Jovan was yet another connection to my Mom who is now gone. Mom had been one of Jovan's supporters and "best customers" (at one point they had done a limited-edition print for Le Perroquet, and Mom was one of 11 people gifted with this, something she cherished over the years). When my Mom opened her own agency (in 1976) we initially had offices next door to Le Perroquet, and eventually moved into the same building so she'd only be a brief elevator ride away (which suddenly had many of our out-of-town clients making a point of coming to do meetings at our offices to end up getting to have lunch at what my Mom jokingly referred to as "our company cafeteria").
I had not realized until reading that Tribune blog piece that Jovan and my Mom were the same age, with him out-living her by six years (yesterday was the sixth anniversary of my Mom's death), but that could help explain why they had such a good rapport.
Needless to say, Jovan was a familiar figure in my early adult life, although I hardly ate as frequently at his places as did my Mom. Even though I was still in college when he opened Le Nomades (as a private club, so he could say "no" to having people he thought were asses darken his doors), I ended up with membership #192 at that esteemed institution.
The memories of Le Perroquet and Les Nomades are treasured, from the tiny little "bites" that showed up with the drinks at Le Perroquet (such as a half-inch cube of alternating meat and cheese slices, the small black olive with cheese piped into it, or a tiny bit of celery topped with a dollop of anchovy butter), the famed Raspberry Souffle, and magnificent Floating Island, to the remarkable Creme Brulee (made in a large pan with a quarter-inch thick layer of melted sugar on top, requiring a hammer to serve) and intense Turkish coffee at Les Nomades.
Needless to say, given my "reduced circumstances" of the past 17 years, I have spent very little time out at the finer restaurants. Les Nomades is still open, the Liccionis having taking it over in '93, and Le Perroquet is "in storage" (according to Michael Foley who had taken over its operation in its latter years), but my memories are of a "golden era" back when Jovan was at the helm of these remarkable institutions. As the Tribune piece pointed out, he changed the map of cuisine, and put Chicago in a "must visit" category with Le Perroquet being one of the world's top restaurants back in the 80's.
Perhaps in the future, passings such as Jovan's will leave less scar tissue behind, but for places such as Le Perroquet and people such as my Mom, they're largely on the wrong side of the digital memory wall, and losing those people who knew these erases irreplaceable data, which is very, very sad.