‘Food Always Found Me’ Chef Dzintra Dzenis and Her Gastronomic Adventures By Shelley Seale Dzintra Dzenis couldn’t get away from the culinary world even when she tried. The chef-owner of Plate by Dzintra in Bee Cave has been cooking her entire life, but she initially didn’t think the culinary arts was a wise career path. “The business was very male-dominated and therefore difficult for women to break into,” says Dzenis. “I loved cooking but thought it would be wiser to get a solid education and see where life would take me.”
As it turned out, life took her to a public relations firm in New York. Always in the kitchen in her downtime, Dzenis one day took her cheesecake to work. Her boss loved it so much that he wanted the chef of his favorite Manhattan restaurant, the famous La Côte Basque, to taste it. Chef JeanJacques Rachou swore the cheesecake was the best he’d ever had and insisted she bring him five every day for his kitchen. “I soon began my moonlighting hours, working as an administrative assistant during the day and cheesecake baker at night,” she recalls. As her confidence grew, she decided to start college. Her public relations position evolved into event planning, and she was hired to work with The Russian Tea Room. “Without knowing it, I was symbiotically learning about restaurants and the food industry.” Her hectic schedule and lifestyle were “pretty insane,” however. “Quite honestly I was working myself to death,” Dzenis admits. Her parents, Latvian immigrants and entrepreneurs, agreed that a break would be wise and offered her a semester abroad in Paris.
Sojourn to La Ville des Lumières The City of Lights struck a chord, and Dzenis eventually graduated from the American University of Paris with a degree in international affairs. Thereafter, she took a position at the Latvian embassy in Paris. She married and then together with her husband ran an international distribution company. After a decade, though, they sold the company and divorced.
54 WATERWAYS | February 2020
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF PLATE BY DZINTRA
It Started with Cheesecake