Viva Jean Louis
July 5, 2006
He had lived all over the world and had never really been in one place for longer than 10 years. It had almost been a decade since moving to Utah, so, naturally, his nomadic instincts started to take control.
That’s when Jean-Louis Montecot heard a little voice by each shoulder, both telling him to stay put. They were the voices of his two children, Stephanie, 13, and Mathiew, 11.
"I’ve been in Utah for 10 years and I like to try new things after a while," said Montecot, 45. "I wanted to go to Australia or somewhere else, but the kids wanted to stay, so I thought owning my own business would be best. I love Park City because I’m married now and have children and I love it here."
Montecot, who has been cooking since he was old enough to hold a whisk, recently opened his own restaurant, Jean Louis’, after stepping down as the executive chef at the Goldener Hirsch. He just hosted the grand opening party for the new store last week.
"It was a little bit a crazy. It’s my job to make good food," he said. "I’ve been cooking for 32 years, so I’m just now getting good at it."
He said the new menu will be very different from his previous restaurants in Park City. Rather than cater to a specific clientele, his goal has been to be able to serve anyone and everyone.
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"It’s not too expensive — it’s a fair price," he said. "It’s not really a fancy restaurant. I wanted something for the locals. I just wanted to please everyone."
In order to be the people-pleaser he wants to be, Montecot got two licenses for the restaurant one as a private club and one as a restaurant. He split the sizeable menu into what he calls the "bar-like menu" and the "dinner menu."
The bar-like menu is served from the opening at 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. when dinner starts being served. It’s dinnertime until 10 p.m., when the bar-like menu reappears until closing, which is sometime around midnight.
The bar-like menu includes assorted drinks, burgers, pizza, salads and possibly something for a larger appetite. The dinner menu features steaks, chicken, trout and other main courses ranging from $10-$32.
"I want people to be able to enjoy drinks when it’s a lighter time, but be able to come in and eat as well," he said. "Like I said, I just want everybody to be happy. But in America you have to be able to cook a good hamburger, so I learned how when I got here."
He said that it was cooking in seven countries, 18 cities, and over 25 restaurants that he learned to cook a diverse menu.
Born near Normandy in France, he got into cooking very young. But it was music that taught him to love travel and diversity. By the age of eight, he was an accomplished musician and traveled with a group to various countries.
By age 12 his dad told him to get a job. He landed a job cooking while going to school, but when he graduated from high school he wasn’t excited to go to the real world so he created his own.
At 17 he opened a truck stop, then later two clubs. At age 20 he sold everything and moved to Paris. At 21 he moved to Italy, then back to France. In France he got a job on a cruise ship that went from Paris to Morocco. He jumped ship in Morocco and worked there for 8 months before jumping back on the boat and heading back to France.
He had worked in the mountains of France for two years when a guy he was working with told him to come to America. Montecot wasn’t too excited about the prospect, but his co-worker gave him a ticket so he moved to New York City.
"I learned the language and worked very hard," he said. "I was working three jobs at once. I learned English by watching TV. I came here with $300 in my pocket, so I am proof that the American dream is still possible. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s possible."
Exactly two weeks after arriving in New York he met his future wife, Laura, whom he married two years later. The couple moved to Laura’s home country of Peru, where Montecot said some of his fondest memories were made.
"Each move was a new experience," he said. "When my heart was really into it, because my wife is from there, was Peru."
They moved to Chicago and then back to Peru. Both Montecot and his wife had problems with Immigration Services in America, so they were forced to move back and forth between the two about every six months. Once they both got papers they moved from Chicago to Utah.
"My wife was tired of the city and she wanted to live in the countryside," Montecot said. "A friend of mine I had met in New York called me from Park City and I stopped here. I was supposed to stay for three months but now I’ve been here for 10 years — and I don’t even ski."
Although each move brought it’s own challenges and a different food, Montecot said he loves trying new things, which keeps it exciting.
"It’s a feeling inside," he said. "You train yourself and you try new things. When you have friends from a different country they can also help you learn to cook the food, but it’s scary. Right now I’m feeling a lot of feelings — happiness, nervousness. It’s a lot of things."
Montecot said he will be successful despite his fears because of the wonderful people he has around him and the setting of the new restaurant.
"We have a great location and great people working here," he said. "There’s a great story behind the building, but I don’t know it entirely. We’re going to have valet parking and make it real nice here, but I think in the next six months to a year you’ll see a change in the Gateway. I just love the location, but most importantly, so does my family."