When Christian and Agnes Ziegler opened Le Titi de Paris in 1972 amid secondhand auto yards and questionable hotels on a stretch of Rand Road west of Palatine, it was one of the first fine French restaurants in the Northwest suburbs. Garlicky escargot, handmade liver pate, heavy Hollandaise and Dover sole almondine were de rigueur.
Ziegler recruited Pierre Pollin from France in 1974 and four years later Pollin bought the restaurant. In 1987 he moved it to its current location on Dundee Road in Arlington Heights. That building might soon be torn down to make way for a new retail and restaurant complex.
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During its 40 years, Le Titi de Paris' kitchen has been a training ground for chefs wanting to learn the French brigade kitchen system and classic techniques.
That's how Michael Maddox, a farm boy from downstate Illinois, ended up in Pollin's kitchen 20 years ago. The Kendall College graduate never left, working his way up the line and eventually earning the rank chef du cuisine, or second in command, under Pollin. In 2004, Maddox and his wife, Susan, purchased the restaurant. They announced Monday they are closing Le Titi to focus more on their family.
Other Le Titi alumni have moved on to restaurants across the area. Here are some of them:
•Harry Crane, executive chef, Kraft Foods
•Zak Dolezal, Duke's Alehouse and Kitchen, Crystal Lake
•Dave Esau, Dave's Specialty Foods, Mount Prospect
•Joseph Hetman, Lynfred Winery, Roselle
•Steve Jackson, personal chef, Chicago Bulls
•Bill Kim, Belly Shack and Urbanbelly, Chicago
•Rob Leavitt, The Butcher and Larder, Chicago
•Masato Suzuki, D&J Bistro, Lake Zurich.