Meet Jacquelyn Pittman: Hospitality Guru

By KD Reep

Jacquelyn and her children Jack and Phoebe make cannolis at The Pizzeria. Photo by Beth Hall.

Jacquelyn and her children Jack and Phoebe make cannolis at The Pizzeria. Photo by Beth Hall.

If you want to see the future of food and hospitality in Little Rock, look to Jacquelyn Pittman. A culinary professional and artist for decades, Jacquelyn is investing her talent, time, earnings and passion in the food scene of Arkansas’ capital city.

A native of Little Rock, Jacquelyn and her husband, Jeremy, opened the Pizzeria at Terry’s Finer Foods last year. The Pizzeria serves Mario Acunto-wood oven pizza and is a full-service bar inside Little Rock’s oldest neighborhood grocery store. While Jacquelyn makes food her life now, her original career goals were a different type of service.

“I began my freshmen year at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville in pre-med,” she says. “I believe I would have loved that career path if I had stayed that course, but after my first year in college, I decided to spend a year living in Mexico exploring the culture. I landed at Cafe des Artistes, and it was there I truly discovered my love for the culinary industry. I love people, I'm a night owl, I love to eat and drink, and the culture of this industry fascinates me. The energy that a full and lively establishment generates is magnificent. It’s also challenging so it keeps me interested. This industry is tough, and it requires you to keep one step ahead to succeed. It's ever evolving so boredom is rare."

Before opening the Pizzeria, Jacquelyn and her husband ran a catering company, Palette, for 12 amazing years. In addition to the Pizzeria, Jacquelyn manages RH Cuisine as well as Cache Restaurant, led by Payne Harding. Currently, they are working on building RH Catering, which is led by Tim Morton. Their overall goal with all their ventures is to work with the Little Rock community to expand and build amazing hospitality concepts.  

“We have seen tremendous growth in the past 10 years, and I'm looking forward to being a part of the future of the city I was born and raised in,” Jacquelyn says. “I live to share my love for entertaining with others. I ‘hosted’ more high school parties than I should have, but the lifelong friendships were worth the trouble I got into. Who doesn't love a great party? Every night in the restaurant industry is a party for someone, and I look forward it every day. I began my culinary career at 19 in the kitchen of the most talented chef I have ever worked with, Thierry Blouet. His restaurant, Cafe des Artistes in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, is a gastronomic masterpiece. It is the foundation of my career and a world-class establishment that I base my standards on. If you get the opportunity to experience it, I highly recommend the visit.”

When not running restaurants and catering companies, Jacquelyn raises daughter Phoebe, 6, and son Jack, 4, while wrangling Lily and Fletcher, the Pittmans’ two dogs. The glue of their family, Jacquelyn says, is her mom, Beth.

“We live in the Heights neighborhood in the same house I grew up in,” Jacquelyn says. “My family purchased the house in 1989, and while it’s surreal to raise my children in the home I was raised in, I could not be more grateful for it. My mom’s house is in Hot Springs on Lake Hamilton but she spends most of her time with us. I could not juggle all that I do without her, and our children are lucky to have her unconditional love. I am constantly in awe of her selflessness.”

Jacquelyn says being a mom has improved her career and given her the drive to demonstrate what hard work can achieve. “I want my children to be proud of what they do,” she says. “I believe we are setting that example for them. As cliche as it sounds, my kids make me a better person because they allow me to see my flaws through their actions. My family is very patient with me and supports me fully. Without that, I wouldn't be where I am today.”

Her advice for other moms who must balance home, career and interests is to unplug—literally and physically.

“I appreciate I can work while I’m not at work, but because of smartphones and tablets and wifi, I am literally always ‘at work.’ I could stand to have a bit better balance, but I love what I do so it's tough to take breaks. I’ve learned that you cannot connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking back. Every single step I have taken along my path has led me to bigger and better things. All of the decisions you make, good and not so good, are the right ones; you just can't always see that in the moment.”