Jacob schooled at Westminster and studied at St Johns, Cambridge. He was nearly a biologist (representing Britain in the International Science Olympiad and interning on developmental research on sea squirts at Haifa university), nearly a glassblower (studied at London Glassblowing Workshop and winning a contract for the Conran Shop), and for some time a semi-professional DJ and percussionist (performing at Heaven and Up! In London, and Fag Fridays at the EndUp in San Francisco).
His first love, however, was eating - and subsequently cooking. Eventually he fell into the cauldron at Moro (London, Exmouth Market), and Boulevard (Mission St, San Francisco).
He benefited from the mentorship of Sam and Sam Clark and Nancy Oakes respectively, and assisted with their various cookbooks until starting to work on his own ventures. He is described by Sam Clark of Moro as ‘a formidable presence in the kitchen’ and by Nancy Oakes of Boulevard as ‘the most gifted natural cook I have worked with’.
He travels often to Italy, and spent a year in giro d’Italia with Victor Hugo – the two opened Bocca di Lupo together in 2008 and Gelupo in 2010. Victor has since retired, and Jacob opened his latest venture, Plaquemine Lock, in 2017. He has written three cookbooks: The Geometry of Pasta, Bocca: Cookbook, and Gelupo Gelato. He offers creative and operational consultancy, previous and current clients include The Mexican Embassy, The Royal Opera House and Langham Hotels, as well as ambassadorship for select food and lifestyle brands.
He oversees day-to-day activity at Bocca di Lupo, directs the menu and recipe development with Jake Simpson, leads creative direction at Gelupo and buys (and drinks) our wines with Phill Morgan. He lives in London with husband David and their young son, Dylan, who already thinks Gelupo is his.
About haidee and her art
Haidee Becker, chef/patron Jacob’s mum, was born in Los Angeles in 1950. In 1952 the Beckers left Hollywood and settled in Rome. Young Haidee grew up Palazzo Caetani, a patrician family palazzo, where she wandered Alice-like down hidden corridors, along vast rooms with murals by Guiciardini and Poussin, sometimes surprising the Prince and Princess Caetani at tea with their cousin Tom (aka TS. Eliot). The Beckers established a marionette theatre on the premises. Virginia Campbell created and directed the marionettes, while John Becker supplied the scripts. Young Haidee stood without, looking through an open door at a candle-lit scene full of strange and eccentric personalities. Those who came included Alice B. Toklas, Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronin, Alexander Calder, Diana Cooper, Aaron Copeland, John Cheever, W. H. Auden, Karen Blixen, Dick and Mickey Fleischer, Robert Graves, and Frederico Fellini.
So entranced was Fellini that he offered Haidee’s mum, Virginia Campbell Becker (and her marionettes) a role in his new film inspired by the scene, La Dolce Vita, even though she declined, he based the moral centre of the film, the Steiners, on Famiglia Becker. The doll-like portrait to the right of Marcello's head is by Virginia (as are all the striking paintings in the set), is of young Haidee. Steiner says of the boy in the scene (aka Haidee’s brother): "When he hears something interesting he pauses to think, then he bursts out laughing in delight. For instance, he'll examine a flower very carefully, then he'll laugh, because he understands it." If John Becker had said this of his own daughter he would have to be called a prophet.
The family moved to Vienna and then to London where Haidee studied under Sophie Wysotska, Anthony Whishaw and Leah Gibson, Herta Kötner, studied with Elizabeth Keys, Uli Nimptsch, and Adrian Ryan. She was married to cellist David Kenedy – and together their hands stirred the tomato sauce that besmeared young Jacob’s face and seeped into his soul. She lives and paints today in London, her work is in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, and she is regularly exhibited at leading galleries in the UK and USA. It is her work that graces our walls, at Bocca di Lupo – a permanent triptych in the dining room, the chefs group portrait on the stairs, the garfish in the window, and the ever-changing canvases on our other walls.
Haidee’s is represented by Patrick Bourne & Co. The text above is extracted from a piece by Clive Sinclair.
At the end of a meal, when we have the energy, we play Posso. A hypercharged rummy, it finishes the work our dinner started – bringing us together around a table, even though at times it may threaten to drive us apart. Alfred brought the game to us, having learnt it from a group of Franciscan nuns in California, in particular one Sister Ruth, who apparently always carried a gun to the table. It is played in a series of ten hands. In each hand one more card is dealt than in the previous. By hand six or seven you may find yourself holding more than half a deck in an ill-formed fan. The full rules for Posso are available here.