Jasper White

Remembering Jasper White: Boston’s Culinary Pioneer Dies at 69 from Aneurysm

Reposted from the Boston Eater, By

Jasper White, a pioneering Boston chef who helped put the city on the national culinary map in the 1980s, died on Saturday, May 11. He suffered a fatal brain aneurysm at 69 years old, the Boston Globe reports.

White’s impact on Boston’s restaurant scene is indelible. A New Jersey native, the chef graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 1976 and cooked in cities around the country before settling in Boston in the early 1980s. White worked with another renowned Boston chef, Lydia Shire, early on in their careers, first at the Biltmore Plaza in Providence and then in multiple Boston hotel restaurants including the Copley Plaza, the Parker House Hotel, and the Bostonian Hotel.

“Jasper is the absolute smartest man and kindest man I have ever known,” Shire said in a statement on White’s passing. “I cannot come to grips why someone so healthy and vital — now working to haul in oysters in the early morning hours for fun, three days a week during the season — is swept away from us. It’s very unfair. I love him dearly and will miss him forever.”

White opened the award-winning Restaurant Jasper in 1983 and went on to run the restaurant successfully for the next 12 years. He was hailed as one of the chefs defining “New American” cuisine nationally, accordingto former Globe restaurant critic Alison Arnett, and he nabbed a James Beard Award for Best Chef: Northeast in 1991. He eschewed French traditions in fine dining to throw a spotlight on seasonal New England cuisine instead, including new, inventive takes on fish chowder and a pan-roasted lobster dish that was a favorite of famed food personality Julia Child. “It was the first fancy restaurant in the city that wasn’t trying to be French,” former longtime Globe food editor Sheryl Julian writes in a remembrance of the chef.

White shut down Restaurant Jasper in 1995 because he didn’t want to wrangle operating the restaurant near the decade-long Big Dig construction. He went on to write multiple cookbooks and serve as a consultant to Legal Sea Foods, according to the Globe. Then, he jumped back into restaurant operations in 2000 with the launch of the casual Summer Shack in Cambridge. The seafood shack was a way for the public to get a taste of White’s cooking without the white tablecloth trappings. It was nominated for a James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant in 2001. White sold the Summer Shack to local restaurant company the Lyons Group in 2017; the group now runs three locations in Alewife, Back Bay, and inside the Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville, Connecticut.

“We are absolutely devastated by the loss of Jasper. He was a true pioneer of Boston’s culinary scene and a mentor to so many of us,” the Lyons Group said in a statement. “The impact that Jasper had on the restaurant industry will live on forever. We are going to miss him dearly.”