chef-name: Bernard Cretier

Bernard Cretier was born in 1947 in Vichy, France, and began his apprenticeship at age 15 in France. He then moved around to work under the greatest chefs in France: Jean and Pierre Troisgros, and then Bocuse at L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges near Lyon. He then went into the French Navy in Paris as the personal chef of General Billotte, who was Secretary of State.

After service, he worked Maxim’s in Paris for four years, then in Germany and Switzerland before he was recruited to open Maxim’s in 1970 where he worked for six years, along with Great Chef Pierre Pollin.

In 1976, Chef Cretier left his cushy post at Maxim’s, borrowed money from his family and friends, and set up a restaurant called Le Vichyssois north of Chicago near the Wisconsin state line. Le Vichyssois means “a person from the spa village of Vichy” where Chef Cretier was born. It was an easy drive in the 1970s & 80s for busy Chicagoans who wanted to escape to the country and have a fine French meal.

It was in 1984 that Great Chefs made the trip up to Le Vichyssois to produce what is now called a landmark television series, Great Chefs of Chicago. Until that time, no one considered Chicago as a culinary destination. That series, also known as “The Bakers Dozen”, featured thirteen of the best chefs in the Chicagoland area, and because of PBS restrictions, a half dozen more Great Chefs were left behind.

Great Chefs Television corrected that on their next series, when they dropped specific cities as a title (e.g., Great Chefs of . . . New Orleans, San Francisco & Chicago), and instead adopted regional cuisine with their first 26-part series Great Chefs of the West, with a focus on Southwestern Cuisine.
So Great Chefs showed up on the doorsteps of Le Vichyssois one cold winter morning to tape Chef Bernard Cretier preparing a Seafood Paté in Basil Sauce appetizer, an entrée of Salmon Baked in Puff Pastry sitting in a pool of Champagne Sauce, and a Tarte au Chocolate dessert.

As traveling from Chicago became more difficult, and dress styles changed from coat and tie to casualization of restaurant-goers, Chef Cretier was forced to dumb down his menu to a Bistro style French restaurant. To make up the difference in cash flow, he began to market, just to his customers and local food outlets, his special Demi-glace.
In 2014, Chef Bernard and his wife, Priscilla, woke up one morning realizing that two of his good friends, Great Chefs Jean Banchet and Charlie Trotter had just dropped dead from heart attacks, and Great Chef Pierre Pollin had retired 10 years earlier. It was time, after 38 years, to close Le Vichyssois the restaurant, and concentrate on producing more Le Vichyssois Demi-glace.

So, on March 30, 2014, Le Vichyssois served its last meal, and the expansion of Demi-glace production began.