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Chef/Proprietor Jean Joho


    Dining with Chefs: Chef/Proprietor Jean Joho

Recently, TravelsinTaste.com had the opportunity to blow into the Windy City for a meal at Everest, where we very happily caught up with Chef-Proprietor Jean Joho, who opened the restaurant in 1986 and has been preparing authentic French meals there ever since. During our meal, we discussed with the ebullient Chef Joho -- who hails originally from Alsace, France -- a variety of topics, from his culinary education and his path to chef stardom in the United States to the components of our meal and his very French philosophy of cooking.

Our conversation with Chef Joho began at the beginning, however, with his French roots, when we asked him when he became a chef, and how. "I've been working in a professional kitchen since I was 13," he told us. "It's something that I wanted to do for as long as I can remember -- since I was a child. When I was 6, I peeled vegetables in my aunt's restaurant kitchen. My mentor, though, was Paul Haeberlin [the chef for many years at the famed restaurant Auberge de l'Ill in Illhaeusern, France]. I learned a lot from him."

After apprenticing under Chef Haeberlin, Chef Joho worked for several years in restaurant kitchens throughout Europe, in France, Italy and Switzerland. "After that," he continued, "I spent time studying not only cooking, but also baking, butchering, cheese making, wine making ... I wanted to know everything. After that, I went to business school [at the Hotel Restaurant School in Strasbourg] and learned the business side of things."

By the time he was 23, Chef Joho told us, he was the sous chef at a Michelin two-star restaurant in France, where he managed a staff of 35, and subsequently at the Michelin two-star Hotel Euler in Basel, Switzerland. He finally returned to Auberge de l'Ill, where he'd gotten his start, and received a life-changing offer. "The owner of Maxim's in Chicago [modeled after the famous Maxim's de Paris in Paris] came and picked me up and offered me the opportunity to work in his restaurant," Chef Joho recalls. "I never spoke English before, but I decided, 'Why not?' So I came to this country in 1984 and opened Maxim's in Chicago in 1985, before we opened Everest."

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