Chef Alain Roby, owner of All Chocolate Kitchen in Geneva, has a flair for breaking world records and creating beautiful pastries. But the Paris native is driven not by his love of chocolate and cooking, but from a traumatic experience. While serving as private pastry chef to the shah of Iran in the late 1970s, he was captured during the revolution and held hostage for a week.
Having a gun pointed at your head, while chaos erupts all around, yet you still survive, can make you want to celebrate and enjoy life to the fullest, Roby said.
"Because of that event, it has made me see life so totally different," he added.
Roby was a young French-trained chef, eager to do well in the culinary world. So he took the job as private pastry chef for the shah of Iran in the late 1970s, aiming to do well with an international staff. But when political turmoil turned into a revolution, the uprising took him and a few other chefs as prisoners. The shah's other employees were shot to death. They watched as the embassies were surround with armed men. And guns were pointed at them as they were corralled into a holding place for about a week.
"As a young man you're thinking you could live forever, and what happens in the movies isn't what you expect in real life," Roby said.
But that's what happened. The unthinkable. He watched as turmoil flooded the streets and people were shot. And somehow after that week, his captors released him and two other chefs and even took them on a bus to the airport. Roby fought through the pandemonium in the airport, found a flight to Paris and returned to his family.
He lost all of his belongings, which were left behind in Iran. But his family helped him and the next few months allowed him time for reflection about his future.
"It's times like those that make you later grab life and take it and never wait for anything," Roby said.
And if it wasn't for that experience, and survival, Roby wouldn't have met his future wife a few years later. Again he was in an airport, but this time for a flight to New York for a job interview. While he was waiting, he struck up a conversation with Esther, who was waiting for a flight back to her native Rome. They remained in touch and Roby later visited her in Rome. They continued their long-distance relationship and married.
Those years shaped his future, said Roby, who vowed to make his own niche in the culinary world. He has since worked in London, Tokyo, New York and later Chicago. He's also won awards, worked with other top chefs including Julia Childs, and served as the head pastry chef at the NFL Commissioner's Super Bowl party for about 20 years. He's even earned the Guinness Book of World Records for the world's tallest cooked sugar building and world's tallest chocolate sculpture.
Now that his All Chocolate Kitchen in Geneva has marked its first anniversary, he aims to break more world's records.
"I truly believe life is a chain of events that triggers how you and your mind reacts and how you change in life," Roby said.
Giving away the bride and groom
Tina M. Drzonek, general manager of Riverside Receptions in Geneva said the banquet hall is partnering with several local vendors to allow a lucky couple in their competition to win a free wedding on Dec. 12, 2012, also known as 12-12-12. Vendors involved include Elizabeth Wray Designs, SRNTY Jewelry by Jamie Bellandi, photographers Tom Nicole and Caitlin Hazelton, and sketched by local artist Rosemary Fonti.
New CEO at Rexam
Naperville resident Rich Grimley has been named president and CEO of Chicago-based Rexam Beverage Can North America. He joined Rexam in 2001 as vice president of manufacturing, and gained roles of increasing responsibility culminating in his most recent position as chief operating officer for the company's North and South American beverage can operations.
New milestone for Hub
David Yeager, chairman and CEO of Downers Grove-based Hub Group, and son of the company's founder, said the company broke ground for a 140,000 square foot international headquarters in Oak Brook. The building, set to be completed in fall 2013, has room for about 700 employees. Also on hand were Mark Yeager, Hub Group's president and COO; Gopal Lalmalani, Oak Brook village president; and Warren Seil, Morgan/Harbour president.
Kyoto Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar in Crystal Lake and its owner Shawn Lee, head Chef Gilhoon Bang and Genera Manager James Shim as well as Suya Chen and Ming Chen and their Chen Chinese Cuisine in Lake in the Hills have earned the Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce's Pride in Crystal Lake Award. ... Donald Brinckman has retired as a director of Elgin-based Heritage-Crystal Clean Inc., a provider of parts cleaning, used oil re-refining, and hazardous and nonhazardous waste services, He's replaced by Brian Recatto, president and CEO of OMNI Energy Services, an oil field services provider with operations throughout the U.S. Gulf States, Midcontinent, Rocky Mountains, and the Northeast.
Lee Kolquist, president and CEO of Elgin-based Lending Solutions Inc., said he plans to officially open the company's Naperville contact center on Aug. 15. More than 70 employees are already working in Naperville and Kolquist expects to fill a total of 120 positions in the next 18 months. ... Small Business Chairman Sam Graves joined Rep. Joe Walsh to visit the 8th District last week. As chairman of the Small Business Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax, and Capital Access, Walsh has worked with Graves during the past 1 1/2 years to help add jobs.
Brandon Zieg, managing partner of the LongHorn Steakhouse in Des Plaines, for the second time has earned the Darden Restaurants' top honor, the Joe R. Lee Diamond Club Award, named after the company's retired chairman and CEO. The annual award is presented to managing partners throughout North America who demonstrate outstanding results and achieving top financial performance in the company's previous fiscal year. ... Niles resident Tony Andrews, founder and executive director of operations; and Buffalo Grove residents Dimitri Nassis, president, and Chris Walsh, executive director of architecture/ design, all at Tandem Construction, were contractors for the new four-story, 17,000-square-foot addition to the original Union League Boys & Girls Club in Chicago.
Nathan Bolden and Jobby Mampilly are two doctors who have joined DuPage Medical Group in Naperville and Downers Grove. ... Jeff Benach, co-principal of Lexington Homes, said the company opened Lexington Village at Rob Roy, which has 15 rowhomes in Prospect Heights. ... Corey J. Roberts of Palatine was named vice president of commercial banking at MB Financial Bank in Vernon Hills. ... Chris Mollet has been named vice president of legal services and general counsel at Edward Hospital in Naperville.
Russ Bergeron, CEO of Lisle-based Midwest Real Estate Data, was a panelist last week at Inman News' Real Estate Connect Conference in San Francisco. ... Dennis M. Fenton, a manufacturing and biologics expert in the health care industry, has been elected to the board of directors at Lake Forest-based Hospira Inc. ... Darrin Bacon is the branch manager for Evanston-based First Bank & Trust newest location in Naperville. Also, the bank's CEO Robert Yohanan was named to the Financial Executive Hall of Fame by DePaul University.
Carl Smith, vice president of infrared countermeasures for Northrop Grumman Corp.'s Land and Self Protection Systems division, said the company's Rolling Meadows Federal Aviation Administration Certified Repair Station received its second consecutive Diamond Award for Excellence from the FAA for its commitment to maintenance training and safety. ... Lake in the Hills resident Ray Wright, a professor at Roosevelt University in Schaumburg, married Yane Zhang on June 28. Her daughter Jingwen Sun and others were on hand to celebrate at a local restaurant. ... Brenda Brantley, chief financial officer of The LaSalle Group, said they've partnered with RT Partners and BMO Harris Bank plan to build a 26,000-square-foot, $10.2 million memory care assisted living community, Autumn Leaves of Bolingbrook. The community is expected to open in 2013.
Real estate professionals Linda Reilly of the Lombard Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage has been named No. 1 in listings taken; Pat Coulson is No. 1 in listings sold; and Amy Pecoraro is No. 1 in sales volume during July.
Brian Milligan is the new chief financial officer for both Northbrook-based KemperSports, a golf course management company, and its sister company KemperLesnik, a public relations, events and sports marketing agency. ... Lake Forest resident Elaine Doremus is the editor-in-chief of Modern Luxury's NS magazine. ... John Stuart has been appointed president of the Dallas metro region for Downers Grove-based DeVry University. ... Dan Meckes, Springfield-based CMT president, said CMT was named one of the top ten design firms in the Midwest by Engineering News Record. CMT has offices in Aurora.
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