Spain and Germany, along with extensive travel abroad, delving into a multitude of cultures, and of course, their food.

The desire grew to share these European food experiences in Texas without requiring a suitcase or passport. My love of cooking, entertaining, and chatting about food spilled over into our catering style of 3 small plates.

I’m the owner and executive chef of the company. A self-taught chef that learned cooking skills from my mom, grandmother, a diverse group of international friends, and later refined these skills through culinary training. I cook from the heart a piece of me goes into each dish.

A lover of all things creative, I enjoy meeting new people, sharing business experiences, and serving others.

Food is my heartbeat. It takes creativity to take a raw element, transform and combine it into a delicious dish that’s colorful, edible, and nutritional.
In a sense, I draw from my creative energies as a journalist, photographer, and avid traveler to put that on a plate.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Smooth sailing, is there such a thing in a pandemic? I think not, but with catering, there is always a pebble in the road. Something that comes up unexpectedly, without warning, and requires immediate attention plus a reaction. Pebbles remind us how far we’ve come and how far we have to go. Catering is a tough job but worth the time, effort, and dedication to serving others.

We’re constantly growing even in micro-steps, even if it feels like we’re moving two steps forward and ten steps back in the same step at times. But thankfully, we’re still able to accomplish our ‘I always wish I could(s)’.. which gives us a sense of accomplishment even during a challenge or struggle.

In my first apartment after college, Rah! Rah! TCU! I often taught cooking classes to a group of masks on a wall. I was ahead of my time for the food network, but fast forward to over 35 years later, and I’ve had the honor of cooking on the air twice with Trevor Scott of We Are Austin, KEYE TV CBS. Say what?!

In May, we created three vegan meals (Medi Panini, Ribbon Salad, and Fiesta Bowl) for Dear Diary Coffeehouse in downtown Austin, thanks to Artist/Illustrator Sam Soper, who introduced me to a coffeehouse partner. The rest is history, and my head is still spinning.

Later that month, I won the Woman’s Way Business Award for Culinary and Beverage Arts. Austin’s only awards exclusively for women-owned and women-led businesses to celebrate the work of women who are building the world we want to live in. Still speechless…

Over the years, I’ve realized if I can dream it, imagine it, pray on it and take that leap of faith, then anything and everything is possible. The proudest moments of my success are rooted in my faith, dreams, and aspirations. Plus a laundry list of ‘I always wish I could.’

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
3SP is a contemporary tapas-style catering company specializing in quaint, intimate parties of 40 (more) or less as we embark on a culinary voyage to explore the flavors and delicacies of the world without leaving the comfort of your venue or residence, one plate at a time.

Additionally, we transform everyday ingredients into unique dishes bringing the world of travel to clients and great conversations back to the table. We began as mobile caterers, completing course-dishes in place and citing country-origination with chef introductions of each course. Hence, our culinary journeys.

As our audience grew, we introduced passed 1-bite/small plates and satellite stations to engage guests to chart their course. Additionally, we added our Sweet Bars with limon teacakes, nana-bites, coco-swirl teacakes, Kahlua cakes, and patata cookies to the menu.

3SP Bistro is the marketplace of our delivered meals that reaches a populace limited to experiencing multi-cultural dishes by bridging the gap to serve those dishes at their table.

We are most known for our delectable small plates and 1-bites from my travel experiences. Featured plated dishes are a combination of picks, sticks, mini martini glasses, bowls, leaves, etc.

Although most guests overindulge in the first two or three plates without realizing they haven’t tipped the scale of the journey, believe me, they get full.

One time, a client had a 13-course culinary journey because she couldn’t decide on a menu. At some point, the guests took a break from eating and hula-hooped, then came back inside to eat some more.

In hindsight, I should have suggested a 5-or 6-course meal instead of 13. Too many plates, even for small plates, but a lesson learned.

Let’s talk about our city – what do you love? What do you not love?
We like that we aren’t the typical catering company of buffets, drop-offs or one particular style of food. We’re on a mission to take each of our guests somewhere by introducing them to different cultures through the world of food, and we succeed in getting to know, understand and value each others’ cultures. In doing so, we also change the dynamics of people’s eating habits by creating healthier small plates beyond platters of fried chicken and canned corn and integrating cultural spices, herbs, and seasonings rather than salt and pepper.

We are blessed to have a palette of fruits, veggies, starches, and proteins that most people overlook because they eat the same thing every day. Today, consumers are complacent about their eating habits with a preference for fast foods rather than well-balanced meals. They have consumed the same ingredients the same way for decades, often unhealthy, unbalanced proportions, slathered in fat-laden sauces.

At 3SP, we’re refining Texas flavors influenced by German, Mexican, Native American, and Spanish cultures to solve this need. We’re repurposing these ingredients for portion-controlled plates to promote healthier diets. To change the way we eat, and think about food, familiar dishes are re-imagined as sustainable plant-influenced dishes with higher nutritional values in protein consumption and lower-carb ratios.

We’re also proud of using similar ingredients for different cultural dishes to showcase the diversity of these ingredients. By introducing unfamiliar proteins and produce such as long beans, sweet potato noodles, or kaffir leaves, we’re bridging those gaps between cultures through food.

In college, my Professor Dr. Anantha Babbili said whenever you arrive in a new town, read all newspapers to learn about the community. Similarly, we’re drawing all the natural goods at our fingertips to bring those cultural foods alive to our community’s palate. We’re not re-scrambling eggs, adding jalapenos, and calling it a Spanish dish when it’s not. Jalapenos no. Padron peppers, a sweet type of chili pepper in Spain, yes. But we would also add onions and potatoes to make a Spanish tortilla.

On one hand we’re making the differences known; on the other hand, we’re honoring the diversity of the culture through its food. Our guests experience our interpretation of a dish rather than adding an ingredient and calling it something that it’s not. That’s so uncool.

Today, many restaurants create small plates from essentially larger plates by turning them into small, bite-sized appetizers. We’re not reducing the plate and calling it small or grabbing a pinch and calling it a 1-bite.

Instead, our dishes are created, rather designed as either small plates or 1-bites with layers of fresh ingredients, flavors and fusions, until we’ve reached the final product. Everything with us is a cultivated eating experience. It’s not about engulfing food at a rapid rate to see how much you can put down in an hour.

Did you taste the food? Can you list at least four ingredients? Do you even know what you ate?
At 3SP, we want our guests to be whisked away to a memorable time or new destination. Imagine sitting at a quaint table on the German Hauptstrasse (main street) as a cool breeze whisks by as you sip on cold pilsner or apfelschorle (apple spritzer), and watch strollers visit shops, cafes, or statues along the way. When you bite into our Spanish gambas al jillo (garlic shrimp) or champinones (stuffed mushrooms) or patatas bravas (spicy potatoes), we want you to feel like you’re tasca hopping in Plaza Mayor. Dig a 2-prong wooden fork into a cone of bratwurst, bacon fried potatoes drizzle with curry ketchup, and feel the merriment of the Christkindlesmarkt (German Christmas Market). Or sink a fork and spoon into tom som (green papaya salad, fresh herbs, peppers, tomato, citrus juice) or larb (a fragrant meat salad with rice) that you’ve had a layover in Thailand.

If our guests can’t get there by plane, train, or automobile, we can at least take you there through food.

Contact Info:

  • Email: info@3smallplatescatering.com
  • Website: www.3smallplatescatering.com
  • Instagram: chef_jrodi
  • Facebook: 3smallplatescatering
  • Twitter: 3smallplates

Image Credits
Coffeehouse meals, culinary journey, soulful tasting, event catering by JD Rodriguez; plate of cookies by Gabe Rodriguez; teacup salads by JD Rodriguez; We Are Austin courtesy of KEYE TV

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