World-class restauranteurs Elaine and Chris Jego have a motto they live by: Keep your friends close, and your farmers closer.”
That adage, which served them so well in the years spent running exclusive hotels in the French countryside, is the underpinning of their new America restaurant Pasture & Pearl. (Elaine pictured in red and Chris to her right).
Situated in Sanibel Island, Fla., the year-old modern American restaurant, which emphasizes French and Caribbean cuisine, owes much of its rave reviews and delectable creations to the humble farmer.
So says Elaine Jego, who notes, “One of the first things we did before opening Pasture & Pearl was to search out and find an incredible farm in Georgia” to source the produce. “We visited White Oak Pastures, stayed there, toured their land and their cutting room at their own on-site abattoir. White Oak is one of the only cattle ranches that has USDA approval to slaughter their own livestock, and their entire operation just blew me away.”
The husband/wife entrepreneurial team, who have successfully run hotels and restaurants worldwide for over 30 years, was so enamored with White Oak Pastures that they feature all the beef, rabbit, and lamb on their menu from the wonderful Georgia facility.
In this week’s Q&A with Recipe for Success @ Boxerbrand, Elaine Jego offers insights.
Q: How did your motto “Keep your friend’s close, and your farmers closer” develop?
The farm-to-table concept, which is becoming so popular in the US, was how everyone operated in the French countryside. It was exclusively the way we operated there. So, when we decided to return to the United States and start a restaurant here, it was very important to us to continue that commitment to the highest standards of fresh, hyper-local produce.
Q: Farm-to-table is very on trend today. How does Pasture & Pearl differentiate itself?
In addition to our amazing produce from White Oak Pastures, we’re a fine-dining restaurant in an elevated, yet inviting setting. We have paid meticulous attention to details, from our dining room appointments, to our service. Our service is one area we pride ourselves on. In this very casual part of Florida, we strive … to pamper our guests. From the moment they call to make a reservation, they’re greeted with warmth and when they arrive, they’re shown a beautiful place, which is simple, elegant, cool and breezy.
We worked for 30 years in Europe and the United States. Before we went to France I worked for the Four Seasons for many years. What we learned is that by focusing on every level of detail, from our menu covers to all aspects of our room and service, we could create a top-quality experience that was appropriate for the area.
Q: Your people are tantamount to success as well.
We just hired a young chef who worked for many years on Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. He’s come back home to his roots, this is where he’s from. But he has some really great restaurant experience under his belt now. Besides working on Nantucket and the Vineyard, he worked for a famous restaurant in Manhattan called IL Tesoro, which was chosen to do a James Beard dinner.
Q: How does social media factor into what you do?
Social media has been a bit of a challenge for us because we’re old folks. Chris and I have someone who is adept at Instagram, and we use that for photos of our cuisine. But we’ve found social media reviews on Trip Advisor, for instance, are not as important to success in Florida as they were when we were in the Caribbean. In the Caribbean, it’s very important to be ranked highly, so tourists can find you. But here in Sanibel, our guests know exactly who’s who and it hasn’t been as much as a factor.
Q: Bringing this back around to the farm, please tell me about your restaurant name.
Pasture & Pearl says it all. With the word pasture, we evoke the commitment to farm-fresh products produced in harmony with nature, and pearl speaks to a gem of the sea. We have a commitment to sustainability while serving lunch, dinner and weekend brunch in a beautiful place with a unique perspective. — Pasture & Pearl uses Boxerbrand menu cover products in their presentation. Thank you!