Casual dining may dominate Chicago’s current food scene, but there’s still room in this town for restaurants that put a premium on elegance, sophistication, and superior technique—and since 1986, Everest has been the epitome of all three. Now the four-star stalwart on the 40th floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange building is preparing to celebrate 30 years, and—with help from legendary chef and proprietor Jean Joho—we’ve got the scoop on why this fine foodie celebration is not to be missed.
Legendary chef and proprietor Jean Joho of Everest.
Because he’s always pushing to get better. “You have to upgrade everything you do, not just on a yearly basis, on a daily basis. You try to improve. I tell my staff, ‘What is good for me today is not good enough for me tomorrow.’ There’s always space to improve or you never achieve where you want to be, it’s just impossible. Every day, try to make it better.”
Because Joho has always been a locavore. “[Even] 30 years ago I only used fresh ingredients from the United States—I never imported something. I never used European cheese, I always [worked with] American farm craft cheesemakers. Everything was made in this country. Thirty years ago it was a big achievement to do this.”
Because he brought risotto to Chicago. “When I opened, I was the first restaurant [in Chicago] to have risotto on the menu; at the time I had a page in the New York Times with the best risotto in the country. Not only was I a French chef, not only did I open a French restaurant, but I was serving an Italian dish, a carnaroli risotto. I had a producer for rice from Italy who brought it in in Emilio Pucci bags.”
The Everest main dining room.
Because he has influenced a generation. Recalls chef John Hogan of River Roast, who is an Everest alum, “I was previously a chef before I worked for Joho, but I felt as though my training wasn’t complete. Attention to detail, creative view of cuisine, his take on French cuisine—all of it provided great influence.” Chef Thomas Lents of Michelin two-starred Sixteen echoes that sentiment, adding, “Everest was the first great restaurant I worked in. It showed me [that] another level of food and hospitality was possible. The detail that chef Joho put into the building of a dish challenged me to look at cooking differently. It really opened the door for the rest of my career.”
Because Everest has stood the test of time—and not just for the food. “Joho is a warm host in the dining room and a creative force in the kitchen,” notes Hogan. “He has a vision to carry what I like to call ‘the torch of Alsace’—the tradition of his homeland. He’s been at Everest for 30 years because he keeps the concept so unique. It is truly four-star dining at its finest.”
Everest vintage carnaroli risotto.
So you can party like it’s 1986. Everest’s 30th anniversary celebration kicks off on January 11 with a special menu featuring dishes from the restaurant’s first year, including black and white carnaroli risotto; roasted, wrapped, and line-caught sea bass in potato and thyme; and crispy Alsace apple strudel with maple ice cream. For Joho, though, the most exciting aspect of the anniversary will be the two alumni celebrations featuring chefs who worked at Everest, including Tom Fleming of Crossroads Diner in Dallas as well as locals Hogan, Lents, and Paul Virant of Vie. Says Joho, “What I enjoy is [when] people who spent time here [and are now] successful come back for the day to work here and show off what they like to do.”
Because there’s still hope for haute cuisine. “I still believe you need fine dining,” says Joho. “You want to go eat somewhere where you can have a conversation. With people all night on the phone and tweeting during dinner, that’s a part of life—[but it’s important] to share a good moment at the table with family or friends. It’s happening less and less, [but] I think it’s coming back.”