Every recipe starts with a chef who has a passion for creating and a love of food. In our case that chef was Pierre Adrian.
Pierre Adrian was born in Fouchy, a small town in Alsace, France. Like most boys, he had a hearty appetite, once saying, “As a boy, I had three passions; skiing in the winter, soccer in the summer, and eating all year round”. He left his home town at age 14 to enter the Ecole Hoteliere of Strasbourg, determined to become a great Chef; but at the age of 16 his learning was interrupted when Eastern France was annexed by Germany and he was forced to serve in the German army.
After hearing that his family was safely behind allied lines, he deserted and joined the French resistance in the Vosges Mountains. Pierre, and his brother, Guy, lived in a cave, foraging for food for over six months. When Guy became sick, the young Pierre made his way into the valley below, where he heard tanks, to see if he could find help. The tanks were unmarked, but the soldiers inside were throwing Hershey chocolate bars to the people around to identify themselves as Americans. He sought their help, and brought Guy to safety with the American troops.
His appreciation for the aid offered by the Americans sparked Pierre’s determination to restart his culinary career, learning from the best in Europe so he could one day take his art to the United States. He worked at some of Europe’s finest establishments, including Maison des Tete in Colmar, the Schwitzerhoff in Bern, the Villa Savoy in Lugano, and Drouand in Paris. In 1945, as the age of 23, he was the youngest Head Chef in Switzerland at the Hotel Du Faucon in Thun. In 1951, while working in Paris, Pierre was discovered by Chef Theodore Kieffer of New York’s Sherry Netherland.
He hopped aboard a boat and landed in New York City with a few personal belongings, an English dictionary, and a burning desire to show Americans his French cooking. He worked as an apprentice to Theodore at the Sherry Netherland as well as working in the banquet department of the Waldorf-Astoria on the weekends. On Sundays, he would join Theodore’s family dinner at his home in upstate New York. It was here that he met Joan, Theodore’s daughter-in-law who had been married to his son Bob, who had recently passed away leaving her, and their young son, Rick. Pierre fell in love with Joan and her son, never missing a Sunday dinner or any opportunity to spend time with them.
After spending the next few years working in the United States at a number of prestigious clubs, Pierre decided to move back to France for good. But his American dream had not ended, as he was invited back by the Comisar family to become Head Chef at Cincinnati’s, now famous, Maisonette. In 1957 he moved back, married Joan, adopted Rick, and started the Maisonette on its journey to renown, while adding daughters Michele, Suzy, and Niki, to his family.
In 1964, Pierre’s earned a 5-star rating from the Mobil Travel Guide for the Maisonette, the first in Cincinnati. Then two years later, he was the central protagonist in moving the restaurant to a larger location on 6th Street, which would become famous for its food, service, and its “best table in the house”, table 75. He would go on to become one of the first television chefs, doing cooking demonstrations for The Bob Braun Show, the Nick Clooney Show, and Ruth Lyons.
Pierre died in 1972, at the age of 46, leaving a legacy and laying the groundwork for many chefs to follow at the Maisonette. When it closed, it had held the longest 5-star award streak in the history of the Mobil Travel Guide in America, and had become a landmark for Cincinnatians. Today this legend continues with Boca occupying the same location.
When sisters Michele and Suzy decided to set up their own restaurant and catering company, naming it after their father was the obvious choice. The standards of food and service they set were a homage to Pierre, and have led La Petite Pierre to success that continues decades later. For his life, his achievements, and for setting his daughters on a lifelong passion for great food, we celebrate Pierre.