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2000s Archive

Comrades in Arms

continued (page 2 of 2)

There was also a line at Joachim Splichal’s table, where he and his seismically intense mentor, Jacques Maximin, were serving a spicy, complex lobster-and-macaroni gratin. “He won’t stop busting my balls,” Splichal complained to Jacques Torres, a fellow alumnus of Maximin’s Chantecler restaurant at the Hôtel Négresco. “Please, take him off my hands for the rest of his time in New York.” Torres obligingly promised to take the older chef fishing, even though they both knew that Maximin would talk of nothing but food. After all this time, he had not asked a single question about what his protégés had been doing for the past 20 years. And when Torres asked, “Why is cooking your whole life?” Maximin replied, “It’s more than that. It’s visceral.”

While they talked, they watched the courtly, elegant Pierre Gagnaire making his way through the crowd. Before he got to the table, he called out, “I must taste Maximin’s dish. I hear it is genius.” Maximin handed him a plate, whispered an order in Splichal’s ear, and sneaked off to have a cigarette. While he was gone, Torres regaled the guests with a memory of his time at Chantecler. One night, a critic from the influential Gault-Millau guide had arrived for dinner within weeks of reducing the restaurant’s rating by half a point. “Maximin told me to get a pad of paper, and then we went and we sat down at his table. ‘You try to judge me?’ Maximin said. ‘How about I judge you?’ He began quizzing the critic. ‘Where was the lobster from?’ ‘Canada,’ replied the critic. ‘Wrong!’ Maximin shouted. ‘Torres, put it down, zero. Foie gras—was it duck or goose?’ ‘Goose.’ ‘Wrong, duck.’ I wrote it all down. And that day,” he finished gleefully, “in front of the entire restaurant, Maximin gave Gault-Millau a zero.”

Across the way, Jean Banchet, now retired from Le Français, in suburban Wheeling, Illinois, was zipping back and forth as he kept an eye on his two protégés, Roland Passot, of La Folie, in San Francisco, and Vincent Guerithault, of Vincent on Camelback, in Phoenix. His eyes lit up when he tasted Passot’s version of his scallop mousse. “It’s just like we used to serve—so light the waiters had to be careful not to break the mousse on the way to the table,” he exclaimed.

It was like that all over Rockefeller Center. No matter where you were, the chefs talked, laughed, and tasted while their guests indulged in an all-you-can-eat buffet of glorious French cuisine. There was a classic loup de mer en croûte in honor of Paul Bocuse; the foie gras cromesquis of Marc Meneau; André Soltner’s Alsatian tart; sea-urchin panna cotta with Kaffir lime from Passot; Charentais melon foam with miso ice cream from David Myers, of Sona, in Los Angeles. Each dish was delicious—and each told a story.

For this was more than great food; it was a true passing of the torch. As Louis Outhier said, while serving the last of his caviar eggs, “L’Oasis, my restaurant for thirty-five years, it’s now just memories for some people who dined there. But my satisfaction is in someone like Jean-Georges, who continues what I started.”

Honorees and Their Protégés

Jean Banchet, Le Français (Wheeling, IL)
Vincent Guerithault, Vincent on Camelback (Phoenix)
Roland Passot, La Folie/Left Bank (San Francisco)
Georges Blanc, Chez La Mère Blanc/ Georges Blanc (Vonnas, France)
Daniel Boulud, Daniel (New York City)
Paul Bocuse (represented by his son Jérôme Bocuse), L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges (Collonges-au-Mont-d’Or, France)
Paul Bartolotta, Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare (Las Vegas)
André Daguin, Hôtel de France (Auch, France)
David Burke, davidburke & donatella (New York City)
Tom Colicchio, Craft (New York City)
Pierre Gagnaire, Pierre Gagnaire (Paris/St.-Priest-en-Jarez, France)
Joël Antunes, Oak Room at The Plaza Hotel (New York City)
Gaston LeNôtre  (represented by Alain and Marie LeNôtre), Le Pavillon Elysée/LeNôtre (Paris)
Michel Richard, Michel Richard Citronelle/Central (Washington, DC)
Nancy Silverton and Dahlia Narvaez, Pizzeria Mozza/Osteria Mozza (Los Angeles)
Jacques Maximin, Table d’Amis (Vence, France)/Chantecler (Nice, France)
Joachim Splichal and Theo Schoenegger, Patina Restaurant Group/Patina Restaurant (Los Angeles)
Jacques Torres, Jacques Torres Chocolate (New York City)
Louis Outhier, Restaurant L’Oasis (La Napoule, France)
Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Jean Georges (New York City)
André Soltner, Lutèce (New York City)
Henry Meer, City Hall (New York City)
Bill Peet, Patroon (New York City)
Pierre Troisgros (represented by his son Claude Troisgros), La Maison Troisgros (Roanne, France)
Traci des Jardins, Jardinière (San Francisco)
Laurent Tourondel, BLT (New York City)

Honored in Spirit

Gérard Boyer, Château Les Crayères (Reims, France)
David Myers, Sona/Comme Ça (Los Angeles)
Frédy Girardet, Restaurant Frédy Girardet (Crissier, Switzerland)
Jonathan Waxman, Barbuto (New York City)
Michel Guérard, Les Prés d’Eugénie (Aquitaine, France)
Larry Forgione, An American Place (St. Louis/Las Vegas)
Alfred Portale, Gotham Bar & Grill (New York City)
Paul Haeberlin (in memoriam) L’Auberge de l’Ill (Illhaeusern, France)
Tony Esnault, Adour at the St. Regis Hotel (New York City)
Jean Joho, Everest (Chicago)
Hubert Keller, Fleur de Lys (San Francisco)
Marc Meneau, L’Espérance (St.-Père-sous- Vézelay, France)
Bob Waggoner, Charleston Grill (Charleston, SC)
Jean-Jacques Rachou, La Côte Basque (New York City)
Todd English, Olive Group (Boston)
Charlie Palmer, Aureole (New York City)
Alain Senderens, Alain Senderens at Lucas Carton/Senderens Restaurant (Paris)
Ed Brown, eighty one (New York City)
Christian Delouvrier, La Goulue Christian Delouvrier (Bal Harbour, FL)/Brasserie Ruhlmann Steakhouse (Chicago)
Roger Vergé, Le Moulin de Mougins (Mougins, France)
David Bouley, Bouley (New York City)
Terrance Brennan, Artisanal Fromagerie & Bistro/Picholine (New York City)

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