Jack Riebel Memorial Culinary Scholarship
John Percy Riebel – AKA "Chef Jack" – was proudly born and raised in St. Paul. He discovered his passion for cooking as a teenager and enrolled in culinary school at the St Paul Technical Vocational Institute.
Chef Jack’s restaurant journey began as a 19-year-old prep cook in the brigade of Chef Paul Laubignat at the newly-opened Radisson Plaza in Minneapolis. He was next hired as a line cook at Goodfellow’s, Chef Stephen Pyles’s celebrated new American restaurant. During his eight-year tenure, Jack rose to executive sous under Chef Kevin Cullen, cooking multiple James Beard dinners and serving such luminaries as Julia Child, Billy Joel, and Mikhail Gorbachev.
In his first chef turn, he took the reins of Tim McKee’s fine dining destination, La Belle Vie in Stillwater, Minnesota. Combing the countryside for ingredients, Chef Jack cultivated the relationships with craft purveyors that became a hallmark of his style. He next spearheaded the Dakota Jazz Club’s relocation to its 400-seat Minneapolis home. Artists such as Wynton Marsalis and Hugh Masekela praised Chef Jack’s hospitality, which transformed the Dakota into a dining destination named one of the top ten jazz clubs in the world by Playboy magazine.
Striking out as a co-owner, Chef Jack opened the craft bourbon and barbecue mecca Butcher and the Boar. It quickly became a Minneapolis hotspot, garnering James Beard finalist nods for Best Chef Midwest and Best New Restaurant. After brief turns heading up Paddy Shack and Il Foro, Chef Jack returned to his roots with a reboot of St. Paul’s legendary Lexington. With its lovingly restored interiors and unpretentious classic cuisine, Chef Jack’s vision for the Lex is: "a working-class supper club, the kind of place anyone can go and feel special."
Over nearly 40 years in the restaurant industry, Chef Jack fed, mentored, sparred with, and inspired an entire generation of Twin Cities’ food professionals. He was a fixture at charity events such as Share Our Strength’s Taste of the NFL, a Superbowl-week guest on Beat Bobby Flay, and winner of numerous competitions from the Twin City Burger Fest to Minnesota Monthly’s Local Chef Challenge. A lifelong learner, he spent vacations travelling the world to stage in other kitchens and enjoy fine dining with his wife Kathryne. He amassed a cookbook collection of over 500 volumes, donated to St. Paul College.
Throughout his career, Chef Jack credited the education he received at St Paul under Chefs Eberhard Werthmann, Manfred Krug, and Larry Fisher. He and his family are delighted to establish this scholarship to help remove barriers to educational access for the next generation of young chefs.
A scholarship has been created to honor Chef Jack’s memory and help culinary arts students at Saint Paul College. Please consider a gift today.