At age18, Jackie Shen left Hong Kong to come to Ottumwa, Iowa to go to college. Awestruck by the vastness of the land and friendliness of the people, she fell in love with America. To earn tuition Jackie would go to Chicago in the summers to waitress in a diner. She graduated from the Houston Hilton School of Management and with jobs at the Ritz Carlton, Water Tower Hyatt, and Hyatt Regency she honed her management skills and gained first hand experience in various aspects of the hospitality industry. After success in her first business, a diner on Chicago’s Northwest side of Chicago, Jackie’s ultimate calling to cook was answered when she went to work for famed chef Jean Banchet at Le Mer and then as an apprentice at Le Francais.
At her namesake restaurant, Jackie’s, which she opened in the then Bohemian neighborhood of Lincoln Park, she was recognized by Chicago Magazine as the first chef in Chicago to combine her skills in French cuisine and her cultural roots, becoming known as the “Queen of Fusion.” For 13 years Jackie’s was a Chicago destination for out-of-towners such as Robert Redford and Paul Newman as well as local regular patrons Oprah Winfrey, Mike Royko, Studs Terkel and Ann Landers.
As a chef Jackie has received national recognition, numerous awards and honors, including an invitation by Mayor and Mrs. Daley to cook for the President of China during his visit to Chicago. She has also been very active throughout her career in organizing culinary talent to raise money for charity to support Chicago area children’s hospitals, women’s shelters, 9/11 and Katrina relief and animal care. Along with her passion for cooking giving back continues to be a priority for Jackie Shen, who, as an immigrant, is keenly aware of the great opportunities that have been afforded to her in adopted country of America.