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Jacques Haeringer’s favorite punch line used to go something like this: “Maybe in 40 years, I can retire.” He never had to provide the setup, which was understood: Haeringer’s father, François, was a machine of a man who, even at 91, continued to run his namesake Great Falls restaurant with his own style and single-minded determination to protect it from modern re-invention. Jacques, as he neared his sixth decade on earth, may have been chef de cuisine, but Papa continued to call the shots. Earlier this month, however, François finally proved his mortality, passing away after complications from a fall. It’s not yet clear how the founder’s eldest son will re-imagine L’Auberge Chez François, but Jacques promises to remain true to his father’s vision of classic French country cooking, which alone is enough to merit inclusion on my list. Sometimes I just long to luxuriate in L’Auberge’s Old World charm and indulge in the kind of food that once dominated culinary thinking: Dover-sole meunière, choucroute garnie, Alsatian plum tart. But with that said, I have a feeling Jacques is going to invigorate the place. And why not? He’s been waiting decades for the chance.

332 Springvale Road, Great Falls (703) 759-3800

Photo by Darrow Montgomery