Jacques Qualin of J&G Steakhouse on Head Cheese, Being an Apprentice, and Daniel Boulud

Jacques Q -- by green screen.jpg
Nikki Buchanan
Jacques Qualin at J&G
Jacques Qualin
J&G Steakhouse
The Phoenician Resort
6000 East Camelback Road, Scottsdale
480-214-8000, jgsteakhousescottsdale.com


See also:
-- Matt Pool on Chris Bianco, Andreoli Italian Grocer, and Phoenix as a Food Town
-- Chef Kevin Binkley a Finalist for James Beard Award

This is part one of my interview with Jacques Qualin, chef de cuisine at J&G Steakhouse at The Phoenician Resort. Come back Wednesday when Qualin dishes about Lori Hashimoto, Anthony Bourdain, and the difference between French and American cooks.

J&G --beet salad.jpg
Buchanan
Warm spring beets, local goat cheese, mache, and lemon oil
Jacques Qualin is not a celebrity chef and, as far as I can tell, has zero interest in being one. Soft-spoken but direct, he portrays none of the look-at-me brashness that seems to be a requirement these days for getting and keeping your mug in the limelight. He's confident, not cocky, exhibiting an economy of words that has little to do with his fluency in English (which is considerable) and everything to do with his work ethic. If there's a French phrase for "get 'er done," Jacques probably uses it often, not that he'd ever sacrifice aesthetics for efficiency. His Asian-inflected, French-inspired food -- a pure reflection of his superstar friend and boss Jean-Georges Vongerichten -- demonstrates everything we admire in Asian, French, and American cooking: quality ingredients, spare composition, and creativity applied to classic technique.

This guy gets it, and it's no wonder. Growing up in the Franche-Comté region of France, he learned cooking at his mother's knee, signing on for an apprenticeship in a hotel kitchen at age 16. He spent the next five years learning his craft in hotel kitchens across France, roving from Alsace in the north to Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur in the south before heading to Paris to work for Michelin-rated chef Michel de Matteis. Qualin spent another year under the tutelage of celebrated chef Claude de Ligne at Taillevent (named the best restaurant in Paris, "if not all of France" by the New York Times), but it was while he was working at the St. James Paris that Qualin got the itch to move to the States. A friend of a friend had worked for Daniel Boulud at Le Cirque and described the exciting food scene in New York. Qualin decided he wanted a piece of it and landed a job as line cook at Le Cirque, where he stayed for 18 months. When his work visa was up, he returned to France and spent the next five years (1991-96) as chef de partie at the famed Restaurant La Marée before heading back to Taillevent.

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J&G Steakhouse

6000 E. Camelback Road, Scottsdale, AZ

Category: Restaurant

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