Colleen Janke’s Kitchen: Sweet and Savory
Savory Kitchen, a dining venue/culinary school hybrid, burst onto the San Jose scene in 2012, quickly becoming a favorite among locals and those looking for unique events or team-building opportunities. Offering cooking classes, wine pairing meals, and a chance to practice knife skills or the perfect way to sear a scallop, Savory Kitchen is a San Jose treasure that provides a unique and unforgettable epicurean experience.
Colleen Janke is the woman behind Savory Kitchen and recipes like grilled peach and pepper salsa over spice-rubbed flank steak. A trained chef and sommelier, her love and passion for food and wine traces back to a collegiate sojourn in Italy. It was there, among the bountiful tables of Tuscany, that she learned a new way of thinking about how food can transform everyday life. Wandering the al fresco markets overflowing with fresh ingredients, Janke felt more at home than in the cold supermarkets in her native Boston. In addition to discovering a passion for cooking, she fell in love with how sharing meals was part of the daily Italian celebration of life.
Following the wine trail from Italy to California, Janke started working at the Bay Area’s Clos LaChance. The story of Savory Kitchen, however, doesn’t begin in the golden rows of vines at a local winery, but at a bachelorette party where Colleen met a woman with a small culinary business. While hearing more about the company, Colleen’s mind began turning, thinking “I could do that.” And perhaps more importantly, “I could do that better.”
The idea took root—a high-end restaurant reimagined, a place where people could come together to learn cooking skills, meet future friends, and even build community. After getting encouragement from her husband, Colleen spent a year strategizing, writing business plans, and scouting the perfect location. She finally found a promising space on the storied Alameda, across from the trendy new Whole Foods and walking distance to the SAP Center. Six months of construction, and the former sandwich shop was transformed into a gourmet chef’s kitchen and elegant dining space.
Today, Savory Kitchen has grown to a staff of 13, but Janke is still the beating heart of the kitchen. She and three professional chefs create seasonal menus, and Janke is often perfecting recipes on the weekends, treating her children, husband, and friends to innovative takes on classic Italian and Californian fare. Her family is both a source of inspiration and an integral part of Savory Kitchen: her nine-week-old regularly naps next to the stainless-steel prep table while his mother is working, planning, and maybe whipping up mixed summer berry meringues or ricotta crostini with orange zest.
For patrons, Savory Kitchen is a breath of fresh air. Local regular Lizabeth Yee explains what makes this place so special: “It’s a reflection of the quality of life available in our community—that making tasty food at home is doable, healthy, and fun, that cooking and then eating a shared meal encourages in-person conversations. It’s a chance to renew connections with family, old friends, and potential new friends. We’re fortunate to have Savory Kitchen and Colleen Janke in our community.” When asked why she and her husband, Scott, keep coming back, Yee responds that it’s Colleen. “Her welcoming smile, infectious enthusiasm, and hands-on encouragement always set the evening’s tone,” she says, “And what’s not to love about a place where, on occasion, dad Rob and baby Teddy [Colleen’s older son] join us during the cooking hour to look on while happy mom works with happy people?”
Janke seems surprised by her success, but is proud of all that she has accomplished. She loves that when taking a class or attending an event, there are no white starched aprons with fancy logos. Instead, patrons choose from the forty or so prominently displayed aprons as full of personality as Colleen Janke herself. Whether a frilly floral pattern that screams 1950s housewife or the naked form of Michelangelo’s David, these personable aprons definitely set the tone. This is a place of good food, fine wine, family, community, and perhaps most importantly, a place that Janke has created by staying true to what she loves.
Written by Kate Evans
Photography by Daniel Garcia
Entire Article originally appeared in Issue 7.2 “Connect”