By Polly Campbell
Enquirer staff writer
Jean-Robert de Cavel (center, in the Pigall’s kitchen) says he’s happy with four stars, but the question now is, ‘Do we want to go for five stars?’
Jean-Robert at Pigall’s has earned that rating from the Mobil Travel Guide.
“I’m very proud about it, proud for my staff. I am extremely happy,” says owner Jean-Robert de Cavel. “Getting four stars was one of our goals.”
Not as rare as the top five-star rating, which went to only 15 restaurants nationwide, four stars are still a distinction. Four stars were bestowed on 119 restaurants across the country. Pigall’s is the only four-star restaurant in Ohio, Kentucky or Indiana. The Cincinnatian Hotel, downtown, received four stars for lodging. There are no five-star winners in the three states.
The Mobil ratings were released earlier than usual this year, surprising de Cavel, a former executive chef at the Maisonette.
“It was nice to be surprised,” he says. “All those years at Maisonette, you would think about it before it was announced, and feel that pressure. This time, there was no pressure.”
The five-star rating was an important marketing tool for Maisonette, and as chef there for seven years, de Cavel knows both the blessing and problems of the rating.
“It is wonderful, but then you have to keep it,” he says.
Four and five stars also can be intimidating, de Cavel says, making diners assume a restaurant is expensive and too formal.
“But it is a big deal in this market, because it gives national presence.”
Indeed, the four-star rating puts Pigall’s in the company of such restaurants as Aqua, Fleur de Lys, L’Orangerie and Masa’s in California; Ambria, Tru, Spring and Everest in Chicago, and Daniel, Bouley, Aureole, Picholine and the Gramercy Tavern in New York. The Penrose Room in Colorado Springs, where Maisonette’s last executive, Bertrand Bouquin, is chef, is also on the four-star list.
Does de Cavel think of replacing Maisonette as Cincinnati’s five star restaurant?
“We are perfectly happy with four stars. But now we can think, ‘Do we want to go for five stars?’ If we do, we will do what it takes.”
Jean-Robert at Pigall’s also was highly rated again in the Zagat Survey’s “America’s Top Restaurants,” the only Zagat Guide to include Greater Cincinnati.
“They are very different kind of ratings,” de Cavel says. “(Zagat) is based on the opinion of the public, (Mobil) on one person’s opinion. Both are wonderful. The important thing is to fill your dining room, and make your customers happy.”