13 Questions is a weekly series where we ask chefs 13 questions to get to know them outside of the kitchen. Jenny Levison is the chef and owner of Souper Jenny, Juicy Jenny, and Cafe Jonah.
You were born here but moved around a lot. What made you come back to Atlanta?
I moved back to Atlanta to be in a play, Auntie Mame at Actor’s Express, for the summer, and I just never left. I sort of ended in the food business. I traveled around the world for two years, and soup was the food that was common in every country. I learned to cook through home cooks. I first started delivering soups to people’s homes, and it became busier and busier. The space happened to open up, and it started very small. I think had $10,000 to my name at the time.
When you aren’t running restaurants, what do you do for fun?
Right now, I am acting in a play. Every couple of years, I try to get back on stage. I am in a show right now called Calendar Girls. I am a wannabe triathlete; I’m always training for a triatholon, which I’ve done several.
What was the weirdest audition you ever went on?
When I was living in L.A., I went to a soap opera audition. I had to kiss someone in the audition, and they really went for it. It was disgusting. They stuck their tongue in my mouth. This stranger completely devoured my face. I don’t think I got that job, and I don’t think he did either.
You’re a health nut, but what’s your worst habit?
Definitely Domino’s Pizza. When I’ve had a bad day, I’ll order disgusting junk food.
What’s the one thing you wish you knew how to cook?
Seafood—I can cook a piece of fish, but seafood is not my forte. I’d love to know how to properly debone fish. And how to cook Thai food, like how to make pad thai from scratch without a recipe.
What’s one thing Atlanta is missing?
I wish there was more people that really supported the local movement and really got behind local business. There’s so many big stores and new development. I just miss the small little neighborhoods.
What was the last TV show you bingewatched?
As someone who is extremely well-traveled, where did you last feel out of place?
Greece. I was in Athens, taking public transportation. They didn’t speak English and weren’t welcoming.
What’s one food you can’t stand?
I am not a fan of zucchini or squash. I don’t mind it cooked in soup.
Who is your role model?
I was a big Oprah follower. She was very inspiring to me in a dorky way. I was always interested Marianne Williamson, and all these motivational people. I wanted to be the role model. I wanted to be the unique perspective. I wanted to be the Jewish Oprah.
As an actor, what would be your dream role?
I want to play Desiree in A Little Night Music.
You named a restaurant, Cafe Jonah, after your son. Does he help at all in the kitchen?
He’s 11. He asked for that restaurant to be named for him. He works at some of the other restaurants more than his own. He’s a prep cook. He likes to be in the back cutting vegetables.
What was the last great book you read?
The Girl on the Train. I just read a lot; I love to read. Right now, I’m reading The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll.