Jackie Shen left her native Hong Kong at age 17 to take advantage of a college scholarship in Ottumwa, Iowa. In 1973, the following year, she moved to Houston, Texas to attend the hotel-management school at the University of Houston. After graduation in 1976, she moved to the Chicago Ritz-Carlton in the Hancock Building, where she met her husband Pierre Etcheber, who also happened to be the wine steward for Great Chef Jean Banchet’s Le Français. Chef Banchet later hired her to work in his new La Mer Restaurant.
In 1982, Chef Jackie had opened her own restaurant, Jackie’s, where she was soon regarded as the Queen of Fusion. Great Chefs showed up in 1985 to tape her for their PBS series, Great Chefs of Chicago. Her featured dish, which was to become famous later on, was her Chocolate Basket.
Thirteen years was long enough, so in 1995 she closed Jackie’s and went to work for Richard Frank who had just opened a Lawry’s Restaurant in an old marionette theatre in downtown Chicago. In 2002, Rich Melman hired her to open his Red Light (Lantern) restaurant on the west side of town and in 2011, Matty Moore appointed her as his executive chef for his new Chicago Cut Steakhouse on the Chicago River.
In 2012, she moved to New Buffalo, Michigan to help a friend open a restaurant called Stray Dog, but that burned down, so in 2014, Chef Jackie opened her own Jackie’s Café down the street, where she remains today.