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More than a hat tip, the Prestigious Toque d'Argent is awarded to Michel Richard

Some of the finest chefs in the world gathered at an intimate ceremony at Citronelle Saturday evening to tip their hats -- well, one large sterling silver hat, to be exact -- to renowned chef Michel Richard. One of the most successful chefs in America, Richard doesn't lack for awards, but this one is

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RJSmith
RJSmith

different: The Association des Maîtres Cuisiniers de France, or Master Chefs of France, honored Richard with the esteemed "Toque d’Argent" award of excellence. Approximately 16 members of the worldwide organization came for the ceremony, giving Richard a symbolic chef's hat of silver that is held by each winner for one year. As tiny salmon "cupcakes" and other creations floated through the ceremony, Richard told the group -- in French, bien sûr -- that he started cooking at age seven, landing his first job as an apprentice pastry chef at 14 in the Champagne region. For years, Richard dreamed of creating the range of savory dishes that the great executive chefs were appointed to design. "Do you think I'm ready, maman?" he would ask his mother year after year. After his military service, Richard moved to Paris to join Gaston Lenotre

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RJSmith
RJSmith

's esteemed pastry shop. In 1977, he moved to Los Angeles, opening a patisserie, then -- 10 years later -- the restaurant called Citrus. That eventually led to restaurants in San Francisco, Baltimore and Philadelphia. In 1994, he came to the Latham Hotel in Georgetown to open Citronelle. The Maîtres Cuisiniers' motto is “to preserve and spread the French culinary arts, encourage training in cuisine, and assist professional development.”

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RJSmith
RJSmith

Surrounded by the best of the industry, Richard lightened the formal ceremony by calling out in English, "Mom, are you proud of me?" As his brother-in-law Jean-Jacques Retourne, the Maitre d' at Citronelle, his right hand and publicist Mel Davis, and the French chefs and their wives looked on, Richard got an answer to his question from this extended family: they beamed. Among the attendees: Jean-Louis Dumonet of the Union Club of New York, Christian Delouvrier, of New York's La Mangeoire, Olivier De Saint Martin of Caribou Café and Zinc Restaurant of Phildelphia, Claude Godard, of Madison Bistro in New York, Jean-Louis Gerin of Restaurant Jean-Louis in Greenwich, Alain Roussel of La Ferme Restaurant in Chevy Chase, Gael Cruchet of the Ritz-Carlton Tyson's Corner, where Richard is set to open a new restaurant, and Jerome Ferrer of Restaurant Europea in Montreal.Michel Richard's Toque d'Argent Menu Passed Hors d’oeuvres - During Toque d’Argent CeremonyChampagne Moutardier, Brut, “Carte d’Or” Tomato tartarSancerre, “Perle Blanche”, Domaine Christian Lauverjat 2008 Cuttlefish Fettucini, with sea urchinPuligny-Montrachet, Domaine Patrick Miolane 2007 Sablefish dressed in RedGevrey Chambertin 1er Cru, "Petite Chapelle", Domaine Jean-Michel Guillon 2002 Colorado Lamb, white bean jalapeno saucePessac-Leognan, Chateau Olivier, Grand Cru Classe 2003 Dessert – VacherinBrachetto d’Acqui, “Passione”, Coppo 2006