Jack's Bistro

by Randi Rom

Walk in as a customer-leave as a friend. Jack's Bistro is as warm and inviting as the food is innovative and flavorful. It's located at 3123 Elliott Street in Canton in the spot previously occupied by Doobies. The City Paper named Chef Ted Stelzenmuller the chef with the best sense of humor. And everything about Jack's-the name, décor, ambience and unique menu, reflects his quirky and amusing personality-which sets the tone for the entire dining experience.

Jack's got its name from the late 1970's television comedy Three's Company, a risqué (at the time) show about an irreverent, young, handsome chef named Jack Tripper living with two single women. The bistro lends itself to an air of casual sophistication infused with a touch of retro chic. Upon entering Jack's, there are two focal points. One is the 1902 carved walnut back bar (the property has been a bar since 1932) surrounded by Turkish marble floors and dark wood booths. The second is the open kitchen serving area, which is framed by Peruvian tile, and wainscoting.  The tables feature what Ted characterizes as retro Jetson lamps and the walls showcase original shag art. The antique and retro themes come together to create a cozy, friendly and inviting atmosphere.

Chef Ted's menu as well as the cooking preparation is inventive. He is the only chef in the area to practice the sous-vide (French for "under vacuum"), method of cooking. To maintain integrity, the ingredients are heated for an extended period of time, sometimes well over 24 hours, at relatively low temperatures. Unlike cooking in a slow cooker, sous-vide cooking uses airtight plastic bags placed in hot water well below boiling point (usually around 60°C or 140°F). The crispy pork belly with grilled tomato and mache could be an advertisement for this technique. Another popular item named, "Big Brother's in Trouble Again," offers sashimi tuna perched atop a fish bowl with live fish. The crab cakes, a customer favorite, were served with Japanese purple potatoes and asparagus.

Stelzenmuller supports local farmers and businesses. "I'd rather buy local and independent-any good chef does that," said Ted. To that end, Jack's has a rooftop garden (in a swimming pool) that yields herbs and micro greens. Chef Ted characterizes his food as polarizing-you either love it or hate it.

Stelzenmuller grew up in Rochester, New York but moved to Baltimore after his graduation from the Baltimore International College (BIC) to be close to his mother, who had moved to Towson.

"I was drawn to the culinary field because I'm artistic and this was a creative outlet that allowed me to support myself," said Stelzenmuller. During his time at BIC, he traveled to Ireland to study under two members of Ireland's Olympic Culinary team, Joseph Clinton and Patrick McGee. At the age of 25, he accepted the position of Executive Chef at Gibby's Seafood, one of Maryland's largest privately owned seafood restaurants. At 28, he became Executive Chef at the original Red Fish Restaurant, which was at the height of its popularity. In 2007, he and his mother, Michele Jackson, became partners and opened Jack's, just a few blocks from Ted's home. Chef Ted was a past co-President of the BIC Alumni Association with Chef Daniel J. Hill, of the Main Ingredient in Annapolis and Assistant Director of the Fraternite Gastronomique-an organization of local chefs.

Considered a chef's chef by his peers, Ted has received numerous accolades. The City Paper named his signature pink peppercorn and lavender ice cream as best new dessert. Baltimore Magazine featured him in their Top 50 restaurants edition. The Baltimore Sun called him the most wildly inventive chef in Baltimore, while Style Magazine said he was obsessed with pushing boundaries. He is also featured in The Great Chefs of Baltimore cookbook.

His vision was to be different from other restaurants. "Our menu changes with the weather. We offer a myriad of four-course meals every month featuring cuisines from around the world. Our staff knows our regulars by name as well as what their favorite dishes and drinks are." Chef Ted Stelzenmuller is attracting new friends every night at Jack's Bistro.

Jack's Bistro
3123 Elliott Street
Baltimore, MD  21224

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