The chef-owner of the Côte Saint Jacques restaurant and hotel in Burgundy, Jean-Michel Lorain takes French cooking to the highest level. His grandmother Marie set the stage, turning her family home in Joigny into a restaurant at the end of World War II. Then his father, Michel, took over from Marie in the late 1950s and elevated the restaurant to the point of receiving a Michelin star in 1971, and a second five years later.
Carrying on the family tradition, Jean-Michel joined his father in the kitchen after studying with the inimitable chef-brothers Troisgros and chef Claude Deligne and doing a stint with acclaimed chef Frédy Girardet in Switzerland. Together the father and son team refined the menu, renovated the space, and expanded the accommodations at their hotel. They even wrote a cookbook about their experiences in La Cuisine: une passion de père et fils (Cooking: A passion of father and son). In 1983, Côte Saint-Jacques won its third Michelin star. And in 1993, the same year that Jean-Michel was named Chef of the Year by Gault-Millau, he was passed the kitchen torch by Michel, who had decided to retire.
Lorain’s menu features delicate dishes such as pan-fried “petits gris” snails, hyssop, and soft polenta; and confit and roasted Quercy lamb with sweet spices, almond cream, and fennel. He has gone on to write cookbooks of his own, among them one on desserts for entertaining; a book of herbs, salads, and flowers; and one on the emotion of cooking.
Continuing in the tradition of bringing family members into the business, Jean-Michel in 2014 joined his daughter Marine in opening a restaurant in Thailand, J’AIME, in the U Sathorn hotel. There, dishes like foie gras royale served with jackfruit jelly and almonds, and red mullet with sweet-and-sour ratatouille sauce served with stuffed squid allow French tradition to meet Asian technique and ingredients.