A native of Palm Beach, Florida, Jason first began cooking at age 15, getting his start at Breakers Hotel. Looking for a new challenge, Jason took a job at Campton Place at age 24, working for then-chef Laurent Manrique. A year later, Daniel Humm took over as executive chef, and quickly made Jason his executive sous chef. When Campton Place received four stars from The San Francisco Chronicle it attracted big-city restaurateur Danny Meyer, who lured Chef Humm to Eleven Madison Park in Manhattan. Charged with remaking Eleven Madison into a flagship restaurant, Humm insisted Mr. Meyer bring Jason as well.
Together they set to ushering in a new era of fine dining within Danny Meyer’s hospitality empire. After six years of working under Daniel Humm, Jason left the post of Executive Sous Chef to become the Executive Chef of Seattle’s landmark Canlis Restaurant. Having helped transform Eleven Madison Park, placing it on the forefront of Manhattan’s dining scene, Franey set a new course: make 60 year-old Canlis in Seattle the city’s preeminent food destination. After only two years, Jason was named one of Food & Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs and The People’s Best New Chef Northwest. In 2012 and 2013, he was a finalist for the James Beard Best Chef: Northwest award. Jason is Canlis Restaurant’s fifth-ever executive chef in 63 years.
What was your most moving culinary experience?
In the fall of 2007 I travelled to Alba, Italy and had one of the most incredible meals of my life at a place called Da Cesare. It was lunchtime, in a beautiful old home on a mountaintop, in the company of my three best friends.
We walked in to find a goat rotating over an open spit, filling the air with smells of roasting meat and dried herbs. The whole operation (lunch service for thirty people) was run solely by chef Cesare Giaccone and one other woman: an impressive feat pulled off in a magical way. What stands out in my memory was a perfect hare salad with pomegranate, a stunning polenta with egg and white truffles and a sabayon cooked in a copper pot.
What was the most amusing kitchen incident you’ve ever witnessed?
Years ago, we had a dish on the menu that was comprised of chicken with thinly sliced black truffles that were visible under the translucent skin.
One afternoon, one of our newest cooks accidentally used white truffles instead of black, wrecking the dish and tripling it’s cost. Understandably, the chef went ballistic. Though definitely not funny at the time, in retrospect it was a classic and hilarious moment for learning.
Your best piece of advice for amateur chefs?
Find a chef that you respect and stick with them. Absorb their philosophy and techniques. Invest in them and they’ll invest in you. Though it might help your resume to work in a ton of different kitchens, it doesn’t help your character. True learning can only come from time, discipline, and perseverance.