Chefs and Writers Remember Jean Banchet, ‘Chicago’s First Celebrity Chef’

The master. Photo: WLS

Chef Jean Banchet, a pioneer of haute French cuisine in Chicago, died Sunday at age 72 of pancreatic cancer at his Florida home. Banchet, called "Chicago's first celebrity chef" by the Chicago Tribune, transformed the city when he opened his acclaimed Le Francais in the suburbs in 1971; by 1980, it was a global dining destination, dubbed "America's Best Restaurant" by Bon Appétit. Phil Mott, who took over Le Francais after the legendary chef retired in 2001, says, "He changed the landscape; he made it possible for Charlie Trotter and all the other great chefs." Banchet was inducted into the Chicago Chefs Hall of Fame in October and helped establish the Jean Bachet Awards for culinary excellence in Chicago. Eric Ripert tells the Times, “He was definitely a bon vivant, loving life in every way.” He is also remembered in the Chicago Sun Times, and the following messages of appreciation from chefs such as Thomas Keller, Rick Tramonto, and others have appeared on Twitter.

Le Francais chef set high standard for fine dining in Chicago [Tribune]
Jean Banchet, Chef Who Translated French Cuisine, Dies at 72 [NYT]