J asper White has had a somewhat unorthodox career path. The CIA-trained chef rose to fame in the 1980s, introducing diners to New England cooking at his refined Boston restaurant, Jasper's. In 1991, White won a James Beard award and cemented his reputation as one of the pioneers of American regional cuisine. But 12 years later, he closed Jasper's, taking five years off to write cookbooks.
In 2000, White burst back onto the scene with a new concept: the Summer Shacks, of which there are now three in the Boston area and one in Connecticut. These large, high-octane versions of roadside New England clam shacks serve no-frills, high-quality seafood—local steamers, plump oysters, freshly steamed lobsters. The decor is casual, the atmosphere loud and boisterous, and White is having more fun than ever. "It's about rolling up your sleeves and having a good time," he says, flashing his trademark sly grin.