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J. Joho -- Everest, Brasserie Jo, Eiffel Tower

J Joho RR: Were you destined to become a chef?

Joho: Absolutely…I have a photograph of myself at age five dressed as a chef. At age six, I was working in my aunt's restaurant. At thirteen, I was an apprentice under Paul Haeberlin at L'Auberge de L'Ill in Alsace, France. There was never any doubt where I was heading.

RR: What was your first impression of the American food culture?

Joho: I remember watching people eat corn on the cob and I wanted to get back on the plane. I had never seen anything like it. I wasn't impressed with food in America at that time, however, I did love Chicago and I knew that I'd be happy here.

RR: Has the celebrity chef thing been good for the restaurant business?

Joho: I would say yes for the most part. Celebrity chefs are like the stars in Hollywood. There are stars and there are stars. Some are better than others. I respect the celebrity chefs that know what they are talking about, and know how to run great restaurants.

RR: In terms of running great restaurants, and you run several of them, how has your profession changed over the last twenty plus years?

Joho: It used to be that if you were a talented cook, you could run a restaurant. Today, you must be a talented businessperson to even hope to survive. Great food by itself is not going to get it done.

RR: What advice can you give a culinary school student, or any aspiring chef for that matter?

Joho: Don't be in such a hurry. There's not necessarily instantaneous success in this business. A doctor graduates medical school and they call him or her a doctor. There's still a long way to go and it's all about experience and learning in the real world. A real kitchen in a real restaurant is the real world. Do the right thing and your time will come.

This was an interview excerpt -- click here for the full interview...

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