Monday, March 10, 2003

Maître Rôtisseur, Chef/Proprietor Jean Joho



By Jane Tracy, Vice-Chargée de Presse

It would scarcely have been natural had the membership of the Chicago Chapter approached the bi-annual Everest dinner without high expectations. Chef Jean Joho had planned an unique formula expressly conceived for our Bailliage which encompassed the rich history of the Hotel du Palais of Biarritz - the Imperial Residence of Napoleon III - and its legendary executive chef Vice-Conseiller Gastronomique du Bailliage Béarn et Côtes Basques Jean-Marie Gautier. Possessor of the much-coveted Guide Michelin Rosette as well as being awarded the title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France - the ultimate honor for a French craftsman - by President François Mitterand in 1991 - Chef Gautier developed his prowess in Michelin three-star establishments all across France. We were also honored to welcome the General Manager of the Biarritz Hotel - Monsieur Jean-Louis Leimbacher - whose dynamism and optimistic demeanor indicated that a fun evening was ahead.

Chef Joho’s continually top-rated Everest restaurant in Chicago joined forces with La Rotonde and Villa Eugenie of Biarritz to provide to the city of Chicago three exclusive dinners - one of which was earmarked for the Chicago Chapter. The blending of noble and simple ingredients included classic dishes taken from Chef Gautier’s menus in Biarritz. A team comprising Chefs Joho and Gautier, the Chicago Chaîne, and both the Biarritz and Chicago restaurants’ sommeliers selected agreed upon wines to accompany the menu.

Jeroboams of Laurent Perrier N.V. Brut Champagne were uncorked to accompany spectacular hors d’oeuvres. The room was full to the brim propagating high anticipation. We all know what we mean when we exclaim “Now that was ‘a Chaîne dinner!’ ” It is a menu embracing many ingredients, styles and concepts and with a perfect sense of balance; it has an influential effect upon the diners; it is an exotic exchange of ideas between wine styles and palates; it is Everest in Chicago. A show of culinary co-operation between two prominent chefs easily became interpreted as a foray into the realms of ultimate communication.

If there was a moment that epitomized the union of two leading and highly rated establishments it was when Chefs Gautier and Joho emerged from their kitchen to explain the philosophy behind their choices - a kaleidoscopic variety of colors and architecture reaching up from the plates set before us. They talked of how acid had been eliminated from the confit de tomate; about the creamy lobster risotto and the smooth and reinforced 1997 Marcel Deiss Bergheim Gewurztraminer that accompanied it; an imperialistic loftiness settled over the striking noisette of venison with its foie gras and poached pears - flavored with cardamom and coriander. Everest Sommelier, Alpana Singh, still buoyant from becoming the youngest Master Sommelier in the United States, talked eloquently about esoteric grape varieties that were neutral in style, so as not to interfere with certain aspects of the dishes, and how the 1990 Jaboulet Chateauneuf du Pape “Les Cedres” fruity yet spicy characteristics, harmonized well with the game, permitting us actually to taste the game and not to mask it.

The Chicago/Biarritz team had ‘fait l’honneur’ to the Imperial couple - L’Empereur Napoleon III and his Impératrice, Eugenie.