Jackie Bullio, 33, is executive chef at Encore Boston Harbor’s On Deck Burger Bar. Bullio attended Johnson & Wales University and went on to an internship at Nantucket’s Straight Wharf; for the past three years, she was sous chef at Hingham’s Scarlet Oak Tavern. But now, she says, she’s landed her dream job.
“I’ve wanted to work for Encore for six years. I waited for this job. I followed it. It was glamorous,” she says. “I’d never worked in a casino, and for me, there was career growth.”
What’s the first restaurant that you ever visited in Boston?
I was very young at the time, but it was Durgin-Park in 1990. I was maybe 4 or 5 years old. I had to go into Boston for surgery, and it was where we chose to go with my parents and both of my grandparents.
What’s one thing you’d like to fix about the restaurant industry here?
I think career development is a priority, because there are so many young and aspiring chefs, and it’s really important for those chefs to understand that it takes a number of years to get where they’re aspiring to be. It doesn’t just happen right after culinary school, as most of us wanted it to. I think it’s also a priority for restaurants, even corporate restaurants, to work on their career development and education.
What other restaurants do you visit?
Lately, there’s Fishermen’s View, a couple years old, in Sandwich. It’s two brothers who have a fishing company, and they use the product that they bring in. The menu is great. You can get anything from littleneck clams to fish and chips to salmon — anything you want. They have a little bit of sushi on the menu. You know whatever they’re using is incredibly fresh.
What’s your earliest food memory that made you think: I want to work in restaurants?
I grew up in the kitchen with my mother, from the time I could stand on a chair and help her roll meatballs for tomato sauce. I grew up in a big Italian family. Tomato sauce is something we always had in the fridge. Meatballs, sausage, whatever would go in there. Holiday dinners were a big thing. You realized early on that [food] brings people together and makes people very happy, so it was a lead-in to me taking this career. The sauce was repetition, doing it over and over. It didn’t always have the same flavor profile every time. It’s utilizing what you have in the fridge. If you have a ham hock, throw it in. Extra chicken breast? Throw it in. I can remember when red wine was my mom’s thing; that went into the sauce. Then white wine was her thing; that went into the sauce. It’s more about the love you put into it.
What’s the worst restaurant experience you’ve ever had?
I don’t know that I truly have a worst, but it’s disappointing when you’re not catered to, whether it’s a diner or high-end. … Just recently, I went to a restaurant alone, was sitting at the bar, and it literally took them half an hour to get my check to me. I think chefs in particular are lenient, but some things are excessive.
How could the Boston food scene improve?
Keep up the support of local fishmongers, farmers, butchers. There’s always the big guys for foods for certain things, but you lose connections with the local, the artisanal, and the quality is going to go down. We need to make sure we don’t lean heavily on big purveyors and keep the smaller guy in business.
How has the restaurant scene changed since you first arrived in Boston?
I think we’re losing some of the smaller properties. I think everything is going to big corporations, and even though Encore is a big corporation, it’s important for the smaller companies to stake their claim.
Name three adjectives for Boston diners.
Curious, eclectic, adventurous.
What’s the most overdone trend right now?
That’s a tough one! Truthfully, as much as I love it, the casual Italian scene has taken over. People love their shrimp scampi and their veal parm and chicken parm, but I think casual Italian cuisine is too overdone.
What type of restaurant is Boston missing?
I personally would love to see something deep in the roots of Spanish cuisine. I love paella and cannot find it anywhere.
What are you reading?
When I go home, I’m done for the day! Sorry about that one.
How’s your commute?
I moved for this job. I was living in Brockton at the time that I accepted it. My first interview, I knew I couldn’t make this 28-mile commute. Now I’m less than a mile from the casino; I still leave about 45 minutes prior to my shift starting. I drive. I live in Everett.
What’s the one food you never want to eat again?
Oh, I could take that back to my culinary school days! I had to eat a 100-year-old egg, a fermented egg. It was horrible.
What’s your most missed Boston restaurant?
Probably a place I worked at: the Oyster Cabin in Uxbridge. I did my internship there out of culinary school. It wasn’t a forever job for me, but the food was phenomenal.
Who was your most memorable customer?
I was a line cook. I worked at Straight Wharf for my culinary internship, and I remember the day [Aerosmith singer] Steven Tyler came into the restaurant. A lot of people were running around like crazy. The executive chef asked me to run across the street to the grocery store to grab some root beer, and we made him a special root beer float. People were sneaking around trying to catch a glimpse of Steven Tyler having dinner!
If you had to eat your last meal in Boston, what would it be?
It would probably be No. 9 Park. I’m a huge fan of Barbara Lynch. Her prune-stuffed gnocchi with foie gras sauce is to die for.