San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Long Islander Here to Stay

GROWING up in rural, southeasternLong Island in the late 1960s, BarbaraBurckhardt says she developed an earlyappreciation for fresh, seasonal produceand the bounty of fish and seafood in thesurrounding bays. After training intensivelyat the New York Restaurant School(now the Art Institute of New York City) inManhattan, she spent the next 22 yearsworking in New York-area restaurants,cooking, serving and being a barmaid.“I learned the front of the house as wellas the kitchen. And you need to know bothto run a restaurant,” says Burckhardt. Sheprefers to call herself a restaurateur ratherthan a chef – a title she regards as a bit pretentiousand often misused.The other key to running a successfulrestaurant, she says, is having an eagle eyefor detail, both in the dining room and thekitchen. In designing Jade Luna, shethought of diners’ comfort first. The tableshave center pedestals so people won’t knock their knees against a tableleg. The wooden chairs are designed with low backs to provide back support.From the elegant, imported flatware to the stylish saltshakers andpepper mills, she carefully chose everything that appears on the tables.You can watch Burckhardt and her kitchen staff through a decorativeiron screen, putting the finishing touches on each plate in the open kitchen.But, as in all fine restaurants, much of the work is in the prep, long beforecustomers arrive.Burckhardt spares no effort in doing everything right. When the boxesof fresh herbs arrive on the bus from San José, she and her crew promptlywash, dry, chop and flash-freeze them. Mornings and afternoons, she isbusy preparing stocks, ice creams and pastry.All this attention to detail uses up a lot of energy and money. ButBurckhardt is determined to keep her standards high. She has 10 locals onher staff, most of whom had no experience before she started trainingthem. She is definitely here for the long haul. The restaurant is actually anextension of her home, and her six-year-old daughter Jade, for whom therestaurant is named, is loving her free-wheeling life in Puerto Jiménez,free from big-city constraints.Jade Luna is here to stay, and food lovers in Puerto Jiménez are overthe moon about it.

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