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Men Who Cook: Alan Jennings

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Welcome back to our weekly feature highlighting brothers who throw down in the kitchen. Meet Alan, who enjoys cooking for his wife and her Wii-playing friends.

Missed one? Catch up on all the interviews and recipes of our featured chefs in our Men Who Cook Roundup »

Name: Alan Jennings
Occupation: Retired
Age: 56
City: Lakeview, New York

ESSENCE.COM: So how did you get your start in the kitchen?
ALAN JENNINGS:
 I learned to cook while watching my mother in the kitchen. When the weekly chores were assigned one of my older sisters would swap with me when it came to cooking a meal. I didn't mind because doing the dishes, mopping and waxing the kitchen and bathroom floors was not what I wanted to do. Besides I still had to take the clothes to the laundry on Saturday morning. After struggling with a few failures, burnt fried chicken, overcooked shrimp scampi , I realized that I could cook! This was a skill that I would use for the rest of my life.

ESSENCE.COM: So what is one of your favorite cooking memories?
JENNINGS:  I usually cook for my wife's friends when they come to the house to play Wii. They usually start with small talk in the living room with their favorite champagne while I set up the Wii game in the basement. Even though they're all beautiful mature women, they're some of the most competitive women I know. They like to win and love to knock each other out while boxing. When they've finally had enough, my wife Karen calls out "Honey We're Hungry". They all laugh - but it's such a pleasure to know that I'm the Man when it comes to the kitchen.

ESSENCE.COM: That's great. Now, have you had any cooking mistakes that have taught you a lesson?
JENNINGS: Well, when I got married, my wife Karen and I had different shifts. I worked days and she worked evenings and nights. I would pick up our sons from daycare and prepare the evening meal. It was during this time that I experienced one of my biggest kitchen failures. I had gotten a recipe for meat loaf from a relative and I decided to do something a "little different" with it, so I added some cayenne pepper. When we sat down to eat both boys could not finish one bite and the meat had to be thrown out. My lesson learned: when trying something new taste before serving.

ESSENCE.COM: Definitely. And what is your signature recipe and what do you love most about cooking?
JENNINGS:There are many reasons that I enjoy cooking. Yes it does impress the ladies when you can throw down, but for me cooking for my family and friends has given me an outlet for sharing a part of my life with them. I don't know if I have a signature dish but I do have a dish that is easy to prepare and it's also delicious. It's cayenne-rubbed chicken with avocado salsa.

Try his signature dish here, cayenne-rubbed chicken with avocado salsa »

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