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Dispatches

Chilean wine’s big comeback; Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s fresh Bahama catch; freerunners land a home in L.A.; taking a walk high above Vancouver

NASSAU, BAHAMAS
Fish Story

Chef Jean-Georges’ big catch

JEAN-GEORGES VONGERICHTEN stands in the kitchen of Dune, his 10-year-old restaurant at the One&Only Ocean Club on Paradise Island in the Bahamas, and admires a piece of grouper. “Look at the color,” he says, in French-accented English. “It’s almost like mother of pearl.” Indeed, below the surface of the silvery meat there are hints of green and purple. “Out of the water at 10 this morning,” he says approvingly (at 4 p.m.).

There’s a good story behind that fish. Just over a decade ago, when he was launching Dune, the celebrity chef and owner of dozens of restaurants traveled under the bridge leading to Paradise Island to look for a noted local spear-fisherman named Allen Brown. But when Jean-Georges asked to buy his fish from Brown (with a stack of cash in his pocket), the man refused. He had dealt with big hotels and their bounteous red tape before and didn’t need the hassle. Undeterred, Jean-Georges invited Brown up for a meal. To make a point, he cooked a signature dish using frozen grouper, and the results so horrified Brown that he agreed to work with Dune — if only to stave off any further piscine abominations. “Since then he’s come in with fish every day,” says Jean-Georges, grinning.

In a matter of minutes, the grouper is done, served just a bit crispy on the outside in a sauce of Tabasco, soy sauce, butter, vinegar, ketchup and a splash of lime. He got the idea years ago from a pushcart vendor in Thailand. “Best sauce in the world,” he says, and takes a bite. Even with a restaurant empire in his charge, this is what makes him happiest. “I still do five, six hours a day in the kitchen,” he says. “It’s my therapy. It’s what I do.” — JOE KEOHANE

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