Growing up in the small town of Thibodaux, Louisiana in a family that practiced seasonal rituals such as catching catfish, duck hunting, making fig preserves, and cleaning shrimp, Jean-Paul grew up surrounded by vibrant Southern cuisine, prepared by two parents who had a passion for living off the land and cooking with fresh, seasonal ingredients. These early experiences of flavorful food, and the way it brought family and friends together, left their imprint on Jean-Paul, who enrolled at John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University, where he received his Bachelor’s degree. During his time in culinary school, Jean-Paul was selected as one of four lucky students to participate in an exchange program with the Paul Bocuse Institute in Lyon, France. The trip opened his eyes to the richness of French food culture and the seriousness with which they treated their national cuisine.
After completing his formal studies, he worked at Étoile restaurant at the Domaine Chandon winery in Napa and then moved to San Francisco to become opening sous chef at EPIC Roasthouse under Chef Jan Birnbaum. In 2007, finding himself craving a change of pace, Jean-Paul moved to the island of St. Thomas, where he served as sous chef of two local restaurants and developed a true passion for soul food, which played a pivotal role in helping define his vision as a Southern chef.
In early 2009, Jean-Paul decided to return to the U.S., and packed his bags to head to New York City, despite not knowing anyone there and never having visited. Soon after, he joined the Maialino team three months after Union Square Hospitality Group opened the Roman-inspired trattoria in Gramercy Park. Over his four years at Maialino, Jean-Paul was promoted several times, and was named Chef de Cuisine of Gramercy Terrace at The Gramercy Park Hotel in 2013.
In 2014, Jean-Paul became Executive Chef of Blue Smoke Enterprises, which includes Blue Smoke, Jazz Standard and Blue Smoke On The Road.