Nine On The Line With Gordon Berger of Le Rendezvous

Gordon Berger grew up in Tucson with his dad Jean-Claude Berger who opened the doors of Le Rendezvous in 1980. Consider Jean-Claude the man responsible for giving Tucson an authentic taste of France.

As a budding chef, and the son of a French cook, Gordon packed his bags and moved to Brittany, France. After three months of working in Vannes, a medieval port town, Berger decided upon the land of haute cuisine, Paris. In the midst of crunchy baguettes, fancy cheeses, and centuries of culinary greatness, as well as working at the Palais de Royale and Le Café Lenôtre on the Champs-Élysées, Gordon had French fare down and returned to his hometown of Tucson to work alongside his father.

What was the first dish you had that changed your perspective on food?

It was a pizza, of all things. I was living with a cousin in Nancy, France. I don’t know what it was – the freshness, the infused chili oil that you poured on top, the wonderful company – I literally got high.

What are you eating these days?

I like to go to Cup Cafe or Coronet Cafe for breakfast on the weekends. I try to stay healthy most of the time so I grab a smoothie at Goodness or at Whole Foods on my way to work….You don’t want to know where I go after work.

Lobster Special at Le Rendezvous

Lobster Special at Le Rendezvous

What was the first dish you remember cooking?

It was our Cabrilla Grenobloise dish, the one on our menu. I think I was ten. I was with my dad in our kitchen and I learned a valuable lesson on which way to flip a fish when you’re pan frying something. I quit cooking for a few months after that.

What concept, ingredient or food trend does everyone seem to love, but you just can’t stomach?

I think the flavored salt thing has gone too far. As long as it isn’t iodized salt, it’s good enough for me. Also I’m getting tired of drinking everything out of mason jars. They’ve even infiltrated my house.

What chef, with us or passed on, would you most like to cook or eat dinner with?

I’ve always liked Gordon Ramsay, his success is admirable, his sharp hit, his mastery of food is impressive, and his palate finely tuned. He was a great inspiration to me, and of course Anthony Bourdain was too, even though he no longer cooks, I’d love to go on an exotic trip with him and try some food that really knocks your socks off.

Baked French Onion Soup at Le Rendezvous

Baked French Onion Soup at Le Rendezvous

What city, other than Tucson, is your favorite place to eat?

I’ve probably traveled more throughout France than the U.S., so I’m going to have to go with Leon. All kinds of great chefs and food are at the tip of your tongue.

Speaking in junk food terms, what is your favorite guilty pleasure?

One of the problems with being located right next to a Circle K is that I’ve developed a real bad addiction to Tapatio Ruffles, but they stopped making them for some reason. I think they might have found out there was crack in them. East Coast Super Subs also hits the spot and brings back fond memories of college, I usually have a food coma afterwards though.

Chocolate & Grand Marnier Souffle at Le Rendezvous

Chocolate & Grand Marnier Souffle at Le Rendezvous

Top three Tucson restaurants?

Unfortunately there are many restaurants out there that I still need to try, and unfortunately a lot of them are closed on Mondays, my only day off, but in all honesty I love the pizza at Rocco’s, just had it for the first time a month or so ago, it was amazing.  I’ve always enjoyed Wildflower—the combination of food, service, and decor impress me. Gonna have to go with Cup Cafe for my last one. I love people watching down there and having the baked eggs, the Cubano sandwich, or the fish n chips.

With a figurative electric chair in your immediate future, what is your last meal?

I’d want a Tartiflette—that’s a dish from the Savoie region of France, up in the Alps. It’s a comfort food, French style, made with potatoes cooked with Riesling wine, Reblochon cheese, which has just the right amount of funk, onions, and lardons. And a nice glass of Riesling or Pinot Noir please, to wash it down.

C.J. Hamm is a native Tucsonan and has been covering the local culinary and cocktail scene since 2012.