The renowned French Chef Jean LaFont was recognized as the Diamond of Dallas fine dining. Many of America’s great chefs have learned their craft from ‘le Maestro,’ who produced several Michelin and 5 Star rated restaurants under his resume.
The Savoy of London was a hot bed of haute cuisine in the 60s when J.D. Rockefeller coaxed the young Chef Jean LaFont to New York for the opening of the now landmark Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center in New York.
The Athene Palace in Paris, The Helmsley Palace and the Rainbow Room in Manhattan, The Playboy Hotel and Mansion in Chicago, Ernie’s in San Francisco, the Pyramid at the Fairmont in Dallas, the spectacular culinary Dallas sensation, Oz, the legendary Old Warsaw and Ernie’s in Dallas have all been elevated to the highest ratings under the guidance of the diminutive Frenchman who cast a giant shadow.
Sinatra, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Sarah Vaughn, Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis, Bob Hope, Richard Burton, and Elizabeth Taylor were all loyal patrons of his world-class restaurants and hotels. Hundreds of royalty called for his banquets. Superstars would follow him from coast to coast to be transported by his culinary creativity.
A royal Saudi prince once instructed ‘le Maestro’ to spare no expense to present the greatest banquet the great chef could conceive. The prince demanded the best of everything his guest could ever imagine and to spare no expense to create a magical and memorable culinary experience. More than $360,000 later, some 100 guests experienced the dining experience of their lives. The Chef considered the Presidential Inauguration dinner of George H. W. Bush as one of his great honors. He was a personal friend to Leona Helmsly as he orchestrated dining at the Helmsley Palace.
“I would personally present the meal that would be served to Leona for the first few weeks after I was employed, even though I was responsible for all of the fine dining for the hotel. Leona would cut into the main course, usually tenderloin or a bone-in rib eye steak and she would always turn them back, no matter how perfectly they were prepared. I soon learned to prepare a dozen plates. She would usually refuse three or four before she made her choice even though they were all exactly medium rare. My staff ate very well!”
“I consider moving to Dallas my greatest culinary challenge. Dallas was not known for great cuisine at the time. When I came to Oz, I brought along the greatest collection of European chefs this city had ever seen. I had a standing order for iced crates of fresh seafoods to be flown in every day. My staff would gather around crates of often live fresh seafoods flown in daily from the Mediterranean and around the world to see what specialties we could create. By seniority the chefs would rummage through the crates like children and bullies. They would argue over octopus and squid, shellfish and crustaceans, and an endless variety of fish.
Then they would secretly come to me and ask, ‘Chef, what can I do, to create a masterpiece? What a pleasure, what a school of creativity, what a competition to create a culinary experience!"