Willie Degel Bio

William "Jack" Degel, owner of New York’s Uncle Jack's Steakhouse chain and Jack's Shack all-natural eatery — and star of the new Food Network series Restaurant Stakeout — developed his entrepreneurial spirit at an early age by working to help fund the parochial school education his parents demanded of their sons. As the youngest of four boys, Willie learned at a young age the importance of hard work and the value of taking risks.

In his early twenties, Willie began working as a bartender. His charismatic personality was perfect for such a role. So when the opportunity arose for him to open a bar, a shuttered Flushing, Queens, saloon, he took the chance and partnered with his brother and opened his own establishment, Cocktails. The bar was a big success and ultimately became the platform that catapulted his dream of opening an "Uncle Jack's" into a reality.

Willie grew up enlivened by tales of the steakhouse and speakeasy his late godfather owned in the 1920s, known as Jack's. Willie's dream was to re-create the traditional ambiance and flair of this well-known celebrity and socialite mainstay that was once a prominent restaurant located on the West Side of Manhattan.

His dream came to fruition 18 years ago with his first Uncle Jack's. He personally designed the restaurant's interior and the menu reflecting his fervent, spirited style. He produced a beautiful 1890s prohibition-style Victorian saloon in Bayside, N.Y., with hand-carved mahogany bar and walls, copper pressed ceilings and Old World charm. He elevated the restaurant's service to a five-star standard and instilled the motto "Customer is king."

His new concept required every cent he earned and saved, and then some. His personal sacrifice and hard work paid off and was an instant success. Everyone from Rudy Giuliani to sports stars and celebrities had to "get a taste" of Uncle Jack's Steakhouse. Customer demand prompted a retail and mail-order business of homemade family recipes that launched the Uncle Jack's Steakhouse sauce collection (Steak Sauce, Hickory Wood BBQ and Sesame Soy Teriyaki ) sold in his restaurants, gourmet shops and many supermarkets.

Over the next few years, he built two more Uncle Jack's locations in Manhattan. The first establishment located on 9th Ave, in Hell's kitchen, was thought to be a dead zone. Willie saw it as a location that held great potential and he felt that the area would begin to thrive again. Once he opened his doors, regular visits from Manhattanites, international tourists, executives, sports fans going to Madison Square Garden and celebrities started to frequent Uncle Jack's.

With two Uncle Jack's thriving, it wouldn't be long before he opened his third location in Midtown. A step away from the fashion and theater district, this beautiful location sits in the midst of Times Square, the hub of New York City.

As the Uncle Jack's name grew, so did Willie's popularity. He was nominated for the Ernst & Young award and featured in Crain's "Forty under Forty" as one of New York's rising stars.

His latest endeavor is the all-natural eatery he opened in his neighborhood called Jack's Shack. The concept was to provide a nutritious, delicious and fast way to grab a bite to eat by creating a menu that was unique and versatile. The food served uses natural, organic ingredients that can be enjoyed by anyone who wants a healthy meal. Customers experience the ambiance, the music, the aromas and a vibe like no other. Willie personally helped build the space using recycled materials, such as old reclaimed barn wood from Kansas, to create more than a restaurant — it's a laid-back lifestyle that Mother Earth would be proud of.

A proud and devoted father and a self-proclaimed family man, Willie takes time each day to spend with his wife and three children. It is the support and love of his family that inspires him each day. They are the foundation that he builds upon. Fans can keep up with Willie on Twitter @WillieDegel.

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Marc Murphy Bio

Ask Chef Marc Murphy where he grew up and he'll fire off a list of cosmopolitan destinations — Milan, Paris, Villefranche, Washington, D.C., Rome and Genoa — "and that's before I turned 12," he’ll explain. This dizzying list of hometowns served as an excellent education in French and Italian cuisine, though as a teenager this was not his first passion. When the reality hit that he didn't have the funds to become a professional racecar driver, Marc followed his brother to the Institute of Culinary Education. After graduation he apprenticed at restaurants in France and Italy before returning to New York, where he landed a job as a line cook at Terrance Brennan's Prix Fixe. He stayed there for almost two years, working his way through every station in the kitchen and forging a professional bond with Brennan’s Sous Chefs Joseph Fortunato and David Pasternak. Eager to return to Europe, Marc flew to Paris and landed a position at the one-star Le Miraville, where he stayed for one-and-a-half years. Afterward, he staged at the famed Louis XV in Monte Carlo, where Executive Chef Alain Ducasse was so impressed with Marc's skills that he personally made arrangements for him to work with Sylvain Portay at Le Cirque once he returned to the States. Marc still considers Portay to be his greatest teacher. "Sylvain was above all concerned with coaxing out the most-vibrant, interesting flavors any ingredient had to offer, yet he insisted on minimal manipulation," he recalls. Following Le Cirque, Fortunato tapped him to work as a sous chef at Layla, Drew Nieporent's Middle Eastern fantasy in Tribeca, where he met consultant Georges Masraff. When Masraff joined forces to open Cellar in the Sky at Windows on the World, he recruited Marc to serve as executive chef. After receiving critical acclaim, including a two-star review from The New York Times, Marc headed uptown to serve as executive chef of La Fourchette, where NYT critic Ruth Reichl awarded him another glowing two-star review, citing his "open desire to transform food [so that] in his hands, even a simple green salad ... looks like a ruffled hat in a painting by Renoir." In March 2004 Marc opened his first solo enterprise with Landmarc [Tribeca], which won rave reviews both for its eclectic French and Italian menu as well as its highly untraditional wine list. Following its success, Marc opened Ditch Plains in the West Village in 2006 serving casual, beach-style cuisine such as lobster rolls, fish tacos and the infamous ditch dog, as well as other comfort food favorites. In 2007 Marc was given the opportunity to open another Landmarc restaurant in the pres­tigious Time Warner Center, where he brought his bistro-style cuisine midtown. In October 2013 Marc opened Kingside at the Viceroy New York hotel on New York's iconic West 57th Street, serving his interpretation of New American cuisine. Marc's restaurants now fall under the Benchmarc Restaurants by Marc Murphy name, where he acts as executive chef and owner. In addition to the restaurants, Marc also heads up the company's catering division, Benchmarc Events by Marc Murphy, where his signature style of accessible contemporary cuisine transcends the boundaries of what is offered in his restaurant locations. Today Marc's involvement in the industry moves beyond the restaurants as well, with a regular role as a judge on Food Network's top-rated hit Chopped as well as appearances on other hit series such as Guy's Grocery Games, Beat Bobby Flay and Worst Cooks in America. Marc also appears on The Rachael Ray Show and The Today Show, among others. He is the president of the Manhattan chapter of the New York State Restaurant Association, a board member of City Harvest, Culintro and Passport NYC at the 92nd Street Y Culinary Camp, as well as a member of the Food + Finance High School's Industry Advisory Board, a member of the Leadership Council for Share our Strength's No Kid Hungry campaign and the national spokesperson for Share Our Strength's Dine Out For No Kid Hungry. In 2012 Marc joined the U.S. Department of State's Diplomatic Culinary Partnership, where he takes part in public diplomacy programs that engage foreign audiences abroad as well as those visiting the United States. Marc's debut cookbook, Season with Authority: Confident Home Cooking, was released by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in April 2015.

Ina Garten Bio

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Caodan Tran Bio

Caodan Tran is a finalist competing on Food Network Star, Season 13.

On TV

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