Jasper White was born in New Jersey, where he spent much of his childhood on a farm near the Jersey Shore. He credits his love of good food to his Italian grandmother. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, he began his cooking career – working and traveling around the United States with pit stops in New York, Florida, California, Washington and Montana.
In 1979, having settled in Boston, White met aspiring chef Lydia Shire, and together they presided over some of Boston’s venerable hotel kitchens including The Copley Plaza, The Parker House and The Bostonian Hotel. These three hotels were the core of a renaissance in the Boston restaurant scene at that time, but it was at the Bostonian Hotel in 1982 that the duo together introduced Boston to contemporary American cooking. White’s extensive research into the historical and cultural aspects of New England foodways, as well as his more than 30 years of cooking experience, have made him a trusted authority on New England foods, especially seafood.
In 1983, White and his wife Nancy, a graphic artist, opened Jasper’s Restaurant on Boston’s historic waterfront. Both Chef and restaurant received numerous awards and were featured extensively in national and local media. After 12 years of being Boston’s premier restaurant destination, however, Jasper’s faced the prospect of operating in the midst of Boston’s decade-long Big Dig, so White boldly chose to close his restaurant in 1995. With one cookbook under his belt (Jasper White’s Cooking from New England was published in 1989) White used the time off to write two more – Lobster at Home and Fifty Chowders. All three books are still in print and selling well. In 2007, White released his latest book, The Summer Shack Cookbook – The Complete Guide to Shore Food.
In May 2000, White surprised people who thought he was inextricably linked to fine dining when he opened Jasper White’s Summer Shack, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Where Jasper’s Restaurant had been quietly elegant and formal, Summer Shack is a loud, energetic clam shack that seats more than 300 people in five separate seating areas. Lobster tanks and steam kettles are the focal point in a central big, open space. Lobsters, clams, oysters and many other varieties of seafood dominate a New England menu that features everything from corn dogs and fried clams to traditional favorites like cod cakes and baked beans. While the ambiance has changed, the quality has not. White’s mission is to demonstrate that fine food doesn’t have to be haute or elegant.
Summer Shack has become a mecca for seafood lovers. The success of the Cambridge restaurant has spawned two more Summer Shacks at Mohegan Sun Resort and Casino in Connecticut and in Boston’s Back Bay. White’s winning business recipe has been to introduce high-quality, authentic New England seafood into casual restaurants in high-traffic retail locations. From its inception, the Summer Shacks have received enthusiastic reviews from local and national press, including the 2001 James Beard Award Nomination for Best New Restaurant.