Knowing the right people makes all the difference. And in the food world, it’s even more important. You can score the best reservations, have free meals, drink fine wine and occasionally get a tour of the kitchen.
In preparation for my Paris excursion, I was fortunate enough to have an inside view of the kitchen at Jean-George’s flagship restaurant- by his brother, Philippe Vongerichten, who also happens to be the General Manager and a charming man. If you want to know why a dinner at this Michelin-starred restaurant costs so much, spend a few minutes with Philippe and you’ll be wondering why you don’t pay more.
Unless my notes are wrong, 16 servers cater to a maximum of 67 people.Every ingredient is impeccably sourced – from the venison to the lemon basil. Attention is paid to every detail of the meal, and it shows.
Fish comes from Ingrid, a woman in Maine who has divers get her scallops.
Halibut is line caught in Maine as well.
As Philippe passionately explained to us why eating farm-raised fish was problematic (mercury levels) and how the kitchen worked from top to bottom, it was all I could do to resist dipping my finger into the giant bowl of foie gras mousse I passed on the way to the walk-ins where the broken down fish, vegetables and meat are kept.
And then we entered the pastry and chocolate prep area.
There’s a separate room where a machine churns the chocolate that goes into the desserts, including the tasty morsels inflected with caramel, pistachio and sea salt. (Someone got in the way of a good photo – so apologies– you’ll just have to go there and see why no one could keep their hands off!)
With this inside view, I learned a new appreciation for what had been my forgotten favorite spot (and to trust my instincts food-wise).
Basically, it’s the perfect ending to an incredible meal and an incredible introduction to what should prove to be an enlightening trip to France …. now that I’m finally here!
Many thank to Philippe and everyone that made this tour and trip possible!