Jim began his cooking career after graduating from Wesleyan University in 1996 with a history degree and a desire to do something creative. Opting to follow up on a longstanding amateur interest in cooking, Jim enrolled in a culinary arts class at the New School in Manhattan. From there, he signed on for an unpaid, three-month externship position at March Restaurant under Chef Wayne Nish. A strong work ethic and inherent talent guided Jim through his ensuing career which included working with some of the most heralded chefs in New York, including Floyd Cardoz at Tabla, Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern and finally, Daniel Boulud at DANIEL and DB Bistro Moderne.
He joined the team at DANIEL in October 2001, working his way from banquet cook to garde manger chef de partie to saucier and finally tournant. Jim took on even greater responsibility when he became Sous Chef at DB Bistro Moderne in 2004, cooking under the watchful eye of fellow DANIEL alum, Chef de Cuisine Olivier Muller. At DB Bistro, Jim became fluent in the restaurant’s authentic bistro-cooking, with an honest, flavorful and straight forward approach, and he also learned the valuable lessons of running a busy kitchen and leading a team. DB Bistro Moderne would provide a sound foundation for the next chapter, as Daniel Boulud tapped Jim for a promotion to the Executive Chef position at DBGB Kitchen and Bar in spring 2009.
Chef Leiken has carried on the caliber of cooking and standards that he was exposed to at DANIEL and DB Bistro with great conviction at DBGB Kitchen and Bar. "This extends from the way you carry yourself as a professional in the kitchen and the way you treat your colleagues,” says Jim, “to the quality of the products you accept from your purveyors, to the details of every dish you serve to your guests."