‘We have never looked back’: With successful careers that led them from Maine to California, Dennis and Elizabeth Jenkins are now proud to call Beaufort home

in Profile by

By Lanier Laney

Dennis and Elizabeth Jenkins grew up in the same small Wisconsin town where their parents were friends. They used to walk home together from catechism class and fell in love in eighth grade. They were married at 19 and have been very happily married now for 45 years.

Dennis, Andrea and Elizabeth Jenkins.
Dennis, Andrea and Elizabeth Jenkins.

They both attended the University of Wisconsin where Dennis got a pharmacist degree. Elizabeth realized she had a passion for cooking and pursued that dream by attending the Vermont School of Culinary Arts, the Le Cordon Bleu School in London and eventually the prestigious Culinary Arts of America’s graduate school in St. Helena, California.  She also studied under famed Chef Jacque Pepin. Her first job as a chef was for the Palm Cafe in Bar Harbor, Maine, that became a favorite fine dining spot for the wealthy set that summered there in the 1980s.

Says Dennis, “Elizabeth is the most amazing person I have every known. She has always been an adventuress, looking for anything new and exciting. She talked me into leaving our little, secure hometown to head to Bar Harbor, Maine, with a 4 and 5 year old and not knowing anybody there with only a promise of my first pharmacy job. She was eager, with an attitude like ‘damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead, what do we have to lose?’ Me? I got a rash that didn’t clear up for a week after we got there!”

Along with her job as a chef, Elizabeth decided to also open a catering business in Bar Harbor called Compliments Catering. Word of her great cooking spread and quickly her clients became the rich and famous summering in the area. Her clientele list read like the social register of America: The David Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, the Bass Family, the secretary of defense, Casper Weinberger, Martha Stewart, Diana Wister (who owns Godiva Chocolates) and Campbell Soup heir Tristam Colket, to name just a few.

Says Elizabeth, “Yes, I catered for Casper and Jane Weinberger for years, in fact, did the 80th birthday party celebration for Casper which included  George Bush, George Schultz and others. Jane Weinberger asked me one day to make puff pastry for a luncheon she was doing for a special guest. I said I was happy to make homemade puff pastry but who was it for? ‘Julia Child is coming to my home for lunch, but I want her to think I made it. Are you OK with that?’ said Jane with a smile. Fortunately, Julia LOVED the Coulibac of Salmon! So I was definitely OK with that!”

Shortly thereafter, Elizabeth was named the first female executive chef at The Pot and Kettle Club in Bar Harbor, a famous 100-year-old summer men’s club consisting of wealthy and powerful political members in Washington.

The Jenkins spent May to October in Maine, but to escape the seasonal cold began spending winters in Sonoma, California. Elizabeth said, “We drove from Bar Harbor, Maine, to Sonoma, California, for 10 years, as we wintered in California and couldn’t fly our dog. That’s over 3,000 miles each way for 10 years for a grand total of over 60,000 miles.  I loved every minute of each trip. Dennis rides well; best friends make the best husbands.”

Many Beaufortonians may recognize Dennis as the friendly pharmacist face from Bi-Lo, Publix and Walgreens. Currently, Dennis is a part time pharmacist with Beaufort Jasper Comprehensive Health Services. He also continues to run First Exposure, a company that provides photographic services via a network of nationwide photographers to the vacation tour industry in the U.S. and Europe. Tauck Tours — which offers specialty tours, including buses, cruises and rail journeys to all seven continents — has been his client, among others, for 30 years.

They are justifiably proud of their son David and  beautiful daughter Andrea. David Jenkins, 43, spent 20 years as a major in the U.S. Coast Guard assisting the DEA in exotic locales such as Columbia and Bahrain. He is now a reservist, the father of 8-year-old twins, (Will and Hannah), and a sales executive for Hewlett Packard. His wife Sally has worked in the tech industry for over two decades and was most recently the EVP of Global Marketing at Symmantec. David and his family live in Los Gatos, California.

Their daughter Andrea is also a veteran of the tech industry, having worked as a graphic/web designer at companies such as Wired Magazine, CNET and Microsoft, and currently is a senior interface designer for Major League Baseball.

Elizabeth says, “Many may know Andrea locally as she lived in Beaufort for seven years at Habersham, and designed logos for many local businesses such as Fat Patties, City Java, Joli, and Shoofly Kitchen. She is now happily living in Los Angeles and designing for the LA Dodgers. She and her dog, Indie, love being back on the West Coast where they are rubbing elbows with various celebrities and their dogs. (They most recently met Michael C. Hall of “Dexter” and his pup Salamander!)”

Says Dennis, “We have lived in some gorgeous places, but nothing has captured our hearts like Beaufort. We were living in Sonoma and decided to take a trip to Beaufort after seeing some press in Coastal Living Magazine. We were here less than a week and decided to purchase in Coosaw Point. We have never looked back.”

Elizabeth adds, “My career has included wine consulting, teaching, business development and work as a private chef. I conceptualized and opened Small City Cooking School and Market in Port Royal in 2006 and loved teaching and sharing my knowledge.  These days  I love to do small parties, 30 and under, but will do weddings and parties up to 125. I am trained in classic French cuisine, but can really rock Italian. Most private chef gigs are for a period of a month or so but I can do one night and can fit into most budgets.”

She would also love to do small group cooking classes in people’s homes. “The only stumbling block to being a great cook is the fear that you may fail. But if you love good food, you will succeed,” she said.

Her catering and private chef clients here have included Caroline and John Trask, Dick Stewart, as well as residents of Spring and Brays islands.

Says Dennis about his beloved wife: “I am happily married to a remarkable woman. She is strong, intelligent, detailed, ambitious, humble, extremely talented, has vision and filled with love for the people who are dear to her heart! I got lucky picking her, since there were only eight girls in my high school class! I’d follow her anywhere. After all, she got me to Beaufort!”

For more about Elizabeth’s catering and private chef  services or cooking classes, email her at elizachef@gmail.com  or call 843-597-3216. Find Dennis’ travel service business First Exposure at www.firstexposureusa.com or contact him at djfexpo@gmail.com or 843-597-3215.