Press release: Chicago Showcases France's Highest Ranking Chefs | The French Pastry School

Press release: Chicago Showcases France's Highest Ranking Chefs

Chicago Showcases France's Highest Ranking Chefs
The French Pastry School |
July 5, 2012
L’Académie Culinaire de France and Les Maîtres Cuisiniers de France Get a Taste of the Windy City’s Culinary Culture

Chicago, Illinois (July 5, 2012) – When the talent of over five hundred years of cumulative culinary experience assembles in one room at The French Pastry School of Kennedy-King College at City Colleges of Chicago, someone must be in for a treat. When that gathering lasts for two days moving from one Chicago institution to the next, it’s a sign that L’Académie Culinaire de France (The Culinary Academy of France, ACF) and Les Maîtres Cuisiniers de France (The Master Chefs of France, MCF) are in town for the annual conference of their North American Chapters. The two French government organizations that seek to encourage excellence in both master chefs de cuisine and pâtissiers came to Chicago from all over North America and France to induct new members, convene on organization business, and celebrate their camaraderie at some of the city’s best restaurants and favorite venues. The French Pastry School, whose faculty, including both co-founders, boasts four members of ACF, proposed that it was time to feature their hometown as the destination of this year’s Congrès and thus earned the honor of hosting the meetings and festivities. The event was over two years in the making and celebrations were held at well-known Windy City institutions that honor French culinary philosophy: Union League of Chicago, Chez Moi, NAHA, and La Sardine. Chicago, with its respect for both established traditions and new innovations, was the perfect backdrop for the assembly of these decades-old culinary associations.

Respectively founded in 1879 and 1951, the ACF and MCF are no strangers to ceremony. As an unofficial beginning to the weekend’s events, Chef Jean-Jacques Dietrich, Honorary President of ACF’s United States Chapter, and Gérard Dupont, International President of ACF, attended the commencement of The French Pastry School’s L’Art de la Pâtisserie at the historic Union League Club of Chicago. There they presented Director of Operations, Franco Pacini with one of the Académie’s highest honors: Officier de l’Ordre Mondial de L’Académie Culinaire de France, a distinction few other United States citizens hold.

In return, while observing the beginning of the pastry careers of over 60 graduates, co-founders Chefs Jacquy Pfeiffer and Sébastien Canonne, M.O.F., honored the two visiting chefs with The French Pastry School’s Lifetime Achievement Award for their contribution to the culinary and pastry arts. “Cooking is from the heart,” Chef Dietrich explained to the audience, “and if you don’t have heart, you lose what it is about. It is a beautiful thing but you have to work hard for it.”

There was no shortage of heart at the formal opening ceremony at The Union League Club of Chicago where Executive Chef, Michael Garbin, welcomed the guests with a very special Verre de l’Amitié, or Toast of Friendship. As one of the few American chefs part of Moët & Chandon’s Club des Sabreurs, rather than pop the cork, Chef Garbin ceremoniously struck off the top of the bottle of Moët champagne with a long, steel saber. His precision and showmanship started the conference on a high note and set the celebratory tone for the weekend’s activities.

Just after the toast, the chefs gathered for the first meal of the conference at Chez Moi in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. As with all of the restaurants highlighted over the weekend, ACF and MCF chose Chef Dominique Tougne’s new bistro to honor the chefs’ induction into the ACF. He welcomed his honored guests with French country-style hospitality, highlighting various regions in each of the five courses and making everyone feel at home. After being welcomed with champagne and savory Kouglofs, the guests were seated at communal tables to enjoy the offerings of pig’s trotters with foie gras and prunes Armagnac; lamb shank and fennel confit; and an herbed frisée salad with Ossau Irati cheese and black cherry conserves. Dessert was contributed by Chef Dimitri Fayard, World Pastry Champion, of The French Pastry School who made macarons and a towering croquembouche decorated with gleaming, pulled sugar roses, nougatine, and elegant royal icing piping.

On Sunday morning, it was time to get down to business. At The French Pastry School after a breakfast of fresh viennoiseries and morning meetings, the chefs of both ACF and MCF gathered to induct the new constituents and honor outstanding members. Among the inductees to ACF were five Chicago chefs: Jerome Landrieu, Director of the Barry Callebaut Chocolate Academy; Carrie Nahabedian, Chef-Owner of NAHA; Jean-Claude Poilevey, Chef-Owner of La Sardine and Le Bouchon; and Dominique Tougne, Chef-Owner of Chez Moi. For a complete list, please see below.

Three special awards were given out to members and non-members who have displayed excellence in the culinary and pastry field during their careers. The ACF’s award for Dame de L’Année, Woman of the Year, went to Deann Bayless for her work as producer of Mexico – One Plate at a Time; co-author of several cookbooks; and owner, with her husband, Rick Bayless, of Topolobampo, Frontera Grill, and XOCO. The Fauteuil de L’Académie, Chair of The Academy, was given to Chef Bernard Crétier, Chef-Owner of Le Vichyssois Restaurant in Lakemoor, Illinois. The MCF presented their prestigious Toque d’Argent, Silver Toque, to Jean-Michel Bergougnoux of L’Absinthe Brasserie in New York City for years of dedication to French cuisine.

New inductee, Chef Carrie Nahabedian had the honor of hosting the annual gala at NAHA, her restaurant in Chicago’s River North neighborhood just blocks away from The Magnificent Mile. Over the course of over five hours, her prestigious guests enjoyed taste after taste of exquisitely executed, Mediterranean-inspired cuisine and toasts from the leaders of the organizations. The chefs and their guests started with a variety of hors d’oeuvres then partook in frog legs crusted in brioche with greens dressed in beurre noisette; Loup de Mer with flavors of the French Riviera; Pithiviers of veal sweetbreads, rabbit, and burgundy snails; roast squab with foie gras, icicle radish, Medjool date, and sauce Rouennaise; and an assortment of French cheeses. The dessert, a “Celebration of Summer Strawberries,” was a collaboration between two chef instructors of The French Pastry School: Chef Fayard and Chef Mark Seaman, Certified Master Sugar Artist. The nearly five-foot tall cake was decorated with intricate, Lambeth-style, royal icing designs, pulled-sugar roses, and larger than life blown-sugar strawberries.

Official observances now complete, the chefs were able to be tourists on Monday. In a welcome note that the members received on their first day in the city, Consul General of France in Chicago, Graham Paul, wrote, “Chicago, an international city open to all flavors of the world, is an excellent choice for the congress to take place in. Beyond its dynamism and its architectural beauty, Chicago is a city with many attractions where French culture in all its aspects, is very present.”

The chefs were able to take full advantage of it all with an architectural boat-tour along the Chicago River followed by a family-style meal at La Sardine in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood. Highlights of the meal hosted by new ACF inductee, Chef Jean-Claude Poilevey, included braised oxtail, roasted bone marrow, veal with morels, and a beautiful, caramel-infused tarte tatin made by Chef Fayard.

Chef Sébastien Canonne, M.O.F. of The French Pastry School was grateful to have the chance to host the great culinary minds of ACF and MCF at the institution inspired by their expertise in and passion for the food industry. “[With] these lovers of work well done, we have shared our search for knowledge and excellence,” explained Chef Canonne, “It is with pride that this spirit drives our initiatives today, namely to respect and transmit the ideal values and traditions of French cuisine.”

Throughout the year, the members and chef instructors of The French Pastry School will share their experiences and pass on this attitude of international camaraderie to students of their full-time programs, L’Art de la Pâtisserie, L’Art du Gâteau, and L’Art de la Boulangerie. Representatives of The French Pastry School will look forward to attending next year’s conference in Charlotte, North Carolina.

ACF Inductees:

Jérome Landrieu, Barry Callebaut Chocolate Academy (Chicago, IL)
Carrie Nahabedian, NAHA (Chicago, IL)
Jean-Claude Poilevey, La Sardine (Chicago, IL)
Didier Rosada, Uptown Bakers (Washington, D.C.)
Dominique Tougne, Chez Moi (Chicago, IL)Bruno Chemel, Baumé (Palo Alto, CA)
Stéphane Cheramy, Ritz-Carlton (Orlando, FL)
Pascal Guillotin, Coverpoint Holdings (New York, NY)
Jonathan Jerusalmy, St. Regis Atlanta (Atlanta, GA)
Stephen M. Maronian, Norwalk Community College (Norwalk, CT)
Nicolas Romo, Patrick Properties (Charleston, SC)
Sébastien Thieffine, Ritz-Carlton (Naples, FL)


MCF Inductees

Steve Benjamin, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon (Las Vegas, NV)
Gérard Bertholon, Cuisine Solutions (Alexandria, VA)
Jean-Luc Boulay, Chez Boulay (Québec, Canada)
Patrice Defelice, Groupe Europea (Canada)
Didier Elena, Alain Ducasse Adour (New York City, NY)
Romuald Feger, St. Regis (San Francisco, CA)
Didier Lailheugue, Intercontinental Buckhead (Atlanta, GA)
Laurent Manrique, Millesime (New York, NY)
Patrick Ponsaty, Loews Coronado Bay (Coronado, CA)
Phillipe Schmit, Philippe Restaurant & Lounge (Houston, TX)

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