Flourishing in the land of Oz, Jackie worked singing in bands, but she couldn’t keep her hands out of the kitchen. She opened the first café, book and music store in Melbourne and turned the locals on to bagels and wonderful American desserts.
“Bagels were in a sorry state when I first arrived in Australia. The impostors were basically baked rolls with holes in the middle. When the first New York-style bagelry opened in Melbourne (they actually flew in a master bagel-maker from New York to teach them the art), at the same time as my café, I put bagels on my menu. I came up with all kinds of unusual fillings and let my customers name each one.
They loved them—well they thought I was mad at first, putting pesto on a sandwich?—but with ham, cream cheese and chives, red onions, tomatoes and melted cheddar they were sold. I created a new breed of dessert junkies, too, baking up American favorites like my spin on Maida Heatter’s East 62nd Street lemon cake, sour cream apple pies and triple-chocolate brownies. They were hooked. Even after I’d left the business, people used to come up to me in the street to ask, “Where can I get that carrot cake?”
Post-café, she started “Jackie Does It,” subcontracting her cooking skills to Melbourne’s finest catering companies.
“I hated the repetition of restaurant cooking. With catering, every day was different and I got to do my favorite thing—throw parties. The caterers really seemed to appreciate me and left me to do my thing flavor-wise. I was like the “caterer to the caterers,” because they’d hire me to teach them American cooking styles or cook for their own parties. I would do the same thing when I was back in New York visiting.”
From the boardrooms to the ballrooms, the races, to the zoo, she fed people. Hoe-downs to high brows. The heights…
“The most unforgettable event for me had nothing to do with the food. I was flown to the job in a helicopter. Over the kaleidoscope of rolling vineyards at harvest time in the Yarra valley. Very glamorous entrance for the chef…”
…to the lows…
“I was helping out on a huge job for one of the city’s most prestigious caterers—a thousand-dollar-a-plate charity dinner for 800 people We’re laying out 80 fruit platters, in an airplane hanger and all of a sudden a wind storm kicks up. One blow and we had dust platters. There was no place to wash the fruit even if we had the time. All eyes went to the head chef. He said, “Serve it.” So we did. Even scarier—not one person complained!”