Friday, June 08, 2007

Congratulations to Citronelle!

Jovial, cheeky, capricious and brilliant, Celebrity Chef Michel Richard is the James Beard Foundation 2007 Outstanding Chef of the Year.

Surely one of the most creative chefs of our time, Richard made his first splash this side of the Atlantic, with desserts. After studying in France, Michel came to the US in the 70's. He whipped up sweets in the French Pastry Shop in Santa Fe, New Mexico. (I grew up in Santa Fe so, having a French father, we always had our bouche de Noel - Christmas log cake - from French Pastry Shop. Mmm...)

From there, Richard launched Citrus in Los Angeles. (Though Michel told me that the women in LA, who are always counting calories, drove him crazy because they'd comment on how pretty the pastries were but not eat them.)

Eventually, he left LA to open the legendary Michel Richard Citronelle, in Washington DC, where an opulent dining experience is enhanced by wines that make your head spin (and not just from the alcohol). All this is available to the rich and famous for the price of a small car.

Sommelier, Mark Slater also took home top honors for Outstanding Wine Service. Incidentally, Mark also creates some exceptionally delicious cocktails at Citronelle... like the Pineapple Martini featured on The Liquid Muse Website homepage!

The end of 2006 saw the "democratization" of Citronelle, with Central, Richard's more accessible brasserie, and the release of his gorgeous cookbook, Happy in the Kitchen.

I've had the good fortune to get to know this culinary master, a bit, during our many walks around Washington. That is how I learned about his corkscrew collection, featured in my article in Capitol File, last December, and from whence sprang my monthly column in The Georgetowner "
Cooking With Michel Richard." So, Monsieur Richard, a very hearty congratulations! You inspire passion for the art of food, in all who meet you.

*Photo "borrowed" from the James Beard website.

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