Jean Joho, chef/owner
Everest
440 S. LaSalle St., Chicago
(312) 663-8920
www.leye.com

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Many years ago, as a novice restaurant critic, I formulated a rule of thumb: Avoid eating in dining establishments located anywhere other than the main floor of the building. That immediately excluded several categories of restaurants from my purview. Dank, German Ratskeller-style basements with decors of exposed plumbing were off the list, no matter how good the sauerbraten and Pilsener. Second-story tourist-trap seafooders on San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf were strictly 86ed, along with their oversauced sole and greasy, fried sand dabs. Restaurants perched on the tops of skyscrapers also warranted exclusion on grounds that the food usually took a distant second place to views from the rotating bar.

This rule of thumb served me pretty well until a decade ago, when I discovered Everest. Located on the 40th floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange, Everest forever changed my mind about "view restaurants." The spectacular panorama is no doubt a draw at Everest, but it definitely plays second fiddle to chef Jean Joho's exceptional cuisine, which is some of the most accomplished French cooking in Chicago, or anywhere in the States for that matter.

Joho is Alsatian, as are several of the other best French cooks practicing in America, including Hubert Keller, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and Jean-Yves Schillinger. Alsace boasts an inordinately high number of Michelin-starred restaurants, and Joho got his start in one of them. At the age of 13 he began an apprenticeship at Paul Haeberlin's Auberge de L'Ill, a three-star in Illhaeusern. After stints working in Italy and Switzerland and attending hotel restaurant school in Strasbourg, Joho opened Everest in 1986 and promptly won just about every distinction possible for a restaurant on the left bank of the Atlantic. (When will Michelin find the gumption to start rating American restaurants, one wonders?)