On Sunday, French chef and Chicago legend Jean Banchet died in Miami, FL at the age of 70 after a long and storied career at the helm of Le Francais, once considered the best restaurant in America and one of the best in the world.
Banchet, who never smoked and kept himself in remarkable physical shape, intended to keep his illness private. But word spread after the death of fellow chef Charlie Trotter in early November.
“People were calling to see if we were attending the memorial service,” said Doris Banchet, the chef’s wife. “And when I said we weren’t coming, I had to say why.”
Banchet reached the top of American chef-dom when Bon Appetit named Le Francais the Best Restaurant in America in 1980, an unusual move considering its location in the quiet Chicago commuter suburb of Wheeling, IL. He retired in 2001 at the age of 60 and worked part-time as a consultant for the Ritz-Carlton, but his name still carries an enormous amount of prestige: the Jean Banchet Awards for Culinary Excellence, given to Chicago’s best chefs, is currently in its 17th year.
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