2012 BEST RESTAURATEUR IN THE U.S.
Jean Joho aims high: his Everest is perched on the 40th floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange, while his Eiffel Tower restaurant at Paris Las Vegas looms over the Las Vegas Strip. We salute the Alsatian for reaching new heights in the culinary world as well.
Even as a young child, Joho was drawn to cooking. At six he was peeling vegetables in his aunt's restaurant kitchen. At thirteen he began his formal training as an apprentice for Paul Haeberlin at the acclaimed L'Auberge de L'Ill in Alsace, and went on to cook in various kitchens in France, Italy and Switzerland. A culinary wunderkind, by 23 he was the sous chef at the highly regarded Hotel Euler restaurant in Basel, Switzerland, overseeing a staff of 35. But his ambitions rose above the stoves alone, and he decided to attend Strasbourg's Hotel Restaurant School to learn the finer points of the restaurant business.
He opened Everest in Chicago in 1986, and it immediately drew criticism — and accolades — from around the world. His cooking was notable for pairing high-end ingredients with earthier simple ones — potato-herring soup with caviar, lentils with foie gras, risotto dusted with 24-carat gold. Alsatian dishes also helped distinguish Joho's menu, like crépinette of wild grouse à l'Alsacienne and plum financier cake. The air may not have been as rarified as at the top of the Himalayas, but the exceptional dining experience was. Sharing a moniker with the world's highest mountain might be daunting for some, but Joho's premier restaurant has become the pinnacle of French cuisine in the Midwest, and an international dining destination.
Joho followed with the more casual Brasserie Jo in Boston, and then he brought out the big guns again for Las Vegas, opening Eiffel Tower 110 feet above The Strip, with another spectacular, sparkling view and fine dining experience. While we once again chose Everest as one of our Top 40 Restaurants in the U.S., Eiffel Tower has also earned a spot on our list of the Top 10 Romantic Restaurants in the U.S.
Returning to Chicagoland, Joho has recently brought a new French awakening to River North with Paris Club. Here he dishes up approachable French fare with an emphasis on shared plates like escargots and pig's feet bonbons as well as classic “French soul food” such as chicken paillard and duck confit. The restaurant exudes a casual urban chic that recalls Parisian "cuisine bourgeoise" to capture the sensibilities of a new generation. His ability to create, on the one hand, some of America's most exquisite fine dining experiences and on the other more casual venues full of modern bustle and vitality — with equally inventive and superb cuisine — is why we praise Jean Joho.
Check out the 2015 edition of GAYOT's Annual Restaurant Issue, which features the Top 40 Restaurants in the US and more.