You know you’re in for a wild ride your dinner ticket reads “YOLO.” Last night, JWU Providence alum Will Gilson’s restaurant Puritan & Company hosted the aptly-named “Most Soigné Dinner Ever” as an early reveal of pseudonymous Instagram sensation Chef Jacques La Merde prior to a televised unveiling on “Top Chef.”
La Merde is known for plating junk food like it’s haute cuisine —and for breathless all-caps Instagram captions that skewer macho chef-bro culture while sending us to look up terms like “soigné” (elegant). (In Chef La Merde’s world, EVERYTHING is soigné.)
Thursday’s big reveal dinner was a 6-dish collaboration between
- Will Gilson ’05
- Jonny O’Callaghan (DC’s Maple Leaf Tavern)
- Michael Scelfo (Alden & Harlow)
- Chef Jacques
- Craig Williams (Coppersmith)
- Brian Mercury (Harvest)
In tribute to CJLM, most dishes included a junk food component. (Spam, Doritos and Pop Rocks all featured prominently, and the NeBROni cocktail came complete with a generous hunk of Slim Jim.) A portion of the proceeds was donated to Lovin’ Spoonfuls, a Boston-based food pantry.
In between courses diners could be seen sneaking discreet glances toward the kitchen. SO MANY QUESTIONS — WHEN WOULD WE GET ANSWERS? Who was Chef Jacques? Would we get the big reveal BEFORE “Top Chef” aired? (CJLM was judging that evening’s QuickFire challenge.)
The answer? Not quite. Everyone’s phones started buzzing at 9:15pm that Chef Jacques was … a lady-bro. In actual fact, she is Christine Flynn, executive chef at Toronto’s iQ Food Co. and good friend of Gilson’s.
Soon after the social media reveal, she and Will and the other chefs emerged from the kitchen to take their bows. The room erupted in cheers and applause.
In an exclusive interview with Eater, Flynn explained the inspiration for the Jacques persona, adding that “in general there is a lot of overlap between us.” She continued:
“Jacques is me in all-caps, which is why the character is so strong and believable. … We both love food, we both jump headfirst into projects without really thinking them through, and we both love Journey and pro wrestling.”
(The dinner’s soundtrack — which was heavy on Journey, Hall & Oates, Huey Lewis and other anthemic 80s faves — was chosen by Chef Jacques and can be found on Spotify.)
Eater’s Daniela Galarza asked Flynn whether or not this would mean an end to Chef Jacques. “I’m not sure. I literally have no idea what’s next. But I know it will be fun.”
- Big Mac Tartare (Jonny O’Callaghan)
- Cold Smoked Cod with pickled vegetables, clothbound cheddar and brioche (Michael Scelfo)
- Sour cream & onion potato chip gnocchi with Chef Boyardee coulis, garlic aioli and parmesan Goldfish (Will Gilson ’05)
- Short rib with Doritos and Spam croquette (Chef Jacques)
- Angel food cake with coconut, Tang & Gatorade and pop rocks (Craig Williams)
- PB & Soigné with peanut brittle and “tweezered things” (Brian Mercury)
To conclude the evening, we got a photo of Chef Gilson with Chef Jacques.
Want more of Chef Jacques’ wit + wisdom? Our #artofplating post includes an exclusive CJLM creation.
Puritan & Co. chef-owner Will Gilson with Chef Jacques herself, Christine Flynn.