This month, Chef/ Proprietor J. Joho and the Everest team invite you to join us in celebrating the restaurant’s 30th anniversary. From a 1986 throwback menu to special Alumni Dinners, Everest will be doing a lot this January to honor this momentous occasion. As we gear up to turn 30, Chef Joho is sharing with us 30 things to know about the restaurant.
1. Chef Joho’s first professional culinary job?
My first job in a kitchen was when I was 12-years-old at AUBERGE DE L’ILL in Alsace, France – I worked there for more than a decade. To me, AUBERGE DE L’ILL is the best restaurant in the world – it’s the whole package.
2. Who was your mentor?
It was at AUBERGE DE L’ILL that I had the pleasure of working with my mentor, Chef Paul Haeberlin.
3. What’s some of the greatest advice you’ve received in your career?
It was from my parents. They taught me that cooking and entertaining is important. My father was a businessman and when he would entertain very important customers for the first time, it would be in our home to provide very personal hospitality. Cooking for his guests showed them that he cared and offered his true personality. It’s this personal hospitality that I like to offer to our guests at Everest every day.
4. How did Everest get its name?
Everest was the middle name of one of the owners/developers of the Chicago Stock Exchange.
5. What was the first few weeks of service like?
The first week we opened as The Everest Room and it was a private club for lunch only. The second week we opened dinner to the public and that week, the Chicago Tribune came in to review the restaurant and gave us four stars. Since 1986, Everest has kept those four stars.
6. I was one of the first to…
Use only fresh, American ingredients in my cuisine. When we opened, we promoted handcrafted, American cheeses, we cultivated relationships with Midwest farmers — and in 1986 that was rare. I guess you could say Everest was one of the original farm-to-table restaurants.
7. Another first…
Everest was one of the first tasting menus in Chicago. There were other restaurants that did pre-fixe menus in the city however, they were designed only for large parties and had to be reserved ahead of time.
8. A great memory at the restaurant?
About 20 years ago was the first time my daughter came into the restaurant. Julia Child and Jacque Pepin were there and they spent time with my daughter.
9. How would you describe Everest?
Restaurants should have a specific personality. For me, Everest is not an Alsatian restaurant, but you will find influences from Alsace in the ingredients, techniques and the wine list.
10. Why an Alsatian influence?
Alsace is where I grew up. I know all the hills, all the winemakers, it’s a very personal relationship I have with this place, this restaurant is a personalized cuisine and experience reflective of my home region.
11. What’s an example of an Alsatian touch?
Chef Joho’s food is a new interpretation of traditional dishes from the Alsace region.
12. What is a dish at Everest you are most proud of?
The dish I am most proud of is the last dish of the evening and the first dish we serve the next day.
13. Guests would go crazy if you took ___ off the menu.
The Lobster Roasted in Alsace Gewurztraminer Butter and Ginger has been on the menu for more than 25 years, I can’t take it away. I had created it originally because gewürztraminer wine from Alsace is very hard to pair.
14. One thing you can always find on the menu…
Risotto. It was a bit of a revolution because I was a French chef doing risotto in Chicago. The New York Times said we had the Best Risotto in the USA in 1986.
15. It’s all about attention to detail, right down to the artwork.
When I was working in Italy and Switzerland, I cooked on my days off for well-known artists and for my food, they would pay me in trade which sparked my interest in art collecting. The sculptures at Everest are one of a kind design from Ivo Soldini.
16. One of the only things that hasn’t changed since 1986, is…
The only thing that hasn’t changed from 1986 is the engraving in granite over the main entrance that says “The Everest Room.” Since opening, we have removed the beginning ‘The” and the end “Room” from the name, but Everest will always be the core.
17. Something that did change…
The restaurant is constantly evolving in taste and design. You may remember the leopard print carpet or the Safari paintings that adorned the walls. Each year we update the design, the décor, the artwork.
18. Fine dining is like fashion.
Fine dining will always be here. Trends come and go, but I look at Fine Dining like Fashion – classic fashion is always in style. You do need to update yourself on a daily basis, but Fine Dining is an experience that guests will always want – it’s an opportunity to get people around a table, have a conversation and a great meal.
19. As a chef you’ve worn many hats throughout your career, for me I’ve been…
Pastry chef, baker, butcher, cheese maker, winemaker, attended business school, and many more.
20. Remember when we said winemaking?
Chef Joho chooses all the wines himself. Everest has the largest (and best) Alsatian wine list in the world.
21. Fill in the blank.
If you haven’t been to Everest, you need to, if only for the EXPERIENCE…
22. …or because the restaurant has earned undeniably impressive accolades, including:
One of the Best Restaurants in America – Business Insider
“Everest is not a restaurant to which one arrives. One ascends.”– Four-stars from Phil Vettel of the Chicago Tribune
“The best and largest Alsace wine list in America.” – Saveur Magazine
“A brilliant meal from a great chef who is at the top of his game.” – Robert Parker of The Wine Advocate
23. Did you know…?
Everest is one of the only fine dining restaurants that has held Five Diamond Restaurant rating from AAA Restaurant and Hotel Ratings since they started to give them away.
24. Oh, and let’s not forget the view.
Everest is located 40 floors up on Chicago’s Stock Exchange giving diners panoramic views of Chicago.
25. There’s been some prestigious alumni to come out of the Everest kitchen, including:
Thomas Lents of Sixteen, Paul Virant of Vie and Perennial Virant, Tom Fleming of Crossroads Diner in Dallas, TX; John Hogan of River Roast, Chicago, and the list goes on. Chef Joho is bringing together some notable alumni for two nights only.
Joining us on Tuesday, January 17 will be Tom Fleming of Crossroads Diner, Dallas, TX; John Hogan of River Roast, Chicago; Michael McDonald of Le Meriden, Oak Brook, IL; Joel Reno of the French Pastry School, Chicago; and Paul Virant of Vie and Perennial Virant, Chicago.
On Tuesday, January 24, Chef Joho welcomes Mike Howell of Devour! The Food Film Fest, Nova Scotia, Canada; Daniel Kelch of Five & Dime, Evanston; Thomas Lents of Sixteen, Chicago; Francisco Lopez, Everest; Peter Scarola of R2L, Philadelphia, PA; and Chef Joung Sohn of Eiffel Tower Restaurant, Las Vegas, NV. Everest’s very own Chef Thierry Tritsch will be present for both evenings. Festivities begin at 6 p.m. and cost is $160 per person (not including tax and gratuity). Wine pairings are included. Reservations can be made by calling 312-663-8920.
26. We’re throwing it back to 1986.
Starting Wednesday, January 11, Chef Joho offers a special menu celebrating dishes from the first year of Everest. Menu items include: Presse of Maine Lobster; Calamari, Black and White Carnaroli Risotto; Roasted, Wrapped, Line-Caught Sea Bass in Potato and Thyme; Beef Pot au Feu; and for dessert, Chocolate Banana Terrine; this multi-course menu is available throughout January for $145 per person (not including tax and gratuity). Wine parings are available for another $98 per person. Reservations can be made at www.everestrestaurant.com or by calling 312-663-8920.
27. What do you think guests will be most excited to see come back from 1986?
The Cauliflower and Caviar Spoon – this dish was the first time I had served an amuse on a spoon. Also the Calamari, Black and White Carnaroli Risotto, and the Chocolate Banana Terrine.
28. Chef Joho’s advice to aspiring, young chefs?
The most important thing is to sit down and taste your own food. It takes a long time to create a dish – you don’t create a dish in one day, rather it’s a progression that you need to tweak every day. Every restaurant has its own personality and you, as a chef, need to have your own style, too.
29. Want to be part of the celebrations?
Join us to celebrate Everest’s 30th this month. For more information on anniversary happenings and events, visit the 30th anniversary page on our website or follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
30. And now, a note from Chef/ Proprietor J. Joho.
To our loyal guests,
I have a great appreciation for each and every guest that walks in our door, and I want to say thank you for the continued support over the last 30 years. We look forward to celebrating this incredible anniversary with you all and to many, many more years of service!
– Chef J. Joho