Remembering Michel Richard

IMG_0258On August 13, the legendary French chef Michel Richard died. I first met Michel in 2007 when I was writing my celebrity chefs story for the Weekly Standard. And over the years I’d kept in touch with him for stories I’d written at the Standard and Washingtonian—over innumerable lunches and dinners we chatted about everything, quite literally from soup to nuts. And still, after publishing my reflections at the Washington Free Beacon and at the Standard, there are still things I managed to leave out. He loved women: He loved talking about them, admiring them from afar, getting hugs and kisses from them at the restaurant. He hated root beer—the first time he tried it, he was expecting the taste of beer, not cinnamon, and almost spit it out. He hated the new range of pastel colors for macaroons, which he found puzzling. And he especially hated tattoos, which are now ubiquitous in the cooking world.

I came across my notes from a 2010 lunch with Michel, Levi Mezick (now a chef at Charlie Palmer’s Harvest Table in Napa), and then-assistant manager Jennifer Lucy:

A friendly and attractive female server comes over and asks if we’d like a drink. We decline politely. Central is now closed as it prepares for dinner and the server is only wearing a sleeveless shirt with shoulder straps, exposing her right upper-arm tattoo. Body art and kitchens these days are fairly common. There may not be any open space left on Wylie Dufresne’s entire body. Most of the line cooks, Levi notes, also have some form of body art…. But Michel hates it. And he cannot help but notice the tattoo on the girl’s arm. He doesn’t say anything, but Jennifer Lucy is aware of the stare, what it means, and assures Michel she will be covered during service. But Michel still has to comment: “If someone served me and I saw these things on his arm…. Do you know where tattoos look good? On garbage cans…. If you were born with tattoos, your mother and father would spend money to remove them!”

I also stumbled across this other line of his: “Fusion creates confusion.” He was one of a kind.

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