Jim Burke’s passion for cooking began almost two decades ago while working with Executive Chef Vince Alberici at The Marker restaurant in the Adams Mark Hotel in Philadelphia. This is where Jim learned the foundation of good cooking and began what has become a lifelong commitment to his craft. Initially, as a dishwasher and prep cook throughout his high school summers, Jim fell for the combustible atmosphere of the kitchen. In the disciplined environment of a hotel kitchen, however, is where he devoted himself to the physical and mental demands placed on professional chefs. Chef Alberici inspired a vision of what it meant to be a chef – a dedication to quality ingredients, patient technique, beautiful presentation and careful consideration of the client’s dining experience. Jim was soon infatuated with cooking, an infatuation that only intensified when he began working at one of Philadelphia’s most highly awarded restaurants, Vetri. During the two years he worked under nationally renowned chef Marc Vetri, he was afforded much freedom in the kitchen. His talents and his professionalism continued to grow, and his interest in the flavors of authentic Italian cuisine was cultivated.
From there, Jim and his wife and fellow cook, Kristina, left to pursue their dream of cooking in Italy. They had the opportunity to work at some of the best restaurants in Italy, culminating for Jim with the honor of working with Chef Paolo Frosio in Ristorante Frosio, a Michelin starred restaurant located in Alme, a small town outside of Bergamo. There he learned the difficult task of exalting the flavors of a few pristine ingredients in a dish, rather than losing the integrity of those ingredients in an overpowering jumble. Beyond cooking, being immersed in a foreign culture gave him a taste of the world he had always dreamed about. Jim continued to work in restaurants and vineyards for the next fifteen months. It was an invigorating life experience, one that continues to inspire him. Upon returning to the United States, Jim became the Chef of Vivo Enoteca in Wayne and received three stars in his first review. When offered an Executive Chef position at Stephen Starr’s Angelina in downtown Philadelphia, Jim seized the opportunity and put into practice the lessons he had learned in the course of his exciting career.
The next step was to break out on his own. He had spent the last several years developing a highly personalized style of cooking that emphasized the pure, clean flavors of exceptional ingredients and was ready to showcase that. He and Kristina opened JAMES in Philadelphia in 2007 and proceeded to garner many impressive local and national accolades including: a glowing three bell review from Philadelphia Inquirer’s Craig Laban, Food & Wine magazine’s 2008 ‘Best New Chef’ award, Semi-finalist for James Beard Award - 2008, 2009, 2010 - ‘Best Chef Mid-Atlantic’, and a finalist for Bocuse d’Or USA 2010. These credentials, however, do little to speak of the passion that Jim and Kristina injected into every service at JAMES.
As the lease expired at JAMES, the opportunity to cook in New York came up in the form of teaming up with Stephen Starr again to open Caffe Storico in the New York Historical Society in Manhattan. Jim recognized the importance of cooking in one of the greatest food cities in the world, and jumped at the chance. He has breathed new life into the renovated property with his modern take on cichetti (Venetian style small plates) and an impressive array of handmade pastas.
Opportunity came calling once again in the form of world famous chef Daniel Boulud as he sought out Jim to help rebrand db bistro moderne after a full renovation. Jim worked closely with Chef Boulud to develop a market driven menu that would be the foundation of the re-launch. After leading db bistro to a comfortable level of operations, Jim and his family made the decision to return home to Philadelphia and are currently scouting locations for a new concept to take root.