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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.
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'[...]
Simply Chicken at Madison Square Garden - on 10 April 2012 For decades, my business partner Phil Suarez and I have gone to games at Madison Square Garden. And we always planned to eat elsewhere because the food was typical stadium stuff. When Hank Ratner, the president and CEO of the Garden, approached us about opening a concession stand there, it was a no brainer. He also asked us to provide the food for the Delta Sky Club and the MSG suites. Since we opened this winter with a group [...]
Alsatian Baeckoffe at JoJo - on 10 April 2012 Spring's here, but I'm going to keep my warming Alsatian stew on JoJo's menu for one more month. It's still a little cold out and I love this homestyle meat-and-potato stew. Growing up in Alsace, I got to share this dish with my family on Sundays. Before I was born, my grandmother put together the mixture of pork, potatoes, onions, carrots, parsley, and Riesling early on Sunday mornings. She'd drop off the casserole [...]
New Desserts and Chefs at Jean Georges Restaurant - on 10 April 2012 My career as a chef is built on my food. My career as a restaurateur is built on my amazing staff. I've worked with many talented people over the years and consider them family. Over the last few months, I've been reminded of this at Jean Georges, my flagship restaurant. More than a decade ago, a kid named Mark Lapico started as a line cook. I immediately noticed his talent and work ethic and moved him up through the ranks. [...]
The Best--and Easiest--Way to Make Short Ribs - on 10 April 2012 This past week, Julia Moskin of The New York Times featured my newest cookbook, Home Cooking with Jean-Georges, in an article in the Dining section. She writes, "the ingredient that flies most freely in his kitchen seems to be konbu, the dried seaweed that gives many Japanese dishes a briny depth." Maybe she exaggerated a bit, but I do love konbu. It's an amazing natural source of umami, that great savory sixth taste.I appren[...]
The Perfect Birthday Party - on 10 April 2012 Leave it to Martha Stewart to create the most amazing birthday party. Last week, Martha celebrated her granddaughter Jade's first birthday with her daughter Alexis at Perry St., my West Village restaurant. It was an intimate family affair and she graciously included my grandson Olivier and daughter-in-law Ochi in the festivities. My son Cedric and I prepared lunch for the guests, along with Cedric's great team of cooks. We d[...]
New Bar Menu at Perry St. - on 25 Feb 2012 Let me just start by saying that I'm not a lush. Really. But I do like a good drink. That's just one of my reasons for launching a new bar menu at Perry St. Another is that there's been a rebirth in the West Village. In my neighborhood, I've noticed people coming and staying later to drink and eat. At Perry St., my chef and son Cedric and the team behind the bar (Mac Wyatt, Shinya Yanao, and Tracey Olson) have worked with [...]
Sweet Shrimp: Eat 'Em While You Can! - on 18 Feb 2012 The sweet shrimp season in Maine is short and there may be only a week left at best. I love the distinctive sea sweetness of these small coral-pink crustaceans, which my seafood supplier Ingrid sends to me whole. As with the diver scallops and day-boat line-caught fish she finds for me, Ingrid sends me only sustainably gathered shrimp.Sweet shrimp are best enjoyed raw to get the most out of their delicate flavor and texture. T[...]