My parents took me to La Grenouille in New York City when I was a teenager. I adored it: the beautiful bouquets of flowers, the endless parade of waiters. There was asparagus in a creamy sauce and a rich veal stew. Only later did I understand that I had eaten my first great hollandaise and blanquette de veau. By the time I returned years later, I had graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and had moved to Mexico City. My friend Pepe and I were planning to open a restaurant, and we came to New York to be inspired. This time at La Grenouille, I could recognize the effort that the food and the service required, and I understood how flawlessly both were executed. My memory of the food is hazy—I recall foie gras and a frighteningly expensive bottle of Chateau d’Yquem. But I clearly remember that Pepe and I were speechless as we left, in part because we were so full and in part because we were emotionally touched. For a little while afterward, we felt like very important people. —Roberto Santibañez, Fonda, New York City
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