Jerry Bourassa, General Manager & Wine Director, CR's The Restaurant, Hampton, NH

Chef Profiles by JoAnn Actis-Grande / August, 2019

A New Hampshire native, Bourassa’s passion for hospitality began when he was in high school, with classes at the Manchester School of Technology Culinary Arts program. He went on to Johnson & Wales University, receiving a BA in Food and Beverage Management, with a concentration in entrepreneurship. He worked at various top restaurants and hotels, including M.C. Perkins Cove in Ogunquit and the W Hotel in Boston, before returning to New Hampshire. At CR’s The Restaurant, Bourassa has created a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence wine list.

When did you become interested in the restaurant world?
During high school, I worked at Mill Town Grille, located at the Manchester Airport, as a dishwasher and prep cook. I remember watching the bartender and wanted to be in his position. This was the start of my passion for the business as a whole.

Did you find your dream job after graduating from Johnson & Wales?
I always told my parents I was going to go see the world, so I joined Norwegian Cruise Line Pride of America, travelling around Hawaii for three months. Great experience, but not for me. It was too confining working on a boat.My first real managing job was for chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier of Arrows in Ogunquit, Maine. I wanted to see what Mark and Clark were all about, so they trained me at Arrows and M.C. Perkins Cove. There I learned upscale dining and great creative dishes. Their attention to detail was very eye opening and helped prepare me for working in a hotel restaurant, where you wear many hats. I was the manager of opening their restaurant Summer Winter in Burlington, Massachusetts. Not only was Summer Winter breakfast/lunch/dinner, but I had to manage room service and a pub.

When did you become focused on wine?
My wife told me Jean-Georges Vongerichten, a Michelin three-star chef, was opening a restaurant in a new hotel called W Boston. I was offered a position as manager. I witnessed Jean-Georges serving food and clearing plates. He leads by example. If there is a job that needs to be done, you do it to get through it.At the W, the GM took me under his wing and really got me involved in tasting wine. We did a list together and were awarded a Wine Spectator Award. My passion for wine was being developed.

Were there other hotel opportunities?
Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier called about me being opening GM of M.C. Spiedo, their new Italian influence restaurant, in the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel by Marriott. I accepted and did my first wine list solo! If I had to do it all over again a 100 percent Italian wine list would not be my first choice. My education of wine just expanded so quickly because it had to.

When did you return to New Hampshire?
Five years ago my wife and I moved back to start a family. CR’s owner Chuck Rolecek was looking for a manager. It was time for me to get the entrepreneurial experience I was looking for. CR’s The Restaurant has taken all the passions that I gained in 12 years and put it in one restaurant. I teach my staff about wine and service every day. We have been awarded the Wine Spectator Award four years in a row (2016 - 2019), and created the best upscale restaurant with a personality.

What is your favorite wine?
I love red blends! Right now the Uriah from Spring Valley Vineyard in Walla Walla Valley, Washington, is what I’m drinking. It is merlot based with other Bordeaux varietals added.

CR’s The Restaurant
287 Exeter Road
Hampton, N.H.

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