Jacques la Merde Revealed at Puritan & Co. as Canadian Chef Christine Flynn
A year into @ChefJacqueslaMerde’s zany project—Instagram shots of meticulous plates featuring ingredients like slivered Hot Pockets, vanilla Activia, and Doritos soil, captioned exuberantly with caps lock and gratuitous exclamation points—the genius behind the handle revealed her true identity last night during a dinner at Cambridge’s Puritan & Co., coinciding with her national unveiling on Top Chef.
Before the switch to quick-service, Flynn was in Massachusetts. She helped open the Lumber Yard in Amherst, helmed the kitchen at Sconset Café on Nantucket’s eastern tip, and volunteered for years at the island’s annual Wine Festival.
“I started to get a little burnt out,” she says of her decision to step away from the fine dining world. “I just thought, what am I really bad at? Eating kale and food costs. So, I found the job I would be the worst at and said I’m going to own it.”
“And if I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t be doing [la Merde], because I was like, ugh, I’m so tired of salad,” she says.
Thus, Chef Jacques la Merde was born. Anonymous from the outset, the account followed a trove of Boston-based chefs, including Puritan & Co. chef/owner Will Gilson, Alden & Harlow chef/owner Michael Scelfo, and Harvest pastry chef Brian Mercury, longtime friends from Flynn’s Nantucket Wine Festival days.
“But it also followed, like, Thomas Keller, so I was like, ‘How do we all fit into this?’” Gilson recalls. “Last spring [at the festival], she was like, ‘It’s me.’ It was the coolest thing I ever heard.”
The chefs started talking about organizing a collaboration, but ultimately decided to wait until her Top Chef reveal. Keeping the secret for so long was a challenge, Gilson says.
To a soundtrack of 70s and 80s jams, six courses, including a delectable Big Mac tartare by Toronto chef Jonny O’Callaghan; sour cream and onion potato chip gnocchi with Boyardee coulis by Gilson; and angel food cake with Tang, Gatorade, and Pop Rocks by Craig Williams of Coppersmith, the feast was not your typical night at Puritan & Co.
“This is so not the type of food that we do here, or any of these cooks do at their restaurants,” Gilson says.“It’s really easy to make garbage food and have it look cool, but to have it taste good and it’s fun, it was a lot of work.”
His favorite part of the last year with la Merde? How supportive the chef is of others in the industry.
“If you look, he’ll comment on other people’s feeds, like, ‘BRO, YOU’RE REALLY TYIN IT IN THERE !!!!’ It’s such an industry where people are hating on everybody all the time. It’s really kind of refreshing,” he says.
Flynn herself has also felt great support through the Jacques la Merde project. “I joke about my Brolodex, but I’m just as excited to have built a pretty great Fempire in the last 12 months,” she says. “Thanks for laughing along with me.”
There’s another chance to meet the woman behind @ChefJacqueslaMerde locally this weekend: Catch her in the Coppersmith food trucks on Saturday.