André Soltner was born in Alsace, France in 1932. At age 15, he started his career at the Hotel du Parc in Mulhouse, Alsace, France. While working at a restaurant in Switzerland, he discovered skiing, and when it was time for his military service, he listed his profession as cabinetmaker, but with his skiing abilities, it propelled him into the French Alpine troops instead of cooking army food. After service, he took up a chef’s ladle again.
By age 27 in 1959, Chef Soltner had become chef of the fashionable Parisian restaurant Chez
Hansi. Two years later in 1961, he moved to New York City, to work at LUTÈCE, and what was at that time known as New York’s most expensive restaurant. He didn’t just serve some of the world’s finest French cuisine, he elevated it to a high art. He became what could arguably be said: America’s first superstar chef.
When Chef André Soltner became the sole owner of Lutèce in 1972, everything changed except the glorious food. His wife, Simone, personally greeted and sat diners (they then lived above the restaurant), including such luminaries as the Kennedys, Nixons, Hepburns, and John Lennon.
Great Chefs had the privilege to tape Chef André Soltner in 1993 for their Great Chefs – Great Cities television series for the Discovery Channel. Our television crew remembers the story, when we said to Chef André that he didn’t need his chef’s hat, and he responded that if he did that the City of New York would send him a fine, like they did the last time he appeared on television.
In 1994, the Soltners sold Lutèce (he only missed 5 days of work in the 34 years at Lutèce), and became the Dean of the French Culinary Institute, now part of the International Culinary Center.
In 2010, Chef Soltner, along with Great Chefs Jacques Pepin, Jacques Torres and Alain Sailhac, prepared a $30,000 per-couple dinner for U.S. President Barack Obama’s fund-raiser at Manhattan’s St. Regis hotel.
Today in 2016, he divides his time at the school and teaching hands-on cooking techniques to students at the Culinary Theatre.