In 1986, Jean-Georges Vongerichten burst onto the New York dining scene at the Lafayette in the Drake Swissôtel, dazzling diners with his innovative interpretation of classic French cuisine and earning four stars from the New York Times at the age of 29. In the first of many bold moves that has established him as a culinary trend setter, Jean-Georges traded in this formal four-star dining room for paper-clothed tables and opened his charming bistro Jojo in 1991.
At Jojo, he introduced his 'vibrant and spare cuisine' with intense flavors and satisfying textures he created by eschewing traditional meat stocks for vegetable juices, fruit essences, light broths, and herbal vinaigrettes. Jojo was named Best New Restaurant of the Year by John Mariani in Esqiuire and earned three stars from the New York Times, which summed up his contemporary French cuisine in the sentence, "His food took my breath away." Jean-Georges' next venture, Vong, paid homage to the spices and flavors of the East, a passion he developed during the three and a half years he lived and worked in the Orient. His unique take on Thai-inspired French cuisine, wowed both critics and patrons, earning yet another three-star review from the New York Times for his "explosively flavorful food." In an adjacent space to Vong, Vongerichten also opened The Lipstick Cafe, a stylish cafe that serves breakfast and lunch in a casual, upscale setting.
A year and a half later in November of 1995, Vongerichten opened a second Vong in London, earning a three-star review and the 1996 vote for the London Evening Standard's Newcomer of the Year. In September 1997, he opened yet a third Vong-"The Best Restaurant in the World" according to Robb Report-in the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Hong Kong.
n March 1997, Restaurant Jean Georges opened in the Trump International Hotel and Tower in New York City, earning a four-star review from the New York Times less than three months after opening.
Alsatian Roots and Traditional Training
Born and raised on the outskirts of Strasbourg in Alsace, Jean-Georges' earliest family memories are about food. The Vongerichten home centered around the kitchen, where each day his mother and grandmother would prepare lunch for the almost fifty employees in their family-owned business. "I would wake every morning to the most wonderful smells," reminisces Jean-Georges, "and I quickly became known as 'the palate' to my family, tasting each sauce and dish, recommending salt or some more herbs." His love for food cemented his choice for a career at the age of 16, when his parents brought him to the three-star Michelin-rated Auberge de l'Ill for a birthday dinner.
Jean-Georges began his training soon after in a work-study program at the Auberge de l'Ill as an apprentice to chef Paul Haeberlin. He went on to work with the top chefs in France, including Paul Bocuse and master-chef Louis Outhier at L'Oasis in the south of France. With this impressive three-star Michelin training, Vongerichten won a position at the Oriental Hotel in Singapore and the Mandarin Hotel in Hong Kong; it was during this time spent in Asia that Jean-Georges developed his love for the exotic and aromatic flavors of the East that would later translate into his own interpretations on his menu at Vong.
Awards and Accolades, plus a Cookbook or Two
Jean-Georges Vongerichten currently holds an unprecedented total of ten stars from the New York Times for his three New York City restaurants, JoJo, Vong, and Jean Georges. Other awards include the 1996 James Beard Perrier-Jouet Best Chef Award for his creativity and accomplishments at JoJo, and in 1995 he was awarded the Robert Mondavi Culinary Award of Excellence for his contributions to the world of gastronomy. In May 1998, Jean Georges won the James Beard award for Best New Restaurant. Jean-Georges also won the Farberware Millennium Cookware Outstanding Chef award and was inducted in the Who's Who of Food and Beverage in America.
Jean-Georges: Cooking at Home with a Four-Star Chef
By Jean-Georges Vongerichten
and Mark Bittman
Hardcover; 288 pages; $35.00
Information provided by the publisher.
This page created November 1998
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