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Jacob Baskes: student chef extraordinaire

December 6, 2019

The other night, I had the immense pleasure of eating a meal cooked by Jacob Baskes ’20, a fantastic chef and the most eligible bachelor at Bowdoin. Jacob and I have been friends since our first year when we both joined the frisbee team. The same year, he spearheaded a team dinner. He got permission from the residents of Howell to use their kitchen and made gourmet tacos—outshining the rest of our dishes with ease.

Jacob’s love of cooking comes from his family; he learned to cook from his mother, who made dinner most nights during his childhood. In middle school, he even cooked for the family from time to time.

Holidays, especially Thanksgiving, were a production in the Baskes household. Jacob took inspiration from the dishes his relatives prepared on those special occasions, such as paella and Thai basil chicken. He loves the social aspect of cooking.

“The joy of cooking, to me, is that it creates a celebration with food at the center,” he said.

Cooking is just one of Jacob’s many hobbies. He is a triathlete and recently competed in the Lobsterman Triathlon. He is also an expert guitar player; later this year he will play in a secret show with some of Bowdoin’s best musicians (wouldn’t you like to know where). Jacob compares cooking to making music. For him, both include a good deal of improvisation, since he does not cook from recipes. He prefers to try out his own combinations of flavors. A good dish of food, like a good piece of music, should be “symphonic,” Jacob explained.

TIME TO EAT: Jacob Baskes ’20 finds time to craft intricate and delicious dishes for his friends and family at home and at Bowdoin.

“I really enjoy taking the raw ingredients and transforming them into a beautiful meal that people can enjoy,” Jacob said. “It’s one of the best uses of three hours I can imagine.”

Jacob makes time to cook at Bowdoin as well; he is on the 14 meal plan, largely because he likes to socialize in the dining halls. He often cooks for his friends on special occasions. Last year he cooked an eight-course meal in a Brunswick Apartment kitchen for eight of his friends featuring coconut carrot soup, pan-seared sumac salmon and steak with roasted bok-choy, bacon fat-tomato sauce, gooseberries and crispy farro.

“When you’re doing something like that, timing is the hardest part,” he said.

While making dinner for me, Jacob pulled sliced sweet potatoes from the oven, causing the house’s overly sensitive fire alarm to go off. He rushed over to the alarm and waved a towel at it until it died, adding the finishing touches to each dish, he plated them and brought them to the dining room table.

There were two courses. The first was a cut of duck, pan-seared with smoked paprika then baked for 45 minutes in the oven. Jacob poured a shallot, sherry and red wine sauce over the duck; he served it alongside crumbled pecans and leaks propped upright and filled with a beet and cocoa puree. The second was a Mediterranean-inspired roasted vegetable dish with sliced sweet potatoes, red onions and broccoli stalk, served with tahini sauce, lemon, parsley, za’atar and, to add brightness, pomegranate.

I tried the duck first. It was extremely tender, perfect for a cold fall night and perked up by the tart flavor of the sauce. The leeks were cool and delicate. The Mediterranean-inspired roasted vegetable dish complemented the duck perfectly, offering a milder flavor palate while remaining warm and rich.

Jacob does not plan to cook professionally after Bowdoin, but he does plan to cook for himself and his family in the future. He dreams of one day owning a small restaurant and coffee shop in Chicago. It would serve a small tasting menu at night and fresh pastries and healthy breakfast bowls in the morning, along with coffee.

Jacob Baskes is a fantastic chef, a talented individual and a good friend. He relishes cooking, racing, playing guitar and making people laugh, not because he is competitive or ambitious, but because of the intrinsic joy he finds in doing those things. He encouraged me to tell my readers that he would like to cook for you, as long as you pay him back for ingredients.

You can follow Jacob Baskes on Instagram @Jacobaskes.


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  1. Anon says:

    Is this what content at the the orient has come to? Writing pieces about friends and talking about their friendship? It seems like journalistic nonsense and a true stretch.

    • Nathan Blum, Friend says:

      Is this what the comment section of the orient has come to? Claiming friendship isn’t interesting, or important for journalists to acknowledge? Hiding behind anonymity?

    • Anon says:

      No, it is a place for people to point out a rediclious piece when they see it. (And for the orient to sensor whatever they don’t like). It’s great that these guys are friends, it’s great that Jacob Baskes cooks good food, this article isn’t great. It shows that a) the orient has so little to work with b) finals are really catching up with the content managers or c) the orient celebrated the end of the semester this past thursday

    • TGP '20 says:

      It is rediclious that the orient has so little to work with–I agree! The fighting/brawling quota should be upped from once per week to twice. Someone better start making some news around this campus (bring back the Portland teens!), lest we continue to be inundated with puff pieces like Donaldson’s (does Baskes do puff pastry? Perhaps a future article…).

    • Concerned Alumni says:

      Dear Anon,

      It seems that caught up in your bitterness about life and visceral urge to hurt the feelings of students, you made several spelling and grammar errors. First, it’s “ridiculous,” not “rediclious”?Almost all internet machines have some sort of autocorrect, so I’m honestly confused as to how that one slipped through. Moreover, Orient is a proper noun, and should be capitalized. Just because you don’t like an organization, that doesn’t mean you get to rewrite the rules of the English language. Finally, sensors are objects which detect things, to censor something is to suppress it.

      Disappointed beyond measure,

  2. Concerned Alumni says:

    Dear Will,

    You seem to have a nice friendship with Jacob. However, other than being a glorified Tinder profile for your friend, this article seems to have little purpose. In the first sentence, you call him “the most eligible bachelor at Bowdoin,” making clear right away that this is not a serious column, but a clumsy attempt to play wingman. You continue with a description of Jacob’s hobbies and interests that sounds like his list of activities on the Common App, interspersed with generic character descriptions. For instance, you write that Jacob “likes to socialize in the dining halls.” If I may I ask, who at Bowdoin does not like to socialize in the dining halls? Perhaps worst of all were your oddly sensual descriptions of food. The almost pornographic language regarding “extremely tender” duck “perked up by the tart flavor of the sauce” made me deeply uncomfortable. Will, if you are thinking about a career in journalism, I must strongly advise you to reconsider.

    Tragically uninspired and insidiously disarmed,

  3. Sydney Billingsley says:

    I wonder why I don’t trust Will Donaldson’s judgement to be meritocratic in any way shape or form

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