Meet Executive Chef Jennifer Dejarlais

Spice up your salad.
Spice up your summer with a delicious recipe from our inventive executive chef Jennifer.

Dining is a highlight of life at Blue Skies of Texas, and the restaurants are well-known for being the ideal spot for friends to socialize, share stories and enjoy a delicious meal. So, having an executive chef who not only loves food but also understands the importance of involving the community to enhance the overall experience is a priority for Blue Skies. That’s where Executive Chef Jennifer comes in.

Chef Jennifer joined Blue Skies in 2022, bringing with her more than 25 years of experience and a passion for integrating local, regional and global flavors into the menu. Although she’s a local Texan with a flair for Tex-Mex, Chef Jennifer also appreciates global flavors and understands that many Blue Skies residents have traveled extensively around the world and enjoy diversity in the menu.

“I like to blend the gourmet with a more home-cooked touch. Many of our residents have experienced cuisines from all over the world, and I like to keep up with the different types of foods I’ve learned about from our conversations,” Jennifer says.

As the executive chef of a retirement community with two campuses and four different restaurants, Chef Jennifer “wears a lot of aprons.” She likes to say that variety is the spice of life and, with insights from her innovative team of chefs and the residents, she creates unique and tasty dishes to please any palette. From haute cuisine in the Sky Lounge & Bar to global bites and familiar favorites in the main dining room and at the bistros, Chef Jennifer works hard to curate menus that pair resident preferences with wholesome nutrition. From clever flavor profiles to inventive plating, she and the culinary team consistently wow residents and guests alike.

“On Friday nights, I do what we call little ‘pop-ups.’ So, I’ll pick a special to do. I alternate between prime rib, lobster tails, scallops and different kinds of fish, but prepared differently each time. Every Saturday, we also do tomahawk steaks, which is really a meal for two; it’s a big steak!” Jennifer laughed.

Serving a Community

Jennifer does as many front-of-house chores as she does back-of-house. One of her favorite aspects of her job is sharing her culinary wisdom. “As an executive chef, I don’t cook on a day-to-day basis. I consider myself more like a cooking instructor or a teacher. I like the relationships I have with the residents. It’s very intimate. We have monthly meetings we call ‘Coffee with Chef.’ We come together, and they give me their likes and dislikes, and they share stories, and we get to know each other.”

In addition to mentoring the team of chefs at Blue Skies, Jennifer teaches workshops with live cooking demos. “Each month, I do a teaching kitchen geared around a different superfood. So last month, it was eggs, and I showed a group how to prepare poached eggs four ways. This month our superfood is watermelon,” Jennifer said.  So she’s created a special recipe to highlight this superfood.

Chef Jennifer’s Firecracker Watermelon Salad

With summer party season in full swing, Chef Jennifer shares this easy, go-to recipe (with a twist!) for a bring-along salad sure to become a new favorite. Showcasing her passion for Tex-Mex, she’s turning up the heat on the traditional watermelon salad with her firecracker watermelon salad.

“It’s something I’ve done for years. It’s a very light, refreshing salad. And it gets you that little sweet and spicy mix. It’s not too spicy; with the mint, it’s just right,” Jennifer explained.

To serve two, you’ll need the following:

  • 1 seedless watermelon (cut into 1-2” cubes)
  • 1 pint blueberries
  • 1 8 oz block feta cheese (cut into 1” cubes)
  • 1-3 serrano peppers (diced)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh mint
  • ½ cup honey

Mix the melon, blueberries, feta, peppers and mint in a large bowl. Drizzle with honey and toss to coat. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.