It was September 1982 and Mrs. P and I were on a late afternoon flight from London to Paris. It was our first trip to Europe together, and after spending four days in London we had planned to be in Paris for three days. Though I knew very little about fine dining back then, I had been in Paris once before and I knew how good even the most simple food could be. Fortunately, an older colleague of mine knew Paris well and I had booked a few places that he had recommended (La Maree and Bofinger for those of you who like to know all of the details). But I had left our first night open, primarily because I was concerned that our flight would be late in departing London. Normally the lack of dinner plans would have had me worried. But on my first trip to Paris in 1977, I learned that it wasn't difficult to stumble upon a good place to eat. In fact if we got in too late to have a proper dinner, and we ended up eating crepes from a street vendor on the Blvd. St. Germain, washed down by bottles of cider at a bar, I would have been perfectly happy.
We were in mid-flight when Mrs P (actually the future Mrs P at that time), was reading the International Herald Tribune. All of a sudden she turned to me and said, "Hey listen to this. There is a story in the paper about the chef at the restaurant in the hotel we are staying at. The Michelin Guide has awarded the restaurant a second star, and he is the youngest chef ever to win that honor. Maybe when we check into the hotel we can ask them if we can have dinner there tonight?" Though I had never heard of the chef, I agreed that we would inquire about dinner upon check in. We marched up to the reception around 8:30, and it didn't take long for the person at reception to tell us that the restaurant was happy to take the two of us for dinner at 9:00.
I'm sure those of you who are old enough to remember, and who were into fine dining back in those days, know that I am talking about the Hotel Nikko in Paris's 15th arrondisement, which during that time housed a restaurant by the name of Les Celebrities. And the name of the chef at that restaurant, the one who was just awarded his second Michelin star, the youngest chef ever to win that honor, was none other than Joel Robuchon. And at 9:00 that evening my culinary life was born.