DINING WITH THE STARS

by Allen Dale Olson

In the spring of 1968 I was beginning my second year as an executive officer in the Directorate of the United States Department of Defense Schools in Europe. Based in Karlsruhe, Germany, I and my family had ample opportunity to explore the Rhine Valley, the Black Forest, and the French provinces of Alsace and Lorraine.

One of our interests quickly became the food and wines of France. The border with France was just across the Rhine River, about half-an-hour’s drive from Karlsruhe, so we could easily get to French villages with Germanic names – Wissembourg, Lauterbourg, Haguenau, and, of course, the impressive city of Strasbourg.

Those visits introduced us to the Michelin Guide to restaurants and made us conscious of the star and other rankings for eateries. We experienced our first three-star restaurant, the Auberge de l’Ill, in Illhauesern for lunch and decided that restaurants of that ranking were worth pursuing. That’s why when we learned in March 1968 that the Restaurant Troisgros in Roanne had just been awarded a third star that we would give it a try.

Roanne was a six or seven-hour drive from Karlsruhe (No Autoroutes, GPS, or MapQuest in those days.) Dilemma: at Auberge de l’Ill, we could leave our six-year-old daughter with a sitter because we would be gone for only a few hours. Roanne, however, would require at least one overnight.

“Not to worry,” the receptionist told me on the phone; “just bring her along.” We knew that many places didn’t appreciate small children in luxurious dining rooms at dinner time, so we had felt compelled to ask. The reply was warm and welcoming.

Our table was ready upon arrival. The hostess – Olympe Troisgros herself – said she had a question. She explained that her ten-year-old son, Michel, was having his dinner alone in the kitchen and that maybe our daughter would enjoy dining with him. There would be a television and it would be more relaxing for the children in the kitchen.

We were never sure just what our daughter had for dinner, but she found it really good. Ours was magnificent. Troisgros has since become recognized as one of the finest restaurants in the world, and guess who’s in charge in 2014 and has been for several years: Michel, of course. I can’t really say we have become friends, but we have seen him and his parents many times over the years. He doesn’t remember his dinner with our daughter that evening, because he had that experience many times as he grew up in that famous kitchen.

But our first-grader in 1968 could say she had dined with a young man who would become one of the world’s most renowned chefs.

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