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

The master.
The master. Photo: Courtesy of WLS-TV

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.

Jean Banchet always supported my career even to the point where he brought the King in so I could cook for him. RIP— Rick Tramonto (@cheftramonto) November 26, 2013

Jean Banchet, Dies at 72 taught us how to make a proper terrine in ‘01 @ Brasserie Perrine. RIP (cc @chefjonnymac)— nicholas elmi (@nicholaselmi) November 26, 2013

RIP Chef Banchet— Andrew Carmellini (@andrecarmellini) November 26, 2013

Chef Banchet was an icon; someone who set the example for all of us & ignited the culinary movement in America— Thomas Keller (@Chef_Keller) November 26, 2013

First great meal I ever had was made by”Jean Banchet, #Chef Who Translated French Cuisine, Dies at 72”— Craig Camp (@CraigCamp) November 26, 2013

RIP Chef Jean Banchet Requested Le Francais for my 8th grade graduation dinner, my first serious restaurant. Amazing and life changing.— Stacey Ballis (@staceyballis) November 25, 2013

RIP Chef Jean Banchet.— Jitti Chaithiraphant (@cookinginvein) November 25, 2013

Another Legend, R.I.P. Chef Jean Banchet.— Curtis Duffy (@curtisduffy) November 25, 2013

Thank you Chef Banchet for making me feel “Parisian”ish at every single childhood birthday.RIP:— My Last Supper (@mylastsupper) November 26, 2013

Today the French cuisine lost the most amazing chef jean banchet from Chicago ! He runs restaurant le français for 20 years RIP Jean 😭— Gilles Épié (@gillesepie) November 25, 2013

RIP Jean Banchet, the Warren Leruth of Chicago chefs ht @philvettel— Brett Anderson (@BrettEats) November 26, 2013

Karen interviewed Chicago chef Jean Banchet solo for BECOMING A CHEF (1995) & remembers him as very intense & devilishly charming— Page and Dornenburg (@KarenAndAndrew) November 25, 2013

Talked to Jean Banchet in ‘08, he was traveling on his Screaming Eagle fat boy Harley, throwing parties, cooking up feasts of coq au vin.— Michael Nagrant (@MichaelNagrant) November 25, 2013

RIP Jean ,my friend , mentor & spiritual father as left us today ,very sad— Roland Passot (@RpassotRoland) November 25, 2013

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

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