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Jasper White, Boston culinary legend, has died at the age of 69

Jasper White, Boston's pioneering chef who put the city on the national culinary map in the 1980s, passed away on Saturday, May 11. He suffered a fatal brain aneurysm at the age of 69.

White's influence on Boston's restaurant scene is indelible. A New Jersey native, the chef graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 1976 and cooked in cities across the country before settling in Boston in the early 1980s. Early in his career, White worked with another well-known Boston chef, Lydia Scheer, first at the Biltmore Plaza restaurant in Providence and then at restaurants in several Boston hotels, including Copley Plaza, Parker House Hotel and Bostonian Hotel.

"Jasper was the smartest and kindest man I have ever known", Scheer said in a statement on White's passing. "I cannot understand why such a healthy and viable man - now working to haul oysters early in the morning for fun, three days a week during the season - has been taken from us. It is very unfair. I love him very much and will miss him always".

White opened the award-winning Jasper restaurant in 1983 and ran it successfully for the next 12 years. According to former restaurant critic Alison Arnett, he was recognized as one of the chefs who defined "New American" cuisine nationally and won the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Northeast in 1991. He eschewed French haute cuisine traditions to highlight seasonal New England dishes, including new, inventive versions of fish chowder and pan-roasted lobster, which was a favorite of famed culinary figure Julia Child. "It was the first fancy restaurant in town that didn't try to be French", former food editor Cheryl Julian writes in her memoir of the chef.

White closed Jasper's in 1995 because he didn't want to mess around with running a restaurant near the decades-old Big Dig construction site. He went on to write several cookbooks and worked as a consultant for Legal Sea Foods. Then, in 2000, he returned to the restaurant business, opening Summer Shack, an inexpensive restaurant in Cambridge. The seafood shack was an opportunity for the public to sample White's cuisine without the trappings of white tablecloths. In 2001, it was nominated for a James Beard Award for best new restaurant. In 2017, White sold Summer Shack to local restaurant company Lyons Group, which now operates three locations in Alewife, Back Bay and inside the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut.

"We are absolutely devastated by the loss of Jasper. He was a true pioneer of Boston's culinary scene and a mentor to so many of us", Lyons Group said in a statement. "The impact Jasper had on the restaurant industry will live on forever. We will miss him greatly".

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