The new executive chef at Jack’s Oyster House has cooked privately for many luminaries — from French President Nicholas Sarkozy to the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
But Luc Pasquier said Friday that he has made so many meals during his 20-plus-year career that he couldn’t remember what he made for the former first lady’s birthday party.
Pasquier, one of only 52 Certified Master Chefs in the United States, was introduced Friday as the new head chef at Jack’s, the oldest continuously owned, family-run restaurant in the United States and a popular gathering spot for politicians and lobbyists at the foot of State Street.
“Jack’s Oyster House is not a restaurant, it’s an institution. Albany is not just a city but the capital,” Pasquier said after appetizers, including oysters Rockefeller, were passed around to a small crowd Friday morning in the main dining room at Jack’s.
Pasquier owned and operated his own restaurant, Hotel Restaurant Luc Pasquier, in Burgundy, France, for almost 10 years.
He was one of 10 chefs invited to compete in the Best Chef of France competition during his career in France. He was recruited by the consulate general of France and became the executive chef of the French Consulate in New York City.
During his tenure with the consulate, he worked with some of the finest American and European chefs, including Daniel Boloud and Jean-George Vongerichten.
He said Friday that when he wakes up each morning, he immediately begins thinking about the menu at Jack’s. He’s looked at the very first menus from Jack’s, dating back to 1913, when the restaurant opened.
Pasquier said he will maintain Jack’s traditions while bringing innovation to the menu by working with local farmers and using fresh produce. He said he’s already heard about some fine breads sold at the Troy Farmers Market.
Jack’s will not evolve into a French restaurant, yet there will be a European influence on some menu items, said Pasquier.
For Friday evening’s menu, he was planning quail Normandy; he will add his touch to the oysters Rockefeller with subtle changes, using watercress and a touch of almonds. And he plans to add crème brûlée to the menu.
To succeed, an executive chef must focus on more than recipes, Pasquier said: “You don’t want to be afraid of working hard, and you must get along good with people.”
His own favorite food is fish because it’s so healthy and so diverse. He said it’s like a piano because it can produce so many different compositions.
Brad Rosenstein, Jack’s owner, said Friday that it was a historic day for Jack’s and that Pasquier will put Jack’s on the international culinary map. He said that Pasquier will bring a European flair to certain dishes, but the essential menu items offered at Jack’s won’t change and prices will not increase.
“We want our guests to be pleased,” he said.
Rosenstein has many contacts in the food industry and learned about Pasquier though Boloud, an award-winning chef and New York City restaurateur.
Pasquier, who has two young children, wanted to move out of New York City and seized the opportunity to become executive chef at Jack’s when he heard about it.
These days, like never before, chefs like Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse are recognizable to the public, Pasquier said. He said cooking shows and the reality television shows that take viewers behind the scenes in high-end kitchens have created a fantastic opportunity for the public to learn about fine cooking.
“When I first arrived [in the United States], it was empty; now I see a revolution in cuisine and flavors,” he said.
Pasquier said that food is so soothing because it often involves all five senses: sight, smell, taste, touch as well as what you hear while cooking. Plus, dining out is a social occasion.
The other chefs at Jack’s said it’s been exciting to work with Pasquier since he started at the restaurant a week ago.
“It’s been phenomenal. I’ve learned so much in the past week. He comes in with a positive attitude every day,” said Eric Tisaj, 22, a sous chef.
Pasquier replaces executive chef Dale Miller, who introduced an international flair to the restaurant in his 10 years there but left in December to become the chef at the Inn at Erlowest in Lake George.
Jack’s is open every day of the year and serves about 500 people a day.