When I was a young cook, I worked for Charlie Trotter, who pushed me to be better and better in every way; Charlie sent me to France, giving me the opportunity to travel, eat and develop a palate -- to develop inside and to think, reason and create. In Rheims, I had great classic French training with Chef Gerard Boyer. Then, when I came back to America, I worked with Daniel Boulud, who taught me how to work within the French brigade system and everything about technique and cooking. He opened my eyes to what French cooking was about.
As important as those experiences were -- and they were life-changing, to say the least -- perhaps just as important are the memories that I have collected, dining my way through great culinary cities like Paris. These memories and travels inspire everything in my life, from the way I think to the ingredients I use to the restaurant concepts I envision.
In fact, my travels to Paris inspired me to open the original Comme Ca brasserie in West Hollywood, when there was nothing of its kind in Los Angeles. We just opened a second Comme Ca at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas last year.
I make it a point to travel often -- and bring my team of chefs with me often -- so that they can experience the amazing food culture firsthand. When we last went to Paris, I think we dined at about a dozen restaurants in 48 hours. Here are just a few of my favorite standbys.
Le Verre Volé (67 Rue de Lancry, 75010) is always a great place to start with as soon as you've stepped off the plane. It's the quintessential spot for a boozy wine lunch in Paris, and while it seems low key and off the beaten path, it is no secret. The wine list is diverse for different budgets and impeccable. Everything here is delicious in its simplicity -- and it's also a wine shop. From perfectly cooked jambonneau (pig's knuckle) to tartares and carpaccio, you'll be shocked when you find out that one of your best meals in Paris has a kitchen that consists of only a hot plate and a refrigerator.
Chez L'Ami Jean (27 Rue Malar, 75007) is one of the best destinations in Paris to experience cuisine bistronomique -- high-caliber cooking served in a homey neighborhood setting. My team and I were so inspired by our trips to l'Ami Jean that we added a new "bistronomy" section to the menus at Comme Ca in West Hollywood and in Las Vegas. You will be full when you finish this meal, but don't leave without trying the house specialty rice pudding.
Another famed, affordable bistro that serves cuisine bistronomique is Yves Camdeborde's Le Comptoir du Relais (37 Rue Berger, 75001). The building also houses the chef's own hotel, so it's all very personal. It's located in the St. Germain area, a great scene for people watching, while eating everything from inventive crepes to duck ravioli. His L'Avant Comptoir next door, for delicious small plates, bustles throughout the day and late into the evening.
One of the newer, buzzed about restaurants in Paris is Frenchie: incredible Michelin star-level food at an incredible value for the skill of what you get on the plate. They also recently opened their wine bar, Frenchie Bar à Vins that serves more casual small plates across the street. Inaki's Le Chateaubriand is also a really incredibly experience, similar to Le Verre Volé. I love the vibe in this restaurant and the focus on the natural, biodynamic wines that have no sulfites.
Needing no introduction, L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon (5 Rue de Montalembert, 75007) is simply legendary and one of the best modern French experiences in the world. Go for lunch if you can't get a reservation for dinner.
I love macarons and used to make them at my bakery in Los Angeles. Ladurée (75, avenue des Champs Elysees, Paris 75008) is a must for macarons, macarons and more macarons. This is the Paris king for macarons. Stop for a sugar fix while stolling down the grand boulevard of Champs Élysées.
Also on the sweet side, the pastry genius of Pierre Hermé (72 Rue Bonaparte, 75006) is another can't-miss. His flagship shop is filled with viennoiseries, jams, bonbons, plentiful pastries and, of course, macarons. Hermé's creations are impeccable works of art, and many have poetic names like "Émotion à Partager Infini" and "Désiré." There's always a line out the door here -- and for good reason.
One of my favorite street food snacks is kebab in Paris. After a late night out, the juiciness of a kebab sandwich mixed with mayonnaise, spicy hot sauce and pommes frites all folded up together into a sandwich is hard to beat!