Sustainable South: Rachel Pennington

Rachel Pennington_Whiskey Jar_Peach Trifle
Rachel Pennington, House Baker at the Whiskey Jar. Photo by Justin Ide Photography.

The Southern Foodways Alliance Summer Symposium in Richmond was all about women. Each day celebrated the female farmers, chefs, cheese makers—you name it—of the region, and guests enjoyed the fruits of their labor. Over the course of the following weeks, we will highlight the female purveyors of the Anson Mills dinner hosted by Chef Will Richey of The Whiskey Jar

Rachel Pennington has been baking most of her life. But, she adds, The Whiskey Jar is her first professional baking job.  As House Baker, she offered guests at the summer symposium an indulgence transcending centuries by marrying the influences of two great Virginia women into a single dessert: an Edna Lewis and Mary Randolph collaboration in the form of a peach trifle.

Whiskey Jar_Peach Trifle
Peach Trifle. Photo by Justin Ide Photography.

In response to an ad for a part-time skilled baker at The Whiskey Jar, Rachel brought in her Peanut Butter Pie as her résumé. It has since been 14 months, and she has never looked back.

“It has been a wonderful, challenging, inspiring, tiring, and fulfilling time in my life!” she says when describing her work.

She adds that her greatest culinary influences are Edna Lewis and Carla Hall.

“Both are Southern and are committed to local, seasonal, and comforting food. I fully believe that it is possible to put love into what you are preparing! I may not see every customer that orders one of my desserts, but I hope I have formed a connection with each one. One of the most fulfilling moments in my life was the first time I saw a customer order and eat a peach cobbler I had made earlier that day. To see the enjoyment on their faces just for that moment was incredible.”

Emilie Dayan, our project coordinator, blogs weekly about issues of nutrition, sustainability, and food policy in the South.