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Restaurant in town. United States,New York

Jean-Georges Vongerichten

Jean-Georges New York 10023

Very early, as a kid, I was always helping in the kitchen. And always organizing! I would organize birthday parties for friends--as young as seven or eight, my friends would ask: “Can you do my birthday party?” I had no idea at the time that I would be doing this later on in life. But you see, I love to pamper people.

It was at the age of 16, for my birthday, that my parents took me to Auberge d’Ill. We only went to restaurants once a year as my mother cooked at home. That experience was the “big click” for me. Everything about it: the waiters, the silverware, the food. And I was lucky: The chef came to the table, my parents asked if he needed an apprentice, and I stayed three years!

It’s difficult for me to stay away from my restaurants 100%. For 35 years I have had 14 to 16 hour days cooking. But last year I turned 50 and decided to take weekends off. I have a house in the country where I enjoy fishing in my pond and time in my garden. Nature inspires me. I grew up this way in Alsace.

What was your most moving culinary experience?
When I left France for my first job in 1980 in Bangkok, it changed my life: the smells of lemongrass, curry, all the exotic spices. It was culture shock. Within Europe, there are similarities between countries. I had never been to Asia. On the hour and a half taxi ride to the hotel, I made the driver stop five times: It was the best tasting menu! The shrimp with lemongrass still sticks in my mind. As well as the black pepper chicken, the curries, and the coconut sweets next to the temples.

The most amusing kitchen incident you ever witnessed?
A certain well-known food club approached me in 1988 to ask me to prepare a homage to Salvador Dali with food. All of the dishes were very sexual and very amusing--drawn from a book of recipes inspired by Dali’s art. We prepared six courses. There was an eyeball made out of foie gras with truffles. People were screaming with laughter!

Your best piece of advice for amateur chefs?
Do one pot meals: all the vegetables and meat cooked together. Or try to make a simple roast chicken with potatoes cooked alongside it. Let people serve themselves.

My blog “Jean-Georges Vongerichten”

New York City Chefs' Street Foods - on 11 July 2012
Last week, I got to support both City Meals on Wheels and Action Against Hunger at their annual benefits. Both are great organizations that help feed those in need of food—a cause I care a lot about. One of the benefits of these benefits is both getting a chance to see my colleagues and friends from the industry and creating new dishes that I wouldn’t normally serve at my restaurants.This year, the theme of the Action Agai[...]

My First Open Kitchen at Lafayette - on 1 July 2012
Yes, that's really me. With the mustache. (Looks good, right?) The other day, I was reflecting on the new Nougatine design and I found this photo of me and my then sous chef Kerry Simon in my very first open kitchen at Lafayette. Having an open kitchen--par for the course now--was revolutionary at the time.This was 1986, a killer time in New York City dining. Le Bernadin had just opened, Daniel Boulud was at Le Regence, David[...]

Nougatine Renovation Starts Tonight: Design Preview - on 23 May 2012
In about one week, this is what Nougatine, my restaurant adjacent to my flagship Jean-Georges, will look like: When I walk into the room now, I still can't believe that it's been fifteen years since we've opened. My staff has done an amazing job keeping the space spotless and I still love the feel of the room, but it's time for a new look. Here's a last glimpse at our original dining room and bar:Tonight at midnight, we'[...]