Jean Joho's Everest turns 30

Fine French restaurants have come and gone in Chicago (and fine-dining restaurants have mostly gone), but one has lasted 30 years. Everest celebrates its 30th anniversary this month. The Michelin-starred restaurant opened in partnership with Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises on the 40th floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange building in 1986.

To commemorate the anniversary, the restaurant will host special events including Alumni Nights (Jan. 17 and Jan. 24), where former chefs Paul Virant (Vie) and Thomas Lents (Sixteen) will return to the Everest kitchen. Starting today and continuing through the end of the month, the restaurant will also offer a 1986 tasting menu featuring longtime chef/proprietor Jean Joho's classic Alsatian dishes, including presse of Maine lobster, black and white carnaroli squid risotto, roasted sea bass in potato and thyme, beef pot-au-feu and chocolate banana terrine ($145 per person).

Crain's chatted with Joho, 65, who grew up in Barr, France, and who retains his charming heavy accent. Here's an edited version of our conversation.

What have been some of the major changes you've noticed in the restaurant scene over the years?
Everybody makes a 20-course meal. I personally think when you have a seven-course meal, it's plenty enough. But I give them a choice. You can have a regular a la carte menu or you can have a tasting menu.

Fine French restaurants have come and gone in Chicago (and fine-dining restaurants have mostly gone), but one has lasted 30 years. Everest celebrates its 30th anniversary this month. The Michelin-starred restaurant opened in partnership with Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises on the 40th floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange building in 1986.

To commemorate the anniversary, the restaurant will host special events including Alumni Nights (Jan. 17 and Jan. 24), where former chefs Paul Virant (Vie) and Thomas Lents (Sixteen) will return to the Everest kitchen. Starting today and continuing through the end of the month, the restaurant will also offer a 1986 tasting menu featuring longtime chef/proprietor Jean Joho's classic Alsatian dishes, includingpresseof Maine lobster, black and whitecarnarolisquid risotto, roasted sea bass in potato and thyme, beef pot-au-feu and chocolate banana terrine ($145 per person).

Crain's chatted with Joho, 65, who grew up in Barr, France, and who retains his charming heavy accent. Here's an edited version of our conversation.

What have been some of the major changes you've noticed in the restaurant scene over the years?
Everybody makes a 20-course meal. I personally think when you have a seven-course meal, it's plenty enough. But I give them a choice. You can have a regular a la carte menu or you can have a tasting menu.

To what do you attribute your restaurant's longevity?
We make the customer feel comfortable. The time is coming back where people want to have a conversation at the table. In a lot of restaurants these days you can't anymore. Where you can have a table of five or six and you can have a conversation. Many restaurants these days you can't.

So you think that people prefer a quiet atmosphere?
Yeah, but I don't think it's quiet. I think you have energy in the room, but it's a good energy. But the way the restaurant is built and the way we have the tables you can have a conversation at your table.

Who's the most famous person who's dined at Everest? 
You know that's the reason I think we are so successful—we never call the media when somebody really famous is coming here. We have stars, we have politicians. If they're in the main dining room or a private room, we never talk about that.

Give us just one name. Perhaps someone who's no longer with us? 
Julia Child.

What item has been on the menu longest? 
Lobster roasted in Alsace Gewurztraminer butter and ginger.

What is one of the biggest disasters that's happened at Everest? 
On the second day we were opened, we had the whole sprinkler system go off in the kitchen. On the next evening the same thing happened. For two nights in a row we had to put everything in the garbage and restart everything new for the evening again. It was really depressing. But things happen that you have to deal with.

What's the last restaurant you ate at that's not your own? 
I eat mostly at home, where I cook for my family. My last great meal out was Pierre Gagnaire in Paris in December.

Where do you go for a burger?
M Burger.

If you could collaborate with any other chef or concept, what would it be and why? 
Wow. Einstein maybe. I don't know.

How long do you think you'll keep doing this? 
I'm not done. There are lots of things I can still do and want to do.

Congratulations on your anniversary. 
Thank you very much. Let's talk again in 30 years.

By Judith Ruiz-Branch

Chicago Business

(January 10, 2017)