Jean Georges Vongerichten. Famed chef. Enjoys lots of global foodie love. Plenty of Michelin stars. Restaurants are on the holy grail trail of modern food. Books are best sellers. That sort of famed chef.
He popped into Singapore in October '07 to headline the first of a slew of one night only appearances by famed chefs, for the St Regis' Culinery Home of World Renowned Chefs Series. I dropped in early to get acquainted, being the emcee for the evening. Hardly expecting a sparkling eyed, calm, completely lovely - and lively - soul. Impeccable in his chef whites. Easy but focussed. And dammit, nice. Lovely nice.
Obviously I have been somewhat captivated. Believe it when I say this has never happened to me.
Having worked for a good decade in an industry filled with a host of created personalities, products, places and ideas, complete with spun stories - some great, others utter nonsense - I have remained a healthy sceptic to the core, of reviews, mythologically spun PR stories, and any pre packaged, press release derived opinion of people's personalities.
That's the only way to suss out the near real subjects, from the terribly overblown ones. Real meaning, the ideas that, despite being smothered in beautiful bull, still feel real, and make you inclined and even inspired, to write about.
Which brings me back to my encounter with Jean Georges. In all my years of meeting, greeting and interviewing big names in the lifestyle business, he is the first and only person I'd describe in a first encounter - in addition to nice - as enigmatic without the ego, passionate without the drama, believably authentic and 100 percent, humble. No watchful PR people and crisp press releases involved.
The man has been cooking for 30 odd years. His name is already written in history. His talent is already proven, his focus and determination clear, and his devotion, obvious. He could be annoying, high handed, if he wanted to be. No one would tell him otherwise.
But he isn't. Being lovely nice it seems, is actually him. Sparkly eyes are the bonus. None of which takes even the slightest edge off his talent.
Try it, world.