Alumni Q&A: Jennie Werts ’03

Jennie Werts ’03 is a proud member of the 14-Year Club at Fieldston. Based in Greenport, New York, Werts is the chef and co-owner of two restaurants — Ellen’s on Front and Jennie’s at Drossos — where she partners with her brother, Andrew Werts ’99. 

What was your favorite food at the dining hall?

I have fond memories of the special salads they’d make for the salad bar, as well as pizza day. Breakfast in the mornings — either a Western omelet or a bacon, egg, and cheese made fresh — was also a treat.

What’s a class or teacher you’ll never forget?

I still keep in touch with Beth Winik, who was my math teacher throughout Upper School, as well as David Schwartz, my English teacher. I had some learning disabilities when I was younger, and they both understood them and really helped me learn and grow.

Where was your favorite place to hang out on campus?

Probably the cafeteria — specifically in the morning before class started. Maybe that’s where I started my love of food?

What ECFS memory makes you laugh?

One day when I was in the Middle School, I walked down a hallway banging on lockers with my drumsticks. Mr. Howard came out of his classroom and asked me to come inside and take a seat. The classroom was full of Upper Schoolers — it was absolutely mortifying. But I did learn to not play the drums on lockers anymore. Funny now… definitely not at the time.

When you meet another Fieldston alum, what’s the first thing you talk about? How can you tell that someone’s a Fieldston alum?

There is definitely a camaraderie and commonality that just exists between us. When you meet someone who went to Fieldston, you feel this closeness to them, even if you’ve never met them before. We usually end up talking about teachers who worked at Fieldston for a long time, such as Mr. Schwartz, Mr. Aune, etc. 

From left to right: Jessy Arisohn ’03, Samantha Miller Kagan ’03, Jennie Werts ’03, Samantha Dareff ’03, and Essie Haimes ’03

What’s been the biggest surprise of your career?

A lot of the societal movements we’ve seen over the past few years have certainly had some effect on the restaurant industry, but it’s still a tough business and often quite male-dominated. Stories of abuse and mistreatment continue to pop up all the time, which is both surprising and, unfortunately, not. My brother and I have worked hard to build a safe, friendly work environment, and I look forward to the day when this is commonplace throughout the industry.  

What causes are you passionate about?

We’re a pretty close-knit community out here on the North Fork of Long Island, and, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve really rallied together. Our restaurant has worked with Community Action Southold Town to feed local, low-income families over the past year, and we’ve also donated meals to first responders. Additionally, we are a sponsor of Greenport High School’s girls basketball team!

What are you reading/watching/listening to?

I’m currently watching The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix and, of course, The Bachelorette. I find the lead character in The Queen’s Gambit to be so interesting and layered, while the “characters” on The Bachelorette are not — but very entertaining nonetheless. I’m pretty burnt out after getting out of the kitchen, and sometimes The Bachelorette is just what I need to relax. We also listen to a lot of Taylor Swift at the restaurant. I actually have a life-size cutout in the kitchen that I got from my staff for my birthday. 

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