Chef Jean-Marie Rigollet
College Général du Nord; Ecole Hôtelière des Pyrénées, Toulouse, France.; The Educational Institute of the Hotel and Motel Association; Western International University; Westin Hotels; Scottsdale Community College Scottsdale, AZ.
The Bohemian Club and Grove, San Francisco, CA.; Scottsdale Community College, Scottsdale, AZ.; Scottsdale Culinary Institute, Scottsdale, AZ.; Lost Frenchman Outfitters, Apache Junction, AZ.; Seven D Ranch Cody, WY.; Marché Gourmet Restaurant & Catering, Scottsdale, AZ.; Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa, Phoenix, AZ.
“ENFIN CA Y EST!”
In our best French accent, Arizona Culinary Institute shouts “Here at last – finally!” to renown chef Jean-Marie Rigollet, and heartily welcomes him to our family of elite instructors.
Charming French accent and a certain “Je ne sais quoi?” that makes women swoon. Got it. An enviable resume that includes stints at such legendary haunts as The Bohemian Club and Grove in San Francisco, the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa, and Nouvelle Compagnie de Paquebots aboard the French luxury cruise liner M/S Mermoz? Check. A long list of celebrity friends (past and present) such as Presidents Ronald Regan and George Bush, and rock star Stevie Nicks who often call on Chef Rigollet to make their events sizzle? Yes, it’s all true; and a charmed life barely describes the charming and irresistible Chef Jean-Marie Rigollet, Arizona Culinary Institute’s newest master chef instructor.
Chef Jean-Marie Rigollet was born in Lyon, France in 1949, and his earliest memories include his father cooking for the family. Chef Rigollet winks and uses the word “frugal” rather than poor to describe his beginnings, but he clearly remembers often going to school hungry.
“We didn’t go out – we had no choice – so you learned to cook at home, and like a lot of chefs and foodies, I believe that I’m still drawn to food on a very primal level,” muses Rigollet.
This passion for the culinary arts eventually led Rigollet to be awarded a spot at the Ecole Hoteliere des Pyrenees, in Toulouse, France. His talent, like cream, quickly rose to the top, and his fame was also on the rise when he won the “Coupe Andre Cointreau,” a cup awarded by the legendary Andre Cointreau, founder of the “Le Cordon Bleu” cooking schools, sanctioning a national contest among all hotel schools in France.
After serving a year in the French army, Rigollet’s culinary journey began for real, and he soon found himself aboard the M/S Mermoz, the French luxury cruise liner, working as the Steward and Dining Room Captain. Fluent in French, English, and Spanish, Rigollet has a special way of connecting with people, but as he traveled the world, delighting his friends and guests with his food and his joie de vivre, he also realized that something was missing.
“The magnet was really the old west. Hollywood westerns and the big, open skies. I dreamed about it – and I wanted to be a part of it,” reflects Rigollet.
In 1974, at the tender age of 25, Rigollet got his wish, and he came to Scottsdale, Arizona with the help of doctor friends from Good Samaritan’s Hospital in Phoenix who for years had been his honored guests on the cruise ship.
Over the years, Rigollet’s legend has grown here in the wild, wild west while he’s followed his own muse, cooking, teaching and delighting friends and celebrities alike, from the tony Bohemian Club and Grove in San Francisco, to the Seven D Ranch in Cody, Wyoming where he indulged his love for horses with gourmet pack trips into the wilderness. What’s stayed consistent in his life, however, is phenomenal food – with no gimmicks.
“You have to remember that I have a very traditional, well-anchored French background in cooking and trends don’t excite me that much,” smiles Rigollet.
While he loves the glut of cooking shows on TV and the multitude of celebrity chefs now in the mainstream, he cautions his students that FOOD, and not FAME should be the only driving force for a an epicurean career.
“If you’re really going to devote your life to becoming a chef, there’s definitely a wonderful sense of participation and community,” notes Rigollet, but he also warns his pupils, “and that means that during weekends, and holidays, weddings, and special events – you’re working, and not always available, so it’s a sacrifice you have to be willing to make, especially when it comes to your personal life.”
What’s next for this illustrious gastronomic dynamo? “Here at last” means teaching Saucier and Meat Fabrication to the next generation of chefs, and Rigollet loves the energy and passion of the students at the Arizona Culinary Institute.
He was recently featured in the book “Creating Chefs,” by Carole W. Maybach (with Chef Glenn Humphrey from the Arizona Culinary Institute), in a section on “Food & Life and lessons from Culinary Educators”, and 100 % of the proceeds from the book will be going to the Charlie Trotter’s Culinary Education Foundation (http://www.charlietrottersculinaryeducationfoundation.org/), which raises money to award scholarships to youth who have a passion for cooking and food.
Rigollet heads back to the kitchen at Arizona Culinary Institute, heeding the call from one of his students, but as great food, much like great music is certainly the universal language, he now generously shares one of his favorite recipes, succulent Cinnamon Duck, before bidding us all a sweet adieu.