Tuesday, March 27, 7:00 p.m.
Members $150, guests $175
The first invasion of America by French chefs can be dated to the
1939 World's Fair in New York. Sure, there
were French-born cooks in American kitchens before then, but the
restaurant at the French Pavilion was a watershed;
it gave Americans en masse a taste of the culinary wonders beyond.
Today, any list of great American chefs includes
a bunch of people with hyphenated first names and foreign accents.
But what you might not know is that many of
them come from just a couple of regions of la République.
There's a gang from Gascony, but you probably
knew that already. What concerns us for this extraordinary soirée
chez Beard is an array of chefs from Alsace.
Located in the northeastern tip of the French hexagon, Alsace is
a verdant region whose national and cultural
allegiances have toggled between France and Germany over the centuries.
So has the cuisine, which is rich with sausages
and smoked meat, sauerkraut, baked goods, fresh cream, and fine
German-style wines vinified dry. Home of the brasserie and
quiche Lorraine, it is a region that has contributed much
to the world of fine dining.
If ever there was a dean of modern French cooking in America, and
an Alsatian one at that, André Soltner
fits the bill, both literally and figuratively. It was
while he was cooking at his beloved Lutèce
that the world took note of this fine son of Alsace. For more than
30 years, never missing a day, he cooked what
many believed to be the best food in the country. Now, as a dean
at the French Culinary Institute, Soltner has a
chance to travel, teach, relax, and coordinate special events such
Joining him in Jim's kitchen will be several James Beard Award winners,
Alsatians every one. Since 1986, Jean Joho
has given restaurant diners something to look up to. That's because
his elegant and acclaimed Everest dining room sits on the 40th floor
of the Chicago Stock Exchange. Back on earth,
Joho's been busy winning awards for places like Brasserie
Jo and the Corner Bakery.
His friend Hubert Keller is coming
from San Francisco, where he calls the batik-tented Fleur
de Lys home. Keller cooks sophisticated French cuisine
with a California influence that, according to Gourmet, "amazes
with feats of technical wizardry." Jean-Georges
Vongerichten first took New York by storm at Lafayette.
Jean Georges, and Mercer
Kitchen were to follow. Next it was London, then Hong
Kong. And now he has set his eyes on Paris,
where a restaurant is in the works. But despite his forays into
Thai and Manhattan chic, it's Alsace where
Vongerichten is from, and that's the food he'll be cooking
Cuisinier de France Raymond Ost has
taken a classic dish from his homeland, flammeküeche,
and turned it into the signature at Sandrine's,
an Alsatian bistro in Cambridge, Massachusetts. First he established
himself as the executive chef of Le Meridien Boston.
There, under his direction, the restaurant Julien
was singled out as number one in town by Gourmet magazine
readers. Now, at Sandrine's, the accolades
Schaedlin is the new kid on the block. Well, sort of.
Having just taken over the kitchens at Le Cirque
2000, he has the reputation of one of the most famous
restaurants in the world to live up to. That's not to say he isn't
ready for the challenge. His mentor was Paul Haeberlin
of Alsace's Michelin three-star Auberge de l'Ill.
And then it was on to Alain Ducasse's
kitchens at Louis XV in Monaco.
Of the bunch, Jean-Yves Schillinger
may be the one with the most experience cooking in Alsace proper.
At his family's Michelin two-star restaurant, he gained hands-on
experience from the time he was very young. He worked in
Joël Robuchon's three-star kitchens
at Jamin before taking over the family
restaurant himself. A fateful turn of events brought him to New
York, where he opened Destinée.
French tapas with an Alsatian twist are on the menu at his second
There's more to Alsatian sweets than kougelhopf and baba au rhum
(even though for some that's enough). That's why Gérard
Bechler of Pâtisserie Bechler
is coming too. Bechler apprenticed at his father's pastry shop and
worked in Deauville, France, before he was offered
the head pastry position in the kitchen of the Michelin three-star
Auberge de l'Ile, a temple of haute
cuisine in Alsace. He remained there until love and circumstance
brought him to Pacific Grove to open Pâtisserie Bechler, which
supplies more than 25 top-shelf restaurants and catering
companies with fine desserts. It's Bechler's creations
that are also served at the annual Masters of Food & Wine in