Tag Archives: Jean Louis Montecot

Thanks Be

Dear Mary Frances,
Thank you for pioneering the genre of food writing.  Your smart prose blazed the way for thousands of writers today – most significantly, female writers –stripping stigma from a field once thought to be solely esoteric and reminding us that food offers so much more than its nutritional content.  Your writing rallies interest in the pleasures, no matter how modest, of the plate.  I have read The Art of Eating at least half a dozen times, and I always discover new meaning with each reading.  You are my idol.

Cher Jean Anthelme,
Your immortal words set the tone for each episode of Iron Chef.  What would the tone of the show have been without them?  Would Chairman Kaga have appeared so Chairman-ish?  The Iron Chefs so ennobled?  Your keen attention to the virtues of culinary enjoyment is rivaled only by your witty social commentary.  I really appreciate that level of attention.  I’ve been wondering… If I believe that wine, cheese, and bread are major food groups, does that mean I’m actually French?  Do tell, do tell.

Dear Julia,
I’m thankful that we share a common first (and nick) name.  I’ve often envied what I’ve read about your marriage to Paul.  He wrote you lyrical love poems for your birthday, for goodness sake!  Together, you created personalized valentines to share with friends each year.  You had what truly seemed like a passionate storybook relationship.  I envy that.  But I also envy – perhaps I should say admire – your robust sensuality.  You would have been so fun to party with! I would have loved to watch you at work in the kitchen.  Sometimes I pretend to be you. (My daughter, Rory, finds these reenactments hilarious.) I think of you every time I accidentally drop a piece of food.  Thank you for making it okay to use the five second rule.

Dear Laurie,
Your writing gave me the idea to host a tea party in honor of my daughter’s birthday.  As I draped beaded garlands over the lights and scattered lavender buds across the table, I thought I heard your voice calling out in singsong approval.  Thank you for writing about your daughter with warmth and affection.

Dear Calvin,
Though I think your wife, Alice, was spot on when she coined the term “food crazies,” and though chances are likely that I am one myself, I appreciate your sustained interest in all things food-related. Thank you for being a “food crazy.” Your version of the first Thanksgiving is far better than the one I learned in elementary school.  I fully support your campaign to make spaghetti carbonara the official Thanksgiving dish.

Dear Harold,
You know you’ve got real cred when chefs all over the world refer to your tome as their “McGee,” as in, “I’ve got my McGee right here!”  I thank you for your tome and your cred. You’ve helped me through many a food inquiry.  I hope you don’t find this too creepy, but I think of you as Uncle McGee.  You seem like the type of person I’d enjoy spending time with on my deck.  As the sun descends over the western mountains, I might casually turn to you and say, “So, Uncle McGee?  Tell me the story about when you wrote your book.  Did you have a grant to fund your daily expenses as you researched?”  And you might chuckle, take a sip of your Malbec, and say, “Well, it all started back in the eighties….”

Dear Jeff,
You are an enigma when you guest-judge on Iron Chef America and Top Chef.  You share the same name as one of my first “real” crushes, a sous chef named Jeff who worked at the finest dining establishment in my college town.  The state he left me in was not funny, but you are.  Thank you for giving your assistant a comically disproportionate amount of work to do and for fielding so many marriage proposals. Thank you for accidentally poisoning yourself with taro leaf and writing about it with humor.

Dear Jane,
Mushrooms, onions, butter, sour cream, and dill…  Who knew? I serve your sour cream sauce over a big bowl of rice.  The mushrooms whisper, “We are so happy,” and so am I.  Thank you for loving fungi enough to dedicate an entire book to them.

Dear Tony,
I started watching your television show before I read any of your work.  I (unfairly) assumed you had writers.  Then I read your books, and your writing bowled me over. I couldn’t believe it!  Your prose is tight!  I haven’t had the good fortune to travel the world like you, but your writing amazed me with its ability to make me ravenous.  I’ve never tried pho, and yet I feel as if I have tasted it with you on the streets of Vietnam.  In my imagination, we traipsed across the globe throughout A Cook’s Tour, loosening our belts and belching happily.  I was your Zamir.  Thank you for making me hungry.  Even though No Reservations is over, never stop being hungry for more, okay?

Cher Jean Louis,
Will you ever find me indispensable? I think the world of you and would gladly be your scribe.  Thank you for renewing the zeal of my Francophilia.

Dear Readers,
Thank you for reading my work. I’ve been busy with a new job and haven’t been in the kitchen as much as I’d like, but I really appreciate all of your continued support. I am thankful for you.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Love, Jules

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Filed under food, literature, travel, Jean Louis

French American Idol

Will Jean Louis ever find me indispensable?
Quoth the raven, “Maybe next time.”

On Saturday, October 20, 2012, my friends and I attended the inaugural Halloween Spectacular at Salt Lake City’s Caterina, the current culinary venture of my not-so-secret French crush, Jean Louis. I had vowed to make myself indispensable to him in my New Year’s resolutions. Ten months later, I found the courage to make the first move.  We set off to Caterina so I could proposition Jean Louis about collaborating on a cookbook or memoir.

My friends and I hired a driver to deliver us from our hotel room to the restaurant.  Our driver seemed annoyed about his line of work. “You’re going where?” he asked, swerving in and out of lanes and fiddling with his GPS unit as we slid from one side of the backseat to the other. “That is much farther than I thought,” he said, glaring back at us without slowing down. (The restaurant was about 40 blocks away.) Our driver drove like multiple warrants had just been issued for his arrest, and he almost murdered two pedestrians who happened to be crossing an intersection at a red light.  He shook his fist at them and screamed, “Go on, then!  You are already dead!”  We chose to ignore this dark omen, tipping the driver to silence him and leaping from the still-moving vehicle once we arrived.

A skeleton wielding a cocktail glass greeted us in the lobby, as did a dapper courtesan in a vest and beribboned patent shoes.  The courtesan introduced himself as Martin Skupinski, and waved us into the spacious dining room, where more skeletons sat in various poses, their legs crossed and jaws dropped in toothy, lascivious grins.  Spider webs enshrouded the large chandelier and the room’s high windows.  Several of the other diners wore costumes or masquerade masks.  Pirates, gypsies, and zombies milled about as the wait staff cleared a space in the center of the wooden floor.

The spectacular began with a social dancing lesson, which, we quickly discerned, is a euphemism for “compulsory dancing with random strangers.”  Martin, a dashing emissary from the Land of Happy Dancers, led the exercise, pairing strangers with timely nods of his head.  I immediately started sweating.  I’m not a fan of formal dancing and I value my personal space; the thought of strange hands around my waist without a lubricating quaff of alcohol repelled me.  The shrieking in my mind only worsened when a woman named Cindy volunteered to be my “man.”

Cindy, a seasoned (and likely professional) dancer clad in a red tango gown, placed my left hand on her shoulder and her right hand on my waist, grasped my other hand in hers, and proceeded to box step her way right over my heart. Her heavily kohled eyes caught every misstep.  Skeleton feet prodded my rear end as she dragged me through the motions.  After three dances and at least one hundred iterations of “You walk the circle, you pause at three” and “Lower your arm to here,” Cindy dumped me on the dance floor, leaving me with nothing but a scornful assessment of my fox trotting abilities.

Freed from our bad romance, I seated myself at the table and tossed back an entire glass of wine in three deep gulps.  Then I drank another, whereupon I decided that it was high time to find mon cher, Jean Louis.  Busy with preparations and management of his wait staff, he greeted me in the lobby, though not as warmly as I had hoped.

I last saw Jean Louis about a year ago at his Park City restaurant, Jean Louis. The reception he gave me then would have tempted even the saintliest of women to abandon their husbands and abscond with him to his native Normandy.  My heart fell this time around.  His blue eyes didn’t twinkle in my direction.  He did not compliment my perfume, dimples, or sparkly eyes. My words evaporated.  No propositions were made.  I returned to the table and tried not to cry into my butternut squash soup.

*

I once knew someone who asserted that food quality corresponds directly to the cook’s mood.  I agree.  I also think a chef’s mood affects the dining experience, particularly when the chef prides himself on how he welcomes his customers.

Jean Louis worried me. Denim jeans hung loosely against his legs.  His eyes darted across the dance floor to assistants and the wait staff, transmitting instructions, prompting them to action.  He stalked between the serving station and the kitchen like a caged lion, carrying out tray after tray of food for each course of the night’s meals with the help of his staff.  He served the entire buffet alongside them.

I’d planned poorly, impetuously.  I was foolish.  It’s bad form to spring a proposition on an unsuspecting chef.  I’m sure there were many factors and circumstances beyond the glamour and glitz of the dining room. I would have liked to ask Jean Louis about them.  Productions of spectacular proportion require exhaustive planning and preparation.  A chef of Jean Louis’ reputation – he’s worked in a kitchen since he was twelve and has a distinguished professional pedigree – finds a way to pull it off without breaking the illusion of fluidity and ease.  I worried anyway.  The smile I’d hoped to see made far too few appearances that night.

*

Dazzling Martin tried valiantly to resuscitate my self-esteem during the dessert course.  With a mischievous smile, Martin twirled me around the dance floor, amiably bantering, for two pleasant minutes, and he, at least, dumped me with a flourish and a bow.  I was very grateful for his kindness.  Sadly, the internal wounds I had sustained earlier in the evening were too deep to overcome. Our driver’s prophecy proved true. Brutalized, beaten, and emotionally shanked, my self-esteem died shortly prior to midnight.

My crush on Jean Louis lingers, but it has been tempered by a splash of icy cream in the hot soup of my heart.  It will probably be another year until my friends and I save enough money to return to Caterina, but when we do, I hope that we’ll see a Jean Louis who smiles again.

***

The skinny:

Caterina is located at 2155 South Highland Drive in Salt Lake City, Utah. Private dining menus range from $35 – $65. The restaurant can be reached by phone at 1.801. 819. 7555 or found online at http://www.caterinaslc.com.

Though I was too distraught to register the quality of the prepared meals, my friends said they were very delicious.  They went back for seconds in many of the courses. Our waiters were courteous, and they provided meticulous service.  The $55 prix fixe menu, however, did not include water, for which they charged $8 per bottle. This seemed a bit excessive given that we were essentially serving our own food.

The restaurant’s décor was spirited and a little saucy – perfectly apropos to Halloween. My friends and I had a lot of fun taking pictures of skeletons, bottles of wine, and raven figurines.

I plan to return to Caterina on an ordinary night, perhaps one more auspicious for the making of propositions.

“Go on, then! You are already dead!”

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Filed under food, literature, travel, Jean Louis, Park City