Weathersfield sisters stay busy while helping out restaurants

  • Jenna Rice, of Weathersfield, who runs a marketing and photography business, and her sister Nora, who recently completed culinary school, worked together to write Isolate and Create Vermont, a cookbook inspired by the isolation of the pandemic. Proceeds from sales of the e-book will go to the Vermont Restaurant Strong Fund. Rice was photographed at her home in Weathersfield, Vt., Friday, May 15, 2020. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News — James M. Patterson

  • Jenna Rice, of Weathersfield, who runs a marketing and photography business, brings a cassis and gin cocktail outside to photograph for a client Friday, May 15, 2020. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News — James M. Patterson

  • Kimchi Fried Rice from Piecemeal Pies as photographed by Jenna Rice for the cook book Isolate and Create VT. Photo Courtesy Jenna Rice Jenna Rice photographs

  • Nora Rice makes pie crust. Photo Courtesy Jenna Rice

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/17/2020 9:06:41 PM
Modified: 5/17/2020 9:13:25 PM

As a photographer, marketer and social media manager, Weathersfield resident Jenna Rice usually spends much of her time driving to restaurants and catering kitchens to photograph food.

While the coronavirus crisis has put that work on hold, she has found a way to stay in practice while helping out people in the restaurant business. Rice recently made available a cookbook featuring recipes from Vermont chefs, with photographs she took at her family home in Hartland. Titled Vermont: Isolate and Create: An Industry Cookbook, the e-book is available through Rice’s website, All of the profits from sales of the book will go to the Vermont Restaurant Strong Fund, which is raising money to benefit restaurant workers in the state.

“That was part of the original plan,” Rice, 22, said in a phone interview. “It just seemed like it would be nice to put our time into something that would help people out.”

The cookbook idea came from a friend and fellow photographer and marketer in Boston who was doing something similar with restaurants there. Rice contacted restaurants she had worked with and chefs she knows, mainly in the Upper Valley, including the Windsor-based catering service Artisan Eats and the Public House Pub in Quechee. The Vermont Fresh Network put her in touch with establishments as far afield as South Hero. (The other Upper Valley spots with recipes in the book are Hartland’s Skunk Hollow Tavern, Piecemeal Pies in White River Junction, the Hartland Diner, Chef Brad’s Crazy Side in Quechee and Odyssey Events in Bridgewater.)

“I was actually incredibly pleased at how many people decided to participate,” Rice said. 

Recipes aren’t always written down, and in at least one instance, a chef had to rack his brain to commit a dish to writing.

“That was probably the hardest part,” Public House Pub owner Andrew Schain said Friday. The pub’s chicken schnitzel is a signature dish, one Schain makes from memory. “I know I must have left out one or two things,” he said. “Can’t give away all the secrets.”

Aside from the recipes, the book itself is an entirely homemade affair. When the coronavirus came along, Rice’s sister, Nora, came home to Hartland from Seattle, where she was a few months into her first job in a restaurant kitchen after attending Ashburton Chefs Academy in England. Nora, 19, tested the recipes in Hartland and Jenna rigged a makeshift outdoor photography studio so they could practice the recommended physical distancing. They started work in the last week of April and hustled to get the book out.

“Between not having much else to do and putting in some pretty long days, it came together pretty quickly,” Jenna Rice said. They wanted to get the book out while restaurants were still closed. While the book is meant to aid restaurant workers, it’s also intended to give cooks new recipes to try while they’re cooking and eating almost entirely at home.

Jenny Williams, owner of Artisan Eats, received her digital download on Friday and got lost in it looking at the recipes. “I would probably try cooking everything,” she said.

Her contribution spells out how to make a quiche crust and its eggy filling, then some suggestions for cheeses and ingredients as a vehicle for the reader’s tastes and creativity. “I tried to leave it open for interpretation,” she said.

“I think it’s just so wonderful how Jenna and her sister have combined their skills to pull this together,” Williams said.

So far, response to the book has been a surprise. As of Thursday, it had already racked up $1,000 in preorders at $20 apiece, Rice said, “which I think just really shows we live in a pretty supportive area. People want to help their neighbors.”

Rice has been able to stay home because she qualified for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. Many restaurant workers are themselves collecting unemployment, waiting until it’s safe to reopen.

The Public House Pub has been open for takeout, and has had only a few people working, Schain said. Its nearby sister restaurant, the Public House Diner, recently reopened for takeout. In early March, the two restaurants employed 40 people. Those not currently working are collecting unemployment, Schain said.

Efforts such as the Restaurant Strong movement have been raising money to help restaurant workers, but Schain said that as far as he knew, none of his employees had received any private assistance, other than free meals that some restaurants have put together for restaurant workers.

The Vermont: Isolate and Create cookbook benefits the Vermont Restaurant Strong Fund, which as of Friday afternoon had raised almost $102,000 of its $500,000 goal. There’s also a New Hampshire fund that has raised nearly $118,000.

However much the funds raise, the restaurant business is going to take a big hit. Williams has run her small catering business for three years, but isn’t sure she’ll be able to continue.

“I was booked out 18 straight weeks,” starting this weekend, she said. All but one client, who has an event late in the summer, has called to cancel. She is getting by through the forbearance of her bank and her landlord and is working for Blake Hill Preserves, a fellow tenant of Windsor’s Artisans Park.

“If I can make it through this summer, I’ll probably be OK,” she said. “If I can’t make it through the summer, then that’s probably it.”

Alex Hanson can be reached at or 603-727-3207.

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