At Villa René Lalique in Alsace, France, Jean-Georges Klein is cooking up an inventive, ever-evolving menu that sees customers returning again and again. Klein tells Luxury Defined how he develops his artful dishes, and how waiting tables helped him become a great chef.
“I grew up in the kitchen and was influenced by the smells and tastes I discovered,” Klein says. “But I didn’t dream of becoming a chef. When I was young, I wanted to become an interior designer.”
“After studying hotel management in Strasbourg from 1967 to 1969 I became head waiter at the restaurant my mother, Lilly, owned. When she retired, I took her place in the kitchen—at 40 years old.”
“Because I had no traditional training, I often go beyond limits. Every day, I try out unlikely combinations and contrasts. I take risks, and see if the results could be interesting for our guests.”
“I’d describe the cuisine we create at Villa René Lalique as creative and colorful, full of contrasting looks, tastes, and textures, inspired by nature and what surrounds me.”
“I do combinations to surprise diners’ palates and create an emotion. There is no emotion without surprise.”
“Being a waiter helped me understand that the work in the kitchen is only one part of the experience diners will have. At Villa René Lalique, service is very professional and sophisticated, but not stiff. I want people to feel at home here.”
“The most important thing for me is that guests like my cuisine and leave the restaurant thinking, ‘I discovered something here. I have lived a culinary experience I had never lived before.’”