Chef Mike Handal remembers the first time a restaurant chef ever appeared on the cover of Bon Appetit. “It was 1980 and Chicago’s Jean Banchet [was the first]. Then came a protégé of Bocuse. And then my chef, Jean-Jacques Rachou.”
The 1980s in New York City was the wild west of fine dining. Chefs from abroad—many of them French—were shaping the city’s iconic restaurant style with elegant, old world techniques and innovative ideas. At the center of it all, Jean-Jacques Rachou’s newly opened La Côte Basque was like an Ivy League graduate school for recent culinary graduates. Todd English, Charlie Palmer and Rick Moonen—even Daniel Boulud—passed through his kitchens on their way to stardom. For twelve years, ICE’s own Chef Mike Handal worked alongside them, working every station from soufflé, to garde manger and even sous chef.
“It was just the beginning of the idea of chefs as celebrities. Jean-Jacques, for example, became famous for a new style of plating—painting plates with various colors of sauces and intricate designs. Yet even though chefs were coming into their own, La Côte Basque was a good grounding in the real world, because at the end of the day it was hard, physical work, six days a week."
Read on to learn more about Chef Mike's path to ICE.