Jean-Philippe Schmitt has two passions: cooking and traveling. He soon set off with a CAP in his pocket until he realized his dream in the United States, where he was appointed head chef in a major institution. This Alsatian with a loyal heart tells us about his adventure.
As his name suggests, Jean-Philippe Schmitt is of Alsatian descent. 23 years ago he moved to the United States to build his life there. His accent has become significantly Americanized, but his attachment to his native country has not changed. The picture of his Messenger profile, where I should call him, can attest to this. The size of three apples, he poses in shorts in his parents’ garden in Mundolsheim.
In this corner of Alsace, he was born, grew up and discovered a passion for cooking very early. A few decades later, at the age of 51, that passion has remained intact. It was she who took him further and further on his many journeys.
†I cut my teeth in Strasbourg, as an apprentice, then as a clerk, and finally as a sous-chef. It was my boss back then in 1991 who gave me travel fever listening to his stories“. On the basis of this curriculum vitae, Jean-Philippe is hired as a chef at Club Med after his military service. He then embarks on a world tour that will allow him, as he says, to discover 33 countries in 6 years.”I learned a lot, it made me grow†
It’s 11 a.m. on this side of the Atlantic and Jean-Philippe, aka Jips to those closest to him, is preparing to return to his workplace. Along the way, he takes the opportunity to tell me his story. †I’m in the free hand“, he wants to reassure me by leaving behind the green hills of this corner of Indiana where he has taken up residence with his wife.”This greenery, these forests, this space, it reminds me of Alsace†
In the distance, the buildings of Louisville, the great city of Kentucky, stand out. Here he will take his shift, in the restaurant of the very select Pendennis Club. A venerable institution founded in 1881 and one of the oldest private clubs in the United States. †It brings together Louisville’s greatest lawyers. They can eat there but also play squash, relax in the sauna and even dance in the grand ballroom.The famous old-fashioned whiskey cocktail was invented at the Pendennis Club, the Wikipedia page claims.
I started back at the bottom of the ladder as a clerk but in six months I became a cook again
†In Florida I met my wife, an American citizen. I was still working at Club Med, between Orlando and Miami. After that, I had the choice of returning to France or staying on the condition that I resign my position as Chef at Club Med. I stayed, we got married and settled in Louisville. I started back at the bottom of the ladder as a clerk but in six months I became a cook again†
Jips, who still drives his car – I think he drives very slowly – remembers those times. That was for the Pendennis Club. The restaurant, a gasthaus, was run by a German. †There I found the kitchen of my youth since with the spaetzle, all that I grew up with. I worked as a cook at the Gasthaus for 13 years”. Once a week, Jean-Philippe brings his French twist to the German restaurant, a petit bourguignon in winter, a few pastries and the occasional hearty Alsatian fare.
Guided like clockwork, Jips calls his brothers and sisters once a week. †On the phone we speak Alsatian, it is a language I maintain, which I do not want to lose. You know, if you’re Alsatian, it’s from the beginning to the end”, he said in good humor and in this American-curved accent. Does he find his Alsatian accent when he speaks the dialect? Maybe not, but what is certain is that here in the United States we see that he has a French accent. A real expat between two cultures† He also has dual citizenship, French and American. But mostly Alsatian. Secure. By the way, at home he lifted the farmer a lot.
It’s the American dream: you start with nothing, but you can get there if you set your mind to itJips, French-American Alsatian
“I miss some things from my home country, but there are many more facilities in the United States. A determined person in his professional life will succeed, but if you wait in your seat, you will achieve nothing here. When I decided to stay in the United States I had nothing. I married a beautiful woman, now I have a house, a car, a very good professional situation”.
Arriving at the Pendennis Club in 2013, he quickly rose in rank thanks to the general manager who trusted him. †We must recognize this quality in the Americans. If they see that you are a good person, they will contact you, they will help you succeed. It’s the American dream: you start with nothing, but you can get there if you commit.”
Within a year, Jean-Philippe is named chef, according to the term inaugurated in kitchens on the other side of the Atlantic. †It’s the top, we can’t go any higher, it’s the dream come true. I often think about my father, up there, and I see him say to my wife, ‘Did you see what the little one has become’, that’s what he called me. Voila, the little one has arrived†
With these words, Jips’ conversation and drive ends. He just has time to add”Travel, travel. This is my advice to anyone who wants to open their minds.day yip.