From family kitchen to James Beard mecca
From the time Jasper Mirabile Jr. was 6 years old, he knew where he belonged.
And it wasn’t the T-ball field along with all the other kids, but in the kitchen practicing culinary arts alongside his mother and grandmother.
“I would watch my Mom take six ingredients and make a complete dinner,” says the chef who has overseen a family restaurant dynasty and been honored three times by James Beard. “I think I knew back then that restaurants would be my chosen career.”
After extensive study, including the Hotel and Restaurant School and Kansas State University, Mirabile traveled the globe to deepen his understanding of food. And when he returned to Kansas City, Mo. he went to work in the family’s award-winning restaurant, Jasper’s.
First opened in 1954 by Leonardo Mirabile and his son Jasper Sr., the restaurant rocketed to success. Its accolades include induction into the DiRONA Restaurant Hall of Fame, taking its place as one of only 15 North American restaurants to be so honored.
When the baton of Jasper’s Restaurant was eventually passed to Jasper Mirabile Jr., he was more than ready.
Manning the 2,000 square-foot kitchen, he has crafted dishes so pleasing that he has been invited three times to cook at the famous James Beard House. His restaurant has been named by Zagat’s as one of America’s top 25 Italian restaurants. And for years, Mirabile has hosted a popular weekly radio show, interviewing top chefs and restaurant personalities ranging from Anthony Bourdain to Rachel Ray.
In this week’s Q&A interview with Recipe for Success @ Boxerbrand, Mirabile offers insights into the restaurant business.
Q: To what do you attribute your vast success?
I’m very outgoing. I love to talk to people. I never turn down an interview or photo op. I can talk in front of people. Since an early age, I’ve been able to get my point across while I cook.
My radio show on KCMO is a great outlet for me. It’s all talk, all food. But, it’s not about me so much as it is about support of other food artisans. We interview people from the food network, and writers. Ten years ago, today (June 18), we interviewed Anthony Bourdain. We’ve had Rachel Ray and so many others on the show, Live from Jasper’s kitchen.
Q: What was it like cooking in the James Beard House?
I was the first Italian chef and the first chef from Kansas to be invited to cook at James Beard. James Beard really brought cooking up to date in America, and after he died, the James Beard Foundation was set up in his home in New York as a mecca for chefs to go and prepare a great meal. It was an incredible honor for me. The first time I went, I took my Dad. The second and third times I went alone, but, as I stood in his small kitchen where he used to cook, I felt this incredible connection. It was a highlight of my career.
Q: What sets apart your menu’s claim to fame at Jasper’s Restaurant?
Well, my father’s most famous dishes are Jasper’s scamp alla livornese, which is a sautéed shrimp dish with a cream sherry sauce. The other is Capelli d’Angelo alla Nanni. This is our famous and signature pasta dish, prosciutto ham, mushrooms, peas, and angel hair.
My signature dish is a lobster cappuccino, which is not a coffee, but a bisque served in a cup with a sweet and savory whip cream. My second dish is a rigatoni pasta with prosciutto and melon cream sauce.
Q: How do you stay consistent?
To be consistent, we’ve had our chefs and some assistants who’ve been with us for over 38 years. We have four key people on our team who collectively represent 110 years of experience. Our longtime employees, from servers, hostesses and chefs, make it look easy, and make us shine.
Q: What two or three things should every serious restauranteur do?
Number one you have to have a good staff behind. Number two you better check that bottom line every week—make sure your sales and accounting are always going in the right direction. And number three, always save time for your family. Don’t let the restaurant take you away from them. This is why we always close on Sunday, and why I make sure our employees only work five days a week.
Jasper Mirabile Jr has received numerous cooking awards and accolades, including being named by USA Today as one of the top 10 Italian restaurants in America. Jasper is also the host of popular radio show Live from Jasper’s Kitchen, and he also serves on many cooking and restaurant associations, including chairing the Slow Food Kansas City and a vice presidency at Midwest of Gruppo Ristoratori. He is also a recipe creator at numerous local and national companies, including Hen House Markets, American Italian Pasta Co., Wisconsin Milk Marketing, Farmland, and Plugra Butter.
—Jasper’s Restaurant uses Boxerbrand’s Classic line in its table presentation. Thank you!