Fresh off the stage of the Georgia Ensemble Theatre production of “Calendar Girls,”
Atlanta native Jenny Levison made headlines with the announcement that her restaurant chain’s anchor location in Buckhead will move from East Andrews Drive across West Paces Ferry Road to the Atlanta History Center.
A local celebrity, national TV personality and cookbook author, Souper Jenny combines entrepreneurial success with her original love of acting. In addition to fresh, wholesome food, her four Souper Jenny locations (Buckhead, Brookhaven, Decatur and Westside), as well as Cafe Jonah and Juicy Jenny, are known for their theatrical employees.
Jaffe: Did you grow up with the acting bug?
Levison: Yes, I attended Carnegie Mellon University, a top drama school. Through stints in L.A. and NYC, I performed in regional theater. As many actors do, I worked in restaurants on the side.
Jaffe: How did Souper Jenny launch?
Levison: I was in Atlanta appearing in “Auntie Mame” and working for a local caterer. I spent two years traveling around the world (24 countries) and learning to prepare many cuisines. The one thing that was universal was soup. That was my inspiration to start Souper Jenny in 1999.
Jaffe: You now have six locations. Any thoughts about venturing outside Atlanta?
Levison: I think for now we are done expanding and want to concentrate on making the new History Center location fabulous. And I want to spend more time in the kitchen myself. But I’ll never say never.
Jaffe: What is your History Center concept? We see the massive construction there.
Levison: They are working on making their image more accessible and fun; thus, our restaurant will have parking out front and seat 60 inside and 60 outside.
Jaffe: What do you prepare at home? What are your best dishes?
Levison: I love to entertain and use clean ingredients. I’m into wild cod and roasted vegetables right now. I make a good flank steak too.
Jaffe: Where do you like to dine out?
Levison: Rumi’s Kitchen is my recent fav. Lots of good new places on the Atlanta scene too.
Jaffe: How do you balance both running a company and acting?
Levison: The play took two months. I now have a great team and executive chef, so I can rely on them and don’t have to come in at 5 a.m. like I used to. I also parent my 11-year-old son, Jonah.
Jaffe: My favorite scene in “Calendar Girls” was you spreading the sunflower seeds on the grave. What was yours?
Levison: Oh, the fight at the end was the most dramatic!
Jaffe: What is your dream role?
Levison: Desiree in “A Little Night Music.” “Send in the clowns” — I sing also.
Courtenay Collins Eckhart, one of Atlanta’s most renowned actresses, said: “Acting opposite Jenny in ‘Calendar Girls’ was the easiest work I have ever done. She is such a natural that you don’t feel that she is acting at all. Her craft is so centered, focused, genuine and real. It always amazed me that she could come to the theater after a full day of being Souper Jenny with this amazingly calm and giving energy, which she transferred into her role. She really is a souper human!”