The life story of a chef and restaurateur can be told to great effect through the quantity, character, and quality of his restaurants. For one of the most prolific chef-restaurateurs in existence, that particular version of his biography would be a multi-volume, shelf-collapsing tome. Jean-Georges Vongerichten has 15 plus restaurants to his name, with a family legacy following eagerly and expertly in his footsteps. And it’s no surprise this chef with three-star Michelin training comes from a strong-willed Alsatian background with culinary history running through his veins.
Early exposure to Asian flavors in Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Singapore proved influential to Vongerichten’s developing style, which he finally unfurled in 1991 with Jo Jo. The restaurant, Vongerichten’s first, introduced New Yorker to his “vibrant cuisine”—which creates intense flavors and satisfying textures by eschewing traditional meat stocks for vegetable juices, fruit essences, light broths, and herbal vinaigrettes. The restaurant earned three stars from The New York Times and was Esquire’s “Best Restaurant of the Year” and cemented the young chef as a person to watch.
Vongerichten obviously didn’t disappoint. From Jo Jo, he went on to build a veritable empire, with the heavily Asian Vong to his eponymous fine-dining flagship, Jean Georges, which opened to a four-star review in 1997. And he continues to set the standard for sophisticated, progressive fine dining. Recent additions like ABC Kitchen and Perry Street showcase the chef-restaurateur’s imaginative versatility and mastery of culinary expansion. And if restaurants alone were somehow an insufficient contribution, Vongerichten has penned numerous cookbooks, transcribing everything from his personal style of cooking to his favorite cuisines of the JG empire. Through it all, Vongerichten has stayed true to the passions that led him—a prolific restaurateur, yes, but a chef’s chef, to the core.