Michel Jacob’s Le Crocodile Celebrates 30 Years

Rob Feenie and one-time mentor Michel Jacob (courtesy le Crocodile)

Rob Feenie and one-time mentor Michel Jacob (courtesy le Crocodile)

It’s a fact of life. People just have to ask me: “What’s your favourite restaurant?”

It’s always tough to answer because, as a rule, I don’t play favourites. “It depends,” I’ll say …

Chances are it might be the ‘flavour of the month:’ the place that’s just left a ‘lasting’ impression. Or, there may be a few. Or, most likely—especially if they’re looking for a ‘go to,’ ‘special occasion‘ room—it will be a stalwart, like Le Crocodile.

Back when I worked with Zagat—when it was still the original and most potent of restaurant rating agencies—there was an unmistakable core group of chefs and restos always at the fore. Zagat had a category separate from food ratings, called ‘Most Popular.’ And Le Crocodile was usually at the top of the list, or very close to it—as well as always capturing the top French spot. (In those days we used to scrutinize every hand-written ballot and virtually eliminate ballot-stuffing. But that’s another story.)

 

Le Crocodile 30th anniversary menu

Le Crocodile 30th anniversary menu

Le Crocodile Anniversary Dinners

In early November Le Crocodile owner and chef Michel Jacob staged a series of dinners to mark his remarkable restaurant’s 30th anniversary.

True to form, this unassuming star of Vancouver’s culinary scene shifted the spotlight away from himself by inviting chefs David Hawksworth (Hawksworth), Ned Bell (Vancouver Four Seasons, Yew) and Rob Feenie (Cactus Club Café) to cook with him and his team, each for one night.

It’s fair to say all three have had a profound impact on the city, in contrasting ways. Here’s a dynamic trio of chefs who drive not only our tastes but also our dining philosophies—for instance surrounding sustainability—on several levels.

Le Crocodile by Feenie: Roasted sea bass with lobster tempura

Le Crocodile by Feenie: Roasted sea bass with lobster tempura

All were protegés at one time—which speaks volumes of Jacob’s contribution. Also, as it happened, Rob Feenie was just about ready to throw in the towel and head for a career as a firefighter. However, Jacob persuaded him otherwise and became his mentor, even arranging a stage at Strasbourg’s legendary Au Crocodile, where he himself started.

Speaking after the meal, Feenie didn’t hold back.

“Every accolade I’ve ever had is because of you, Michel,” he said, after working with the Le Crocodile team to prepare a superb menu that included his lumière classic: butternut squash and mascarpone ravioli with black truffle butte. It’s still a showstopper—even more so paired with Hugel 2009 Pinot Gris.

Feenie's classic lumiere ravioli recreated for Le Crocodile

Feenie’s classic lumiere ravioli recreated for Le Crocodile

 

Then came roasted sea bass and lobster tempura, and a duo of prime rub and tenderloin with celery root purée and black truffle port wine jus.

Said Feenie: “The phone call I had from (Cactus Club owner) Richard Jaffray would never have happened, had it not been for Michel.” …

“The memories you (Michel) have created for this city are quite remarkable.”

“Truly, it’s the passion is what makes great restaurants brilliant.”

Le Crocodile anniversary duo of prime rub and tenderloin with celery root purée and black truffle port wine jus

Duo of prime rub and tenderloin with celery root purée and black truffle port wine jus

With more than a few luminaries on hand, there was no shortage of tributes but I loved this one from longtime wine importer (Select Wines) Werner Schonberger, who supplied the evening’s wines:

“This is my staff cafeteria! Besides, Michel is Alsatian—and French savoir faire with German discipline is what Alsace is all about…”

Werner continued:

“What I appreciate is that he (Michel) turned down an offer to cook with Jean-Georges (Vongerichten) and honoured instead his three Canadian executive chefs.”

Enough said.

 

Michel Jacob is one of our great mentors. Especially if you’re in the business, in Vancouver, who do you think are the others? 

 

Le Crocodile protégés with Thomas Haas but missing David Hawksworth (courtesy of Le Crocodile)

Le Crocodile’s Michel Jacob (l) salutes former protégés Ned Bell and Rob Feenie with Thomas Haas (l-r) but missing David Hawksworth (courtesy of Le Crocodile)

By | 2018-01-21T15:05:13+00:00 December 7th, 2014|Dining|5 Comments

About the Author:

Tim has been covering the food and wine revolution for about 20 kilos. Count 15 kg alone thanks to the blossoming cuisine and wine culture of British Columbia, Canada. Tim’s hallmark is seeking out and recommending value wines from BC and around the world that offer quality at every level. He also scopes out noteworthy restaurants that live up to their promises—and often over deliver. Readers depend on the Hired Belly for his “Belly’s Best” and “Belly’s Budget Best” picks to help them find the right wine for the occasion. He writes, tweets and shoots his own images for columns in the Vancouver Courier and North Shore News. He also contributes to WHERE Vancouver magazine, as well as to several other publications. They include Taste magazine, Tidings Magazine, and Montecristo. His columns are frequently picked up by major newspapers across Canada. Tim is a frequent judge for wine competitions, such as Vancouver Magazine International Wine Awards. He is a founding judge of The BC Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Excellence in Wine. He is frequently invited to judge at The BC Wine Awards, and others. Tim has traveled to taste in many of the world’s leading wine regions, most recently in Burgundy, Argentina and Chile.

5 Comments

  1. William Dunbar December 7, 2014 at 10:42 am

    Tim, great piece. Congratulations to Chef Jacob! 30 years in Vancouver, legendary. Soignier! wd

  2. Tim Pawsey December 8, 2014 at 9:05 am

    Hey Will, Great to hear from you. Yup, Chef Jacob has had (and continues to have) a huge impact on the Vancouver scene. The value of passionate mentorship can never be underestimated. T

  3. sharon hanna December 30, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    Thanks for making me remember Le Crocodile….
    xoxo
    Sharon

  4. William Dunbar January 12, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    Let me know when you make it down to Vegas

  5. Joy Metcalfe November 17, 2015 at 10:15 am

    Not only a talented and generous chef and restaurateur, but a gentleman of the highest order! Congratulations, Michel!…

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