Jag’s Steak & Seafood is one of West Chester Twp.’s high-end, marquee restaurants, and it is celebrating 20 years in operation this month.
The establishment greeted its first guests at the 5980 West Chester Road location on Jan. 18, 2003.
“It’s a special day. It’s almost emotional, and it’s gone so fast. To think 20 years later, how much we’ve grown, and how much we’re thriving, and how we’ve had an opportunity to make a difference in the community, it’s incredible,” said Michelle Brown, Jag’s chef proprietor and majority owner.
Brown credits the success to her own passion, the staff and community.
“I’ve been given this platform to be able to make a difference in people’s lives, and our community supports us…In turn, we provide them with consistency, and I think that’s the key to any businesses success, is consistency, and it’s something I would definitely say we do well. You know when you come to Jag’s what you’re going to get each time. You know you’re going to get great service, and premier food that’s served hot. Twenty years is unbelievable. I definitely have a smile on my face and I’m proud of the accomplishment we’ve all done together here. It’s amazing,” she said.
Brown, and her husband Bill purchased Jag’s in June of 2015, and she became the majority owner of the restaurant. Marking a new era at Jag’s, she has added her own touches to the restaurant’s decor, private dining offerings and entertainment lineup.
John Allgaier was the majority owner when Jag’s was founded, and George Lang was a minority owner.
“From day one, starting with John Allgaier and myself, we’ve always treated our staff like family, and in turn, they have treated Jag’s like it’s their own. It goes from the longest tenure to a new hire. We pride ourselves in taking care of each other. It’s a great unity, and we have a wonderful staff,” Brown said.
With 80 employees, more than half of the staff members have been employed at Jag’s for more than 10 years. One cook has been on staff since the beginning. Two members of the management team have been with the company for 20 years, along with 10 front-of-house staff members who have been at the restaurant for 20 years. Another 15 staff members have been employed at Jag’s for more than 15 years.
“I have been given the best staff that you could ever ask for,” Brown said.
She described her team as “creative,” “passionate” and “having a servant’s heart.”
Brown also enjoys mentoring other young women in the restaurant business.
“It’s being part of a team, and being able to mentor, and being creative. I love coming to work,” Brown said.
Jag’s also continues to give back to the community. The restaurant has donated food to first responders, raised funds for local foodbanks including Freestore Foodbank and Shared Harvest, and supported Boys and Girls Club of West Chester/Liberty programs and resources through fundraising events. She and her team have led educational sessions, teaching local youth about careers in culinary arts.
Brown’s own journey started prior to Jag’s. When she was growing up, she said the Food Network didn’t exist. She always enjoyed cooking, but it wasn’t until she was in college and took on a role at the Banker’s Club that she started to realize her calling.
“I walked in to clock in on my first day, and walked into a kitchen, which I had never been in, and that was it. I went home and told my parents I wanted to work in a kitchen, and about six months later, I started working in that kitchen, under Chef John York. I cooked for him for four years. He was my mentor, and he’s an amazing chef,” said Brown.
After graduating from college, Brown moved to San Francisco, and while there, she continued to cook, and she said she hasn’t looked back since. After returning home, she took on the role as executive chef at Beckett Ridge Country Club.
“While I was there, John (Allgaier) had a vision for a fine dining establishment in West Chester. He, along with several community leaders, decided to invest in a restaurant and built Jag’s. Unbeknownst to me, I was being scouted at the country club from a lot of these community leaders and was asked to take on the role at Jag’s,” Brown said.
Upon accepting the position, Brown took about three months off. She traveled across the United States, visiting as many steakhouses as she could to determine what they were going to do at Jag’s. She also visited a lot of meat companies and did a lot of research.
“At the time when we opened 20 years ago, I didn’t want to be an ala carte steakhouse. I was more chef-driven. I wanted complete plates. I wanted to present something that not only tasted good but was very beautiful. So, what we did at the time is we created dishes that were chef-driven, and created all-in-one,” Brown said.
Since then, Brown said she’s been through “a lot,” referencing “recession, the pandemic, and a hurricane.”
“Each time we’ve encountered something, I feel like we’ve taken the opportunity, and really embraced it, learned from it and gotten better, particularly, with the pandemic. It really gave us a reset…the pandemic was very hard, and we had to pivot, but we also had a time to reel it in, and focus on what we do well,” Brown said.
Coming out of the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the business is run more efficiently and smarter.
“Spring clean is an understatement of what happened at this restaurant during covid,” she said.
“It really gave us a chance streamline, and that went all the way down to the logistics of our reservations. We had time to look at what we were doing, and how we could maximize what we were doing. We were able to work more efficiently, based on menu changes and menu engineering, and we also got a look-outside-of-the-box in terms of doing things outside of our walls, meaning our curbside, and the things that came along with that, but none of it could have happened without the community and the support we got,” Brown said.
To mark the milestone anniversary, and as a thank you to guests, staff and their community partners, Jag’s has announced a year of unique promotions and experiences.
“We’ve had our biggest year in 2022, in the history of Jag’s,” Brown said. “We’ve done more in sales being open one less day.”
Jag’s 20th anniversary specials will include a “20th Anniversary Sommelier Wine Dinner Series” and a “Jag’s 20th Anniversary Private Bourbon Barrel Select with Weller Full Proof Release,” to name a few.
Jag’s is closed Sundays and Mondays. Guests are seated from 5 to 9 p.m., Tuesdays through Fridays and from 4 to 9 p.m. Saturdays. Go online to jags.com.
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