La Belle Helene Names New Executive Chef
Five things to know about Jim Stouffer
ON MAY 6, Jim Stouffer quietly stepped into the role of executive chef at La Belle Helene, uptown’s classic French brasserie concept. He was previously executive chef at Halcyon, Flavors from the Earth, where dishes like rabbit saddle and seared Foie Gras showcased his background in French cuisine and European cooking.
Now the 44-year-old father of two is slowly refining La Belle Helene’s menu—with an emphasis on slow. He’s taking his time to learn and develop the stations of a traditional French kitchen that include a rotisserie, a garde manger (where salads are prepared), and a patisserie, before officially taking the lead in the kitchen later this month. Here are five more things to know about Stouffer.
He’s not into trends. After more than two decades working in kitchens, culinary trends don’t interest this chef. “People like what they like,” he says. “You can wow people with trends, but they don’t last. I favor solid cooking and clean flavors.” You won’t find him on social media, either—it’s another trend he can’t get behind.
He’s in no rush to overhaul La Belle Helene’s menu. Right now, his focus is on managing his kitchen, not reinventing his blue cheese soufflé. “There’s a psychology to working in a kitchen; you have to be emotionally privy to who is in it, and I don’t push my kitchen beyond the current talent level,” he says. “I work with what I have and push it slowly, so this will be a slow change. It’s harder to make immediate changes that will stick.” But he is looking forward to working with pastry chef McKinzie Spence. Expect more savory pastries on entrée plates in addition to the sweet varieties.
He loves ethnic food. “I like to eat what I’m not familiar cooking,” Stouffer says. “I love the gravies in Indian cuisine, I love a good ramen bowl, and Mexican food, always.” On this day off, though, he prefers to fast. “After consuming so much rich food, it’s good to reset. I’ll just have a Kefir in the morning and drink water all day. I try to stay healthy because it’s so easy in this industry to snowball.”
He’s big on action sports. When he’s not in the kitchen, he loves mountain biking and skateboarding. “I grew up on skateboards and snowboards; my whole family is avid on riding boards, and I’ve been doing it in Colorado since I was born.” He recently got certified in Montana for backcountry touring and avalanche safety, too.
His guilty pleasure is extended vacations. “I believe in that European philosophy,” he says. “They take long breaks in the winter and summer, so I try to adopt that.” On a recent trip to Lyon, France, he says he gained a renewed appreciation for this mentality—and for clean, classic flavors. “It was so comforting to see a culture consume non-trend food,” he says. “Just flavorful, aesthetically pretty, and solid.”