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jasper-white.jpg Courtesy of The Culinary Institute of America
Jasper White was honored at the Culinary Institute of America's 2012 Leadership Awards, when the theme was "Pioneers of American Cuisine."

Pioneering Boston chef Jasper White dies at age 69

The founder of Jasper’s and Summer Shack helped modernize New England cuisine

Jasper White, the pioneering New England chef who helped transform American cuisine, died on Saturday at age 69.

The cause of death was a brain aneurism, according to The Boston Globe.

White, a native of New Jersey, born May 28, 1954, graduated from The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., in 1976 and then traveled and worked in restaurants in California, Florida, Montana, New York, and Washington state. He soon settled in Boston, where he worked side-by-side with chef and restaurateur Lydia Shire for many years, including at The Copley Plaza and The Parker House as well as Seasons, the signature restaurant of the Bostonian Hotel, where he was executive chef and she was executive sous chef, although White said in a 2013 interview with Nation’s Restaurant News that they worked as a duo.

But Shire has said she considered him a mentor, as did other New England chefs including Gordon Hamersley, Todd English, Barbara Lynch, Jody Adams, Stan Frankenthaler, and others who went on to build their own stellar careers.

In 1983 he opened Jasper’s in Boston, offering reworked versions of New England classics — his pan-roasted lobster became an iconic dish — as part of what would come to be known as the New American cuisine movement, mirroring what was happening with California cuisine at Michael’s in Los Angeles and Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., as well as modern Louisiana cooking at K-Paul’s in New Orleans, and Southwestern cuisine at restaurants such as The Rattlesnake Club in Denver and Coyote Café in Santa Fe, N.M.

He went on to work as a consultant, including chain restaurant Legal Sea Foods, and in 2000 launched his own casual-dining concept, Summer Shack, which continues to operate in Boston and Cambridge, Mass., as well as the Mohegan Sun Casino & Resort in Uncasville, Conn.

He won the James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Award for best chef in the Northeast in 1991 and was nominated for Outstanding Chef in 1994. Summer Shack was nominated for Best New Restaurant in 2001.

White also wrote four cookbooks: Jasper White’s Cooking from New England: More Than 300 Traditional and Contemporary Recipes, published in 1989; Lobster at Home, published in 1998; Fifty Chowders, published in 2000; and The Summer Shack Cookbook: The Complete Guide to Shore Food, published in 2007.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected] 

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