A Sweet Deal in a Stuffy Place

Corporate cooking culture

Jacobs will even make dinner reservations for partners and/or clients who are too busy to linger on hold, acting like a concierge and using his connections at old-haunt Tantra or other en vogue eateries like Norman's or Astor Place. But all in all, he estimates he works 50 to 60 hours per week, as opposed to 18 hours daily behind a hot stove. Best of all he never has to cope with a lunch or dinner rush and is never, as we say in the industry, "in the weeds" with too many orders and too many things to do.

"My social life has improved 100 percent," he adds with a grin, and for a young single chef, that's pretty important. When you work all night every night, chances of scoring a date are limited to who you might meet in the restaurant or while dawdling at the bar. Now Jacobs is welcome to the nine-to-five scene the rest of us have been so anxious to leave: the dating world of happy hour and singles bars. Still, Jacobs says, "I get to visit my friends who are chefs. I get to go to their restaurants for dinner. Before, I'd have to meet them for lunch." And he hasn't given up a high profile. He still has a publicist, and, hey, profiles speak for themselves, I'd imagine.

The benefits for the law firm also are immense. Time management and convenience vie for top billing. Also consider the hush-hush meeting, which might formerly have taken place over lunch at a very public restaurant. Now the partners can stuff their faces in secrecy with their clients, and they don't have to bother to lower their voices and perhaps compromise their authority during negotiations over wasabi-ginger-crusted salmon with shallot-chive beurre blanc or soy-pineapple-marinated sirloin with eight-hour black beans. The presence of Jacobs raises the level of this prestigious international firm even higher, the way the demeanor of a butler or valet in a private home signals wealth and prestige.

And lest you think all at Ferrell Schultz is whisper-soft air conditioning and high-tech rooms with multiple ports for laptops in the center of the tables and videoconferencing capabilities, know that Jacobs, like most chefs, brings his own likable personality to the fare. "Lunch is serious business, and I'm glad they [Ferrell Schultz] have brought it to this level," he declares. But that doesn't stop him from educating with humor the people who are "too busy reading torts to make them."

One particular attorney, as it turned out, wasn't quite used to fine dining and asked Jacobs why he never serves any so-called normal food. "I took advantage of that opportunity to play a little practical joke. The next time the attorney was scheduled for lunch, instead of something like [vanilla-maple marinated prawns], I served him a hamburger and French fries from Burger King, garnished with one packet of ketchup and a sprig of rosemary," he recalls. Jacobs's service staff was appalled and wouldn't present it, so the chef himself brought it out, covered with a dome like the other meals, much to the delight of the other attorneys present who were in on the joke.

"I never would have done it in front of a client," Jacobs says. "But everybody in the room knew the situation." After the laughter was over, Jacobs brought out the real meal but left the burger on the table, giving the attorney the option of "being adventurous or being a meat-and-potatoes kind of person." And while the attorney wouldn't, in the end, tell Jacobs which plate he actually preferred, according to the chef, "suffice to say both meals were eaten."

Next week: Joey Ramos and Chef Du Jour.

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