CAMDEN — Though Brooklyn native Jenna Sprafkin has worked all over the world as a professional chef, she kicked off her career 13 years ago in Maine, spending six years in the Pine Tree State before moving away.
As the COVID-19 pandemic began to break out in the United States, Sprafkin was traveling in the Azores, an autonomous region of Portugal.
Sprafkin, after a stressful few days of working her way back to the United States, headed for Maine upon returning to the United States to reconnect with her family that decided to venture to the residence in Maine from New York City.
“Coming from the Azores and having to travel through airports and other crowded areas made me fully aware I would have to self isolate when I got to Camden,” said Sprafkin.
With parents considered more susceptible to COVID-19, Sprafkin has been, and continues to, self-quarantined in a bedroom and delegated chair in living room 10 feet away from the others.
With her next job lined up at the Nina June restaurant in Rockport on hold and little to do during self-quarantine, Sprafkin is opting to help the Midcoast in the best way she knows — cooking.
“During times of crisis or trouble I have always turned to cooking as my release,” she said. “But I knew that for my 14 days of quarantine I needed to figure out a way I could be helpful. Without my crutch of being able to cook in our kitchen to provide meals for my family and others I thought maybe I could help people virtually by offering cooking advice, lessons or help with meal planning during these stressful times. I’m used to having friends and family call me up when they have cooking questions so I figured why jot extend that to whom ever might need it.”
While also helping others during the pandemic, Sprafkin has also found a way to help herself.
“My offer to help people not only allows me to cook vicariously through others while I can’t, but has also proved to be a way to offer connection, help and taking the edge off of the overwhelming nature preparing food can be for others.”
As of midday Sunday, Sprafkin had done four virtual cooking sessions through FaceTime with one more, a lesson on making pasta, on the schedule. She has also answered several inquiries over text message and private messaging on Instagram.
The amount of time she spends on each session varies. Her first client sent her a photo of a refrigerator’s contents and Sprafkin guided the client through an easy one-pot dinner in less than 15 minutes. The pasta making session, on the flip side, is slated to last two hours, with some breaks throughout.
In lieu of payment for her instructions and tips, Sprafkin is asking clients to make donations to the Restaurant Workers Community Foundation or to their local food banks.
Sprafkin offered the following when asked to provide general cooking advice for our readers, without revealing her secrets: “Consult cookbooks, take your time. Use this as an opportunity to connect with making food again. If none of that works, ask me how I can help you turn what supplies you have into something delicious and nourishing.”
Sprafkin also encourages supporting local farmers, fishermen and other local makers during these times. (See sidebar on how to support local farmers and fishermen.)
Sprafkin’s virtual cooking sessions are available over FaceTime, WhatsApp, text message, social media private messages, email and phone calls.
She can be reached on social media via Instagram.
“They are available to anyone who wants, not just current friends,” Sprafkin responded, when asked what she wants readers to know about her virtual cooking sessions. “Also I promise to make you laugh while we all get through this together.
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