Bright lights, big kitchens

Jackie made her first forays into New York’s food and dining scene during the “radicchio age.”

Jackie first cooked professionally at the East River Tennis Club.

“My first food service job! Very exciting. I made a selection of salads, and packaged them up and sold them to the ‘ladies who lunch’. Curried chicken salad with mango chutney with raisins and toasted almonds inside—it was all terribly exotic at the time.”

Then she took a serious jump to one of the hottest restaurants in New York at the time. Café Seiyoken.

“I remember walking into Seiyoken that first night to meet the chef, Mitsu Kikuchi. Jaw on the floor! It was the most stunning restaurant I’d ever seen. And an amazing kitchen to work in. Spotless, organized and great food. I was hired and I had dinner there that night. From that moment, I was hooked on fine dining. No drugs or alcohol for me. I’d found my vice!”

Her pursuit of quality food standards wound up jumping her from the kitchen to the manager’s position at Serendipity.

“I went in for a cook’s job and complained about it being so disorganized. They asked me to change it and gave me the back house manager position. What an amazing place! A real institution. Flat out busy from opening to close. It wasn’t just a sea of frozen hot chocolates either. It had its share of glamour too. I managed Chastity Bono’s birthday party and Lorna Luft’s baby shower. Liza Minnelli asked me where the john was. Very glamorous.”

Quite serendipitously too, Jackie discovered the “value” of good food.

“I went out night clubbing after attending the Fancy Food Show at the Javits one night. I had all these product samples in my bag. I offered them to the doormen at the club and discovered they loved sweets. I asked if they liked brownies. They said, “Yes.” The next night I baked a batch and brought them to the club. They loved ‘em, and hence “The Magic Cookie Lady” was born.

The barter system was very much alive in New York night clubs, but Jackie, as “The Magic Cookie Lady” gave it a fresh and comparatively innocent twist.

“I baked every night before I went out and got in everywhere for free. Danceteria, The Mudd Club, Berlin, Heat, Hurrahs. Everyone else bribed them with drugs or carnal favors, but I dared to be different! I even got into clubs where no one knew me. Start handing out chocolate truffles and doors will open. Before he became famous, Keith Haring worked as a busboy at the clubs. He used to say that knowing I was coming with delicious goodies was the only thing that made his job bearable.”

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