Chef Laurent Gras - Biography

July 2011

Born and raised in Antibes, France on the Cote d’Azur, in a culture that was very food oriented, Laurent Gras never thought it exceptional to have fruit orchards at his country house, fresh fish from the Mediterranean market, or a 100 liters of fresh-pressed family olive oil each year. It was simply everyday life. Only later, as Gras began his culinary career and travels, did he realize the bounty of his youth, as well as its impact on his own standards for freshness and purity of flavor.

Gras took the entrance exam to hotel school with his friends as a lark—and passed. Realizing it was important to express himself through manual creativity, he chose to become a chef. And the next 10 years of his résumé were formidable list of Michelin-starred restaurants and great chefs, who each set unique examples: Jacques Maximin’s spontaneity, Guy Savoy’s generosity and dedication to his staff and la maison, Alain Ducasse’s ambition, and Alain Senderens’s research and thought processes.

After enhancing his techniques, Gras traveled the world to enhance his palate and perspective. And in 1997, he was ready to unleash his cuisine on New York City—where greater expressive freedoms meant personality could drive the success of the chef. Gras took time to dine out and discover local purveyors and products before transforming the menu at the Waldorf Astoria’s Peacock Alley. Next, Gras took the helm of Fifth Floor in San Francisco, where he spent three years discovering the bounty of California, and furthering his relationship with American diners. Most recently, Gras lead the kitchen at L20, a seafood restaurant he developed with Chicago-based restaurateur Richard Melman of Lettuce Entertain You, where he continued to guide his cuisine by principles of flavor, aesthetic, and perfection. After leaving L20 in fall 2010, Gras returned to New York to work on his next (undisclosed) project.