Changing hands at Jean-Luc's French Bistro and other culinary news.


Chef/restaurateur Jean-Luc Salles called last week with the news that he and wife Denise have sold Jean-Luc's French Bistro (705 Colorado, 494-0033) as of July 31. After six years of daily restaurant ownership, the Salles are looking for some stress relief as well as the freedom and flexibility to teach, consult, and spend time with Jean-Luc's ailing parents in France. Salles plans to remain available to the new owners as a consultant for the first three months. The new chef/owner of the cozy downtown bistro is Shawn Cirkiel. A longtime Austin resident and child of a vegetarian restaurant family, Cirkiel is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. He spent more than two years cooking at Domaine Chandon in the California wine country before returning to Austin last year to assist Casey Lloyd in the opening of 22. Cirkiel is dropping "French" from the restaurant's name and menu, planning to feature an eclectic selection of affordable American regional and Mediterranean dishes, influenced as much as possible by local and seasonal ingredients. "I've always joked that I couldn't afford to eat what I cooked," Cirkiel told me early this week, "so we've tried to come up with a menu and especially a wine list that we think people can afford." Look for the new Jean-Luc's Bistro to debut in mid-August with chef Cirkiel on the range and local pastry chef Phillip Speer making desserts.

Portable Sauces

By popular demand, Romeo's (1500 Barton Springs Rd., 476-1090; 5800 Burnet,419-7567) has joined the list of local companies to make some of their signature products available to consumers. So far, the take-home versions of the Tomato Basil Soup, Pomodori and Marinara Pasta sauces, Chianti Vinaigrette, and House Caesar Dressing are on sale in both restaurant locations. Romeo's owners Jas and Kristine Lemert are currently negotiating placement with local grocery chains so the delectable sauces should be available all over town before long. The gift basket full of sauces that greeted me on return from vacation was consumed in short order, with the rich, creamy Tomato Basil Soup my overall favorite.

Iron Chef Alert

Here's an interesting bit of news for devoted fans of the outrageous TVFN hit. Two one-hour Iron Chef USA: Showdown in Las Vegas specials were taped in front of audiences at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas last month and will premiere on Friday, August 31, at 8pm, on UPN. The American version of the wildly popular Japanese import was staged like a sporting event with the challenger entering the kitchen stadium to compete against one of four Iron Chefs who specialize in American, Italian, French, and Asian cooking. "Chairman" William Shatner presides over the action, setting every match, revealing the secret ingredient, and announcing the judges' final decisions. A play-by-play announcer and culinary commentator will add insights into the personalities of Todd English (Iron Chef American), Jean-Francois Meteigner (Iron Chef French), Alessandro Stratta (Iron Chef Italian), and Roy Yamaguchi (Iron Chef Asian) as they take on challengers Kerry Simon and Marcus Samuelsson. I've already heard who won from a friend who attended the taping but I wouldn't dream of spoiling the suspense for fans. There's no word yet on whether Iron Chef USA will become a regular feature but judging from the popularity of the original on TVFN, it's not difficult to imagine an ongoing stateside version.

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