In this edition of “Meet the Chef” series, we sat down with Chef Jack Logue, who after traveling the world and working in several notable restaurants is currently partnered with David Rabin and Chris Miller to re-invent and revitalize the iconic Lambs Club in the midtown Chatwal Hotel. With an elevated and fun takes on American classics through a New York lens, Chef Jack is sat down with Pursuitist to chat trends, world travels and what it takes to make it in the restaurant world.
Pursuitist: Tell us about yourself. What inspired you to be a chef? How did you get started?
Jack Logue: I was born and raised in NYC and grew up on the Upper East Side. I had a lot of interests as a kid, including sports (Football, baseball, hockey, basketball and Tennis were the main ones), musical theater, playing blues/rock guitar and computer science. I loved languages and traveling as well. My Dad is from Kentucky, so my first jobs were actually working on his cattle and Tobacco farms, well before I ever thought of becoming a chef.
One Summer, when I was young, I worked as a dishwasher at my friend’s mother’s restaurant, then another year he and I opened a panini stand outside the restaurant during the day, because it was only open for dinner. I guess that was my first business venture. As time went on, I thought I wanted to do something in hospitality, either as a club owner, or in hotels and maybe in restaurants. Then after I graduated high school, I worked by day as a computer programmer on Wall Street for an investment bank but at night I worked as a busboy. I fell in love with the energy of restaurants and the team mentality required for them to run. It reminded me a lot of sports in that regard.
With a newfound love for restaurants, I wanted to go to business school to own/operate them, however, when I went to school I kept hearing the same refrain from all of my professors “the first rule of business is to know your product inside and out”. I couldn’t get these words out of my head and I also couldn’t help but think how hard it would be to open a restaurant without knowing how to cook professionally. So I quit my band, dropped out of school and moved to Italy as an eighteen year old to go to culinary school in Colorno in the Scuola Allma di Gualtiero Marchesi (Italy’s first ever 3 Michelin star chef).
I then worked as an apprentice (stagista) in Carla Aradelli’s Michelin starred Riva, living above the restaurant and learning Italian along the way. The subsequent eighteen years have been blessed with being able to work at and running some of the best restaurants around the world, culminating now in finally being a partner in a world class fine dining restaurant in the heart of Manhattan—The Lambs Club, where we serve elevated and fun takes on American classics through a Native New Yorkers lens, showcasing our combined experience and talents with local seasonal products, in a timeless and iconic space.
Pursuitist: You helmed several stellar restaurants across the world including Michelin Starred Riva in Ponte del’Ollio, Daniel, The Clocktower, Rockpool in Sydney and Betony. What does it take to get a restaurant to that level?
JL: I was very lucky early in my career to be a part of some tremendously talented restaurant teams, including being a part of the teams at Daniel and Rockpool going from 2 to 3 Michelin stars (Hats in Australia), so I was able to see what it takes to get to the top of the Mountain early on. I worked for free in Italy for the first few years of my career, then at Daniel I went from being the youngest cook in the kitchen and working the lowest station to leaving as a Sous Chef and expediteur. At Rockpool I was a Sous Chef as well so the feeling of accomplishment was even more satisfactory and then at Betony, being the Chef de Cuisine and Clocktower being the Executive Chef and garnering and maintain a Michelin star for the 7 years I worked at those two places was definitely extremely special for me.
I think the biggest thing one learns is that we all only have two hands. No one can do it by themselves. So putting together a team of motivated, hungry, positive minded individuals and then leading and delegating are the ways to find true success in restaurants. Also, having a hospitality first mindset is super important. At the root of the word hospitality is hospice which means to take care of. If you approach a great restaurant that everything should be in the name of taking care of either the guest or the team members, then those restaurants tend to succeed because it is in their DNA. Great restaurateurs also share the power to see the tiniest little details but also never lose sight of the big picture. They have the excellence reflex, which is simply identifying and fixing problems in the moment as they arise, but doing so in a manner that is simply reflexive moving on. If something isn’t right, fix it in the moment, don’t have a “we’ll address it next time” mentality.
Hiring the right people is also extremely important. Danny Meyer once said that you can’t teach hospitality. People are either born with it or they aren’t. I’m not completely sure that is true, but I do like to say that I try to hire people who are positive minded, have a strong work ethic and are honest with themselves. You can teach anyone to sear a scallop or make a martini or open a bottle of wine, but in my opinion it’s the intangibles that you can’t teach that make the top restaurants find. Danny calls this the 51%.
Lastly, it’s just about putting in the work, the time, the sacrifice from personal or family lives and sometimes its about believing in yourself and the vision that you have and shutting out the outside noise. The best restaurants always evolve and grow with time, but they stay true to who they are and to their identity and their purpose in the restaurant landscape. Failing restaurants are usually the ones that seem to pivot their concepts as the wind blows and have no true roots to rely on. Stay humble, but be confident that what got you there will continue to make an impact. At the end of the day we aren’t doing brain surgery or rocket science. We are in the business of serving people food, drink and smiles. Have some fun with it too!
Pursuitist: What trends do you see in 2023 in hospitality and cuisine?
JL: 2023 has been an interesting year, especially in NYC. As dining post covid is finally truly back, we are seeing a little more return to fine dining restaurants thriving, where some people thought they might die out. I do think that guests are a little over the long tasting menus, but anything from a 3 to 6 course menu seems to be popular. Also there are a lot of chefs who have serious fine dining backgrounds opening up more casual spots, but still trying to showcase the techniques of their training (The Noortwyck and Joomak Banjum come to mind here).
Pursuitist: If you weren’t a chef, what would you be doing?
JL: Such a tough question as I’ve been in this career for exactly half of my life at this point (18 years and counting). I might be in a blues/rock band or as a sports journalist. If I had decided to go to law school I would have been a sports agent. But in all honesty, I most likely would have been in finance, either as a trader or in private equity. That was where I was headed anyway. If I had gone that route, maybe I would be approaching the age to mini retire and open up a restaurant anyway, I guess we will never know.
Pursuitist: You have spent extensive time traveling and cooking in places such as Tokyo, Hong Kong, France, Sydney, the Dominican Republic and Mexico. How did this impact you and what places are still on your culinary bucket list?
JL: One of the coolest parts of being a chef is that you can literally work anywhere in the world. I was very fortunate, especially early in my career, to take advantage of this by living in and traveling around some of the top food cities. Tokyo definitely had a huge impact on my culinary style and philosophy. Kaiseki is all about local, seasonal ingredients and flavors, the harmony there within, the balance and pacing of a meal eaten in the right order and the showcase of presentation and technique. This can be applied to any cuisine style and is a philosophy that has stuck with me. Also due to my experience working with a lot of Chinese and Korean ingredients as well, my culinary style has become very western presenting that is still layered with eastern ingredients without trying to be too “showy” about it. Lyon also has a profound influence on me as does my time spent in Italy. I like to say that the reason I started in Italy was because it is the “soul food” of Europe. For me, France is the “technically proficient” country and Spain is the “passion”. I think next on my bucket list would be spending some time in Spain. Also Peru and Vietnam would be great places to spend some extensive time learning.
The beauty of traveling is the ability to go to new places, immerse yourself into new cultures, ingredients and even languages and being able to come out of it with a new perspective and appreciation for other countries and cultures.
Kimberly Fisher is a Pursuitist contributor. As a freelance writer and on-camera host, Kimberly has traveled the world and has published over 400 articles in over 44 publications including Sherman's Travel, Huffington Post, JustLuxe, Luxury Lifestyles UK, eHow, Examiner, Food Wine Travel Magazine, Luxe Beat, NiteGuide, Ocean View, and USA Today. Disclosure: Kimberly is under contract with Casa Del Sol.