Palo Santo’s Chef Jacques Gautier draws his influence from Caribbean family roots as well as his extensive travels and time spent working in renowned restaurants. His eclectic cooking expresses a versatile understanding of culinary tradition. Dishes maintain their original essence, with a new take on ingredients, technique and presentation.
Chef Gautier heard his calling at an early age. As a young child he would spend playtime in his mother’s kitchen. As a teenager he read cookbooks and hosted dinner parties for friends. At age 19, he left his home town of Washington, DC and moved to New York City to attend classes at The Natural Gourmet Institute. At age twenty Chef Gautier was invited to cook at the James Beard House, to this day he remains the youngest to have received that honor. Now at age thirty he is listed as one of Starchef’s “Chefs to Know.” His restaurant Palo Santo is in its third year of operation, giving him a solid foothold in Brooklyn’s thriving dining scene.
Gautier further developed his technique while working as a line cook at Vong in New York and Azié in San Francisco and later as a sous chef at Zoë, in Manhattan and then The Brick Oven Gallery in Brooklyn.
In 2001 he helped to open La Brunette, a French-Caribbean bistro in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. During his time as chef at La Brunette he received much critical acclaim and made his first live television appearance in a cooking segment on the Fox morning show, Good Day New York. Eric Asimov of The New York Times gave La Brunette a favorable review, writing; “even someone as tired as I am of crème brûlée could not help but be impressed by Mr. Gautier’s nearly perfect key lime crème brûlée.” New York Magazine wrote about Chef Gautier’s Patatas Aïoli, calling it a “visually intriguing tower of purple potatoes and haricots verts,” and heralding it as one of the top five winter salads of 2002. Also a favorite was the oxtail and avocado terrine served with chili oil and long cut plantain chips – a rustic French dish accented by an unmistakable sasón Latino.
Before opening Palo Santo Jacques Gautier took an eight month hiatus to conduct an intensive study of South American wine and regional Latin American cooking. He began by working as a wine maker’s assistant at Viña el Cerno -an artisan bodega located in Mendoza, Argentina, and then made his way North by boat, bus, and foot. He retraces his steps when writing the Palo Santo menus. Pulling fish from the cold waters of southern Chile, following the Pan-American Highway through a lush Central American mango orchard, and shopping for spices at a bustling market in the heart of Mexico.
Palo Santo’s Latin Market Cuisine continues to receive favorable reviews. Dana Bowen of The New York Times wrote; “Gautier is as much an auteur with the menu as he is with the design… He borrows from many cuisines but cooks simply.” The 2009 Zagat guide calls Palo Santo “an ambitious original.”
In addition to cooking, Gautier gives back to the community by participation in charity events and volunteering his time to teach Brooklyn public school students about the delights of healthy cooking through the Spoons Across America program. An avid home gardener himself, supporting local, sustainable agriculture is of utmost importance to chef Gautier. On Saturday mornings throughout the summer you can find him giving public cooking demos at the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket.